Survey of Female Freshman Students about Women’s Inequality and Sexism

jonathan ko

Jonathan Ko

 

JONATHAN KO, HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN,
CONDUCTS SURVEY OF FEMALE CLASSMATES
ABOUT WOMEN’S INEQUALITY AND SEXISM

 

 

 

INTERVIEW BY REV. ANDREA GOODMAN

I had the honor of speaking with Jonathan Ko, a freshman at Mission San Jose High School.  I learned that he is a thoughtful and reflective high school freshman.  On November 5, 2015, he conducted a survey of his female classmates.  I believe you will agree that we need more young men who are willing to take the time to see the uniqueness of young women and stand in solidarity with women’s issues throughout the world.

Jonathan, how did you decide to survey your female classmates?

In the summer of 2015, I learned about gender inequality from my older brother, Allan, who was home from college.   He told me about how important it is to pay attention to what I read and hear and figure out how it influences me.  For example, I like rap music but a lot of it puts women down.  I also noticed that my school newspaper had more quotes from boys than girls.  Then I heard from my mom that Fr. Tom Bonacci and The Interfaith Peace Project had celebrated International Women’s Day last March 8, 2015.  And I had a chance to talk to Fr. Tom about it.

From these conversations, what did you begin to see?

It showed me that our world is much more imperfect than we believe it is because sexism remains an all-too-real issue.  I got curious and thought in my own small way I wanted to write a survey for the female students in my grade to learn from them.

How did you develop your survey questions?

I thought about societal problems women face.  My English teacher, Ms. Valerie Carattini, agreed to distribute the survey during class time, only saying that a fellow student had created it.

What impact has this project had on you?

All at once I was seeing so many angles of the same things as I read all 60 plus responses.  In a lot of ways I was reinforced by my brother and Fr. Tom, but I got to see how real people are negatively impacted by sexism and these are girls that I talk to daily.

I really want to say that this project was a great experience for me and that working to raise awareness for gender inequality is something I want to do in the future.

Please have a great International Women’s Day!

SURVEY RESULTS

Total Number of Students Surveyed: 65

number of students ages graphic

Noteworthy Responses:

1. Why do you think that every President of the United States has been male?

“Because we have a huge sexual barrier in the US. Men often think they are better than women, and for many years it has been accepted as a universal truth that men are somehow better than women. Men have suppressed women and have not allowed us to progress in the ways we should have been able to. Examples of this are the wage gap, domestic violence, and no women presidents.”

“Because of the underlying patriarchy that was prevalent for many centuries and is still currently in place. While the number of females in leadership positions have recently risen, males still far outnumber females. Historically, women have been falsely considered incapable, although that view is slowly changing.”

“Every president of the United States up to this date has been a male because females have always been discriminated against…it is natural for the oppressors of a system to have the upper hand.”

“Males are smarter and more capable to be President. It is not sexism, but it is biologically true also. The smartest people in my grade are male, and there is a tendency for males to be better at math. Males are biologically stronger, so males had dominance and strength long ago.”

2. If you could remove all history of and prevent all future occasions of one and only one form of discrimination (i.e. racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.), would you do so? If yes, which would it be? Why?

“I would prevent racism if I could remove all of history because of the pain it brought to many people of many ethnic groups. For example, slavery, discrimination even after slavery was abolished, and discrimination toward immigrants. Many lives could’ve been saved if racial discrimination did not exist such as the lives of the slaves and the lives of the people who fought in the Civil War.”

“Yes, I would erase all history and prevent future incidents of sexism. Just because I am a girl as opposed to a boy, my opportunities should be the same as any male. Then, I, or any other woman, wouldn’t have to fear the judging gazes of men if we want to become authors, soldiers in the army, or even Presidents.”

“I think I would get rid of homophobia. I would do this because love is a natural human right, but people have been shamed, disregarded, and killed because of who they love. Even though same sex marriage has been legalized, people still look down upon and shame homosexuals and it’s not right.”

“I wouldn’t remove any history or future of any discrimination. All the wars and victories that resulted in the end of discrimination made us who we are. Discrimination is a problem of the past. It has caused us to grow and develop morals that we live by today.”

“I would not want to erase any of these forms of discrimination because they have shaped me and others around me into better people. Although it has been hard for many of us to fight for our rights, it made us humble and it gives us a voice.”

discrimination graphic

 

3. Are you familiar with the concept of the Patriarchy? If so, please explain your understanding of it. If no, it is fine to say so! (No googling!)

