Gender affinity groups begin to work together, leaders reflect on process

David Immerman, Staff Writer

Urban’s gender-affinity groups,  Young Men’s Group and Students for Women’s Equality And Rights, are exploring the benefits of holding joint meetings, something that hasn’t ever been pushed before, in which members of both genders discuss ways to deconstruct gender-based privileges in a school and worldly setting.  

The first joint meeting ever between the two clubs took place on Oct. 23, and plans are underway for another collaboration during the first few weeks after winter break.

“We’ve had SWEAR ever since I’ve been at Urban. But I don’t think it’s very productive to have a conversation about gender with only one gender,” said Eli Melrod (’13), a student-leader of YMG. “We can never close the gender gap without having male participation.”

Isabel Langen (’13), who co-leads SWEAR, said that engaging with YMG is part of SWEAR’s desire to “take action” and move forwards towards gender equality. However, she also noted that it isn’t always clear “what action even looks like” in a high school setting.

Melrod said that while YMG’s true mission might not be closing the gender gap,  “understanding masculinity and how masculinity plays out in different parts of our lives” is essential to understanding the role of male privilege in the world and is the gateway “to having (these) conversations.”

Similarly, Langen said that SWEAR’s affinity space serves as a place where women can “develop tools to have a productive conversation with both genders.”

In the one joint meeting of the year thus far, Langen and Melrod both agreed that the conversation was not as “nuanced” as they might have liked. However, Melrod appreciated the fact that “getting 70 people in a room for a discussion was a huge step forward.”