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Archaic Gender Stereotypes at Springfest

Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Mattison
Written by Alex Perry

Springfest, ah, Springfest. I hope you all had a great time! I know I had a great time. Thank you to the Association for Campus Entertainment for a great April 22. Unfortunately, however, something occurred at this year’s concert that I wasn’t too pleased about. Let’s set the scene.

Full disclosure: I am drinking at Springfest. I am 22 years old. I am having a great time. My friend is having a great time. She really needs to pee. The line has close to 50 people in it. She is very drunk. She can’t hold it anymore. She sees five men peeing in plain view against the fence by the bathrooms. She asks me to stand in front of her as she squats down next to them. Almost immediately, a security officer comes up to me, looking down on my friend, and screams, “If you don’t pull those pants up right now, you’re OUT OF HERE,” not seeming to notice the five men peeing right next to her. She pulled up her pants. We walked away.

That could have been the end of the story. No article necessary! Public urination is no bueno and the security officer was (partially?) doing his job. But my parents didn’t raise a complacent citizen, and, for those who have encountered me in public before, you know they didn’t raise a quiet gal either. So what did I do? I marched on up to a security officer.

“Excuse me, sir, but I’m a little bit CONFUSED by something that I was hoping you could help explain to me, hm?”

He could sense how pissy I was – I don’t hide it well.

“Um, yes, of course, what would that be?”

“My female friend was just peeing outside of the bathrooms because the lines were so long and she couldn’t hold it anymore. She was peeing next to five other men who were also urinating outside. But she was told to stop – but they weren’t? I’m just at a LOSS for why that would be the case,” I said as I gestured towards seven more men peeing against the fence in our view.

“Well…” he was taken aback. “That’s because… it’s a classiness issue. You know? Men can pee outside. Women can’t.”

Yikes, guys.

“But don’t you think that’s a little bit unfair?” I asked.

“Look, women just can’t pee outside. I’m not going to tell some men they can’t pee outside.”

Double yikes, indeed.

I didn’t want to continue the conversation, to be honest. Could I have given him a piece of my mind? Sure. But instead, I said, “Thanks for clearing that up!” and stalked off.

Now, these are the words of one man. A man who treated me with respect and clearly meant well. They do not necessarily reflect the views of all the security officers working during the concert. In fact, many of the security officers working the concert are outside contractors that the university hires so they can have more hands on deck to keep us safe. This man was one of those outside contractors. However, that does not take away from how blatantly wrong his statement was, and, unfortunately, how little it aligns with university policy.

Within the past four years I have attended St. Lawrence, there has been a shift in both university policy and overall public opinion surrounding gender equality issues. Now, with a much more liberal view, SLU has adopted new policies to address these issues on our campus. Curious, I turned to Emily Casey-Wagemaker ’19, president of Spectrum, the new LGBTQ club on campus that provides an all-inclusive safe space as well as a strong focus on sexuality and gender activism. “Our club is continuously looking for new and better ways to promote equality on campus regardless of sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression,” Emily told me. “Last semester, Thelmo passed a resolution giving their formal support to waive the single-room fee and process for students who identify under the trans* umbrella. Funds are not readily available to all trans students who might feel more safe in a single room, and the process can be incredibly taxing. It is statistically proven that trans students are much more at risk for mental health issues compared to non-trans students, and by taking away the processing fee, we would be continuing our gender and sexuality activist efforts to help an already marginalized group on campus.” At a liberal arts institution with students and staff dedicated to making campus a more inclusive environment for all students, why was my female friend told to stop peeing outside?

Now, look, I’m not saying that public urination is the key to solving all our problems. That’s not what this article is about. But should there be more bathrooms at Springfest? Yep. Should individuals regardless of their gender identification be told to stop urinating outside? Yep! Should the university be hiring outside contractors that agree with the rest of the university’s opinions with regard to gender? Yep!! In the grand scheme of things, this might not seem like a huge issue – but blatantly favoring one gender over another and shaming women for a bodily function men aren’t being shamed for is just plain wrong. It’s perpetuating archaic gender stereotypes and expectations. Women peeing outside next to their male peers is not a “classiness” issue – gender specific profiling is.

About the author

Alex Perry