I thought patriarchy was along the lines of loyalty to your country, race, or sex.”

“Yes, the Patriarchy is a system where men always lead. Fathers, sons, and just males in general hold the power and are given leadership positions in government, jobs, etc. Many countries today are still under a patriarchy and discriminate against females.”

Patriarchy graphic

 

4. Do you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think being a feminist entails?

“I like to consider myself a feminist. A feminist is a person who believes and fights for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. It means fighting and supporting women’s equality around the world. Although I can’t do much now, I hope I win small battles by proving myself and showing males I am an independent person. “

“I am DEFINITELY a feminist. I look up to artists that are part of the feminist movement and I strongly believe that women and men are equal. It does not mean we should hate men, but it just means that we shouldn’t be obliged to play the roles men want us to.”

“I don’t consider myself a feminist. I don’t unfairly prefer females, as I believe all genders should be equal, and preferring one sex is just as bad as preferring the other. I think being a feminist entails thinking that females should have equal rights, but in feminism, women end up being favored over males.”

“Yes I do consider myself a feminist. Contrary to popular belief, feminism isn’t about eradicating the world of men. It’s about bringing equality to all sexes, whether it be male, female, nonbinary, or pangender. Women get paid less than men. The statistic for this is usually 80c to a dollar but in reality, African American women are paid less than that, and transgender women are paid even less. Feminism also means bringing equality to all genders and sexes of ALL races. It also attempts to fix the double standards in today’s society. Like how when a girl posts “slutty” pictures she’s a whore but when a guy posts a topless pic he gets no insults. Or when a girl hits a guy it’s okay, but if a guy hits a girl, it’s abusive. Feminism is needed to fix all of these problems.”

“I do not consider myself as a feminist, because I believe that sexism against women is slowly diminishing. Being a feminist entails fighting for women’s rights until the women are thriving as much as men.”

“No I do not consider myself a feminist. I feel like right now I should be focused on my work and try to achieve the goals I set for myself. Being a feminist entails equality between both sexes. It requires leadership and skill, and also a convincing tone. Maybe in the future after I get settled, I would like to become a feminist. After all who is going to fend for us as girls if we don’t do it ourselves?”

“By definition, I am a feminist. However, the term now has a negative connotation due to the radical “feminists” who want a matriarchal society rather than equality. A feminist is one who wants EQUAL rights for all people. Basically, women = men, and not women > men.”

“No. I associate feminists with people who try to use their gender as an advantage. (Feminazi?) The definition of a feminist is someone who strives for both genders to be equal, like Emma Watson. However, there are some people who use their gender as an excuse and channel hate towards men. “

“I don’t usually count myself as a feminist. I am more into the idea of equality, so that everyone has the same rights.”

 

Feminist Definition

Feminist Identity

 

5. Do you believe that parents should force sons to do well in school and not be as strict with daughters? Explain your reasoning.

“No! Now a days, being male literally has NO advantage over being female, (besides the ignorant people and old people who still think it’s the 19th century and haven’t realized that times have changed and that equality is very relevant) In the professional  world, if you favor men over women, you will be looked down upon.”

“No because sons and daughters will receive the same chances and come across the same obstacles in life. Sons and daughters should be pushed and supported the same throughout their lives. Why are daughters any less important than sons?”

“No. When parents do this, and my parents do this, they show signs of sexism. They signal to the daughters that women are different than men, and lower their self esteem.”

6. What is one issue or event which you believe has not been getting enough media coverage? Why?

“I think the very real issue of rape is not covered enough in media. Women are called whores or sluts when asked when they were “defiled”, but what the men or other women don’t know is that the women may have been raped. They aren’t given a chance to defend themselves, either.”

“I feel like most people don’t understand what feminism is, and most people mistake it as women should have more power than men, and that’s not the case at all.”

“Hate crimes haven’t been getting enough coverage. Whether they are hate crimes of sexism, racism, or homophobia, the media does not cover these issues enough and in the correct light. The media is a key tool of communicating issues and viewpoints to the general public, so these issues need to be brought to the public eye and recognized as important so they can be fixed.”  “Self ­appreciation must be influenced more. In every school, there are many presentations and posters that negate bullying. Sometimes, the victim and bully can be the student themselves. Yes, bullying is a major problem, but self­ hate is much more severe.”

