Ally Buchanan
Ally Buchanan
Ally is in her second year at Renaissance College, pursuing minors in Political Science and English. She is originally from Hampton, New Brunswick
April 8, 2019

Student Union launches campaign against gender discrimination

The screening was accompanied by a panel of five of the video participants | Photos by Ally Buchanan

The UNB Student Union has launched the third installation of the “Breaking Stereotypes” campaign to focus on gender stereotypes.

Vice-president internal Ali Balcom and vice-president advocacy Simal Qureshi spearheaded a Breaking Stereotypes video campaign to raise awareness about gender-based discrimination. The video, filmed and edited by Cameron Lane and Ty Giffin, was screened on Feb. 27 to a full auditorium in Tilley Hall.

In the video, individuals of various experiences and identities shared their perspectives on gender and gender stereotypes. Participants held up signs of words they believed described their experience with gender stereotypes, such as “restricted,” “fragile,” “aggressive,” and “bro,” while telling stories of mistreatment, discrimination and harassment because of their gender.

The screening was accompanied by a panel of five of the video participants, who elaborated on the discussion of intersectionality, representation and gender discrimination as a symptom of something larger.

“Gender equality is only one part of a bigger narrative. The narrative of equality,” said Cat Squires, video participant and external coordinator at the 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

The issue of gender stereotypes was also addressed in last year’s Breaking Stereotypes campaign, but received negative feedback. The campaign, which focused on toxic masculinity, was met with criticism for being exclusionary in its representation.  Qureshi says these critiques informed the UNBSU’s approach to this year’s theme of gender discrimination.

“They did a good job at starting the conversation, and now it's our job to continue the conversation from a more inclusive perspective of more genders,” Qureshi said.

The Student Union consulted various groups and individuals on campus, such as Qmunity UNB, The 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity and Jackie Toner at the Sexual Assault Support Advocates’ office, in an effort to ensure the inclusion of as many identities as possible. They released an open casting call for participants for the campaign’s video, and everyone who submitted a response was featured.

“Our goal is for people across campus to see themselves in this video,” Balcom said.

This year’s campaign aims to combat common misconceptions about gender and highlight the experiences of people of all identities with gender discrimination.

“When folks try to start a conversation about gender discrimination, the issue immediately gets shut down and belittled,” said Qureshi. “What a lot of people don't realize is that this issue affects people all across the gender spectrum.”

Balcom noted the importance of critical thinking and considering the perspectives of others in Breaking Stereotypes; the campaign aims to promote both of these skills.

“We want people to challenge the status quo and what they take for granted. We shouldn’t take what we know about gender stereotypes to be the truth,” Balcom said.

Although the campaign is focused exclusively on awareness, Balcom and Qureshi hope the video will inspire viewers to consider their own actions and behaviour.

“Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Although the direct result [of the campaign] won't be resolving gender discrimination, I think it will start that conversation and allow people to second-guess the assumptions that they make and the behaviour that ensues from those assumptions,” Balcom said.

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