“An issue that doesn’t get enough media coverage is sexual harassment when males are the victims. I think an important part to reaching equality is destroying harmful stereotypes. One of these stereotypes is that men must always preserve their “manliness”, so a lot of sexual harassment goes unnoted when it happens to boys because people think it’s either impossible or the victim is too scared to voice anything.”

“Honestly, looking at the media these days, you will see all female celebrities, such as Hillary Clinton, when interviewed, are constantly asked about their clothes and hair, and what they plan on wearing and what parties they are attending and all that, where guys are asked about politics and what they plan on doing affecting the economy and so on.”

 

COMMENTARY BY JONATHAN KO

Reading the responses of my classmates, I realized that though most are aware of the historical oppression of the female sex, they write with a hopeful tone:

 “Historically, women have been falsely considered incapable, although that view is slowly changing.”

Most of the respondents identified as feminists, but many were unable to define patriarchy. Almost all of the answers were very forward-thinking, but some responses were worrying:

”Males are smarter and more capable to be President {of the United States}. It is not sexism, but it is biologically true also. The smartest people in my grade are male, and there is a tendency for males to be better at math. Males are biologically stronger, so males had dominance and strength long ago.”

I have learned that the message of equal rights for all has not yet completely permeated society. Some still believe that feminism is about reducing male power.

”I associate feminists with people who try to use their gender as an advantage…There are some people who use their gender as an excuse and channel hate towards men.”

Overall, the experience of conducting this has been enlightening for me; I have seen new ways to think about things. I understand that each response represents the thoughts of a unique person—a unique woman.

REFLECTIONS ABOUT THE SURVEY FROM INTERESTED WOMEN

I was quite impressed by Jonathan’s project.  While there were a few worrying comments, overall I thought the young women’s responses were thoughtful and interesting.  Many of them gave me hope in this generation of young women, and in particular I appreciated hearing their thoughts on feminism.  I also thought it was wonderful that this young man decided to take on this project in the first place. Kudos!

 

First off, I feel touched and inspired by Jonathan’s desire to produce the survey in the first place.  Thank you Jonathan!   I noticed an overall theme of equality for all humans as one race regardless of ethnicity, sexual identity, religious preference and gender.  I find this view inspiring and encouraging.  It seems that the more generalized equality theme as a concern is a direct reflection of how far women’s voices do carry, have and will continue to do so.  Many young women also seem to be aware that they will need to champion and be part of social changes that impact everyone regardless of ethnicity, sexual identity, religious preference and gender.  Part of me felt sad and concerned when l read the response from the young woman who holds the views that men are smarter and biologically stronger than women. This is because l can see and have seen how so many people have been impacted in unhelpful and often harmful ways as a result of similar views. I appreciate that she will speak her mind and I understand how she can come to those conclusions. My hope is that all humans will experience themselves as equal in inherent value.   Overall, as l read these responses l feel hopeful and encouraged for our future as women and as human beings and l am grateful for being part of it all!  Thank you.

 

It is wonderful to see the excellent questions and to hear from some very articulate young women who understand our culture and grasp the gender differences in experience and the consequences for women’s lives. It was also impressive that at least one respondent understands that men, too, suffer sexual harassment and abuse—more often at the hands of other men. There needs to be more awareness, for example, that some large number of men in the military have been raped by other men. This is true also of male prisoners raped by guards or by more powerful male inmates. If it is frightening for women to report rape, it is even more so, perhaps, for men.

It was surprising that there was a lack of understanding of “patriarchy.” It seems that the concept must rarely be addressed in the educational process. It was not surprising that some respondents found the term “feminism” a little off-putting. It is not a concept our culture usually presents in a positive light. There was a disappointing amount of confusion that “feminism” meant channeling hatred towards men, putting women above men, etc., rather than addressing the inequality of women.

It was, however, really disturbing that any young person today would see “discrimination” as a “problem of the past” —something that caused us to “develop morals that we live by today.” I am uncertain what is meant by these “morals.” Similarly, it is unfortunate if any young women live with the conviction that men are smarter and more capable “to be President,” or have the comfortable belief that discrimination against women is diminishing so there’s no need now to fight for women’s rights, or enter the work world with the believe that “if you favor men over women, you will be looked down upon.”