Equality is Not a Feeling, 2.0

I have “equality” on the brain these days. What does it mean?  What does it look like?  How do you know when you have it and, more importantly, how do you know when you don’t?  As Kate Kelly mentioned a couple weeks ago at the Ordain Women October 5 event, “equality is not a feeling” (although it sure does feel crappy when you know you don’t have it).  I’m in teacher education, so “equality” is something my students and I talk about a lot.  They have assignments in which they have to go into a school and be observers of school culture.  They are directed to take note of all sorts of things, some of which include depictions of different races and genders in things like bulletin boards and textbooks.  They are directed to observe a class and use tally marks to indicate both the quantity and quality of teacher-student interaction, based on race as well as gender. I tell my students to listen to what the students are saying, but to also listen (meaning, pay attention) to what they are not saying.  This also goes for listening to what kinds of students are saying what and, perhaps more importantly, what kinds of students are not saying things.  Which students are not speaking–whether by choice or due to lack of opportunity.  Who is present and who is absent?  Who is leading and who is following?  Who is speaking and who is listening? 

As part of my dissertation work, I spent 18 months in an elementary school as a keen observer of the power dynamics at play that had to do with mostly race, class, and language, so I’ve done more than my fair share of bean-counting.  It’s something I do.  Once you start doing it, it’s hard to just no longer do it.  At least, that’s been my experience.  Quantifying things like this is just something I do.

Earlier this week, I published a post with one possible way of measuring equality (or, in this case, inequality) in the Mormon church.  Here’s another possible measurement.  Below are pie charts illustrating the male-female speaking time (in number of minutes) of the 184th session of General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To be charitable, I counted Priesthood as one session and the General Relief Society meeting as one session–even though that’s really not honest because Priesthood session occurs twice a year, whereas the Relief Society session only occurs once. 

pie charts

 If my students brought this data to class, we’d be having a good discussion about it for sure.  Who is speaking here?  Who is not?  To whom are they speaking?  Why?  Who benefits from this system?  Who is marginalized?  Who is rendered invisible? 

And then, most importantly, we’d talk about what we can do to change it.  We’d talk about the advantages and disadvantages of working from within the system versus working outside of the system.  We’d talk about the importance of voting–whether in the ballot box or with our time and resources and presence, etc.  We’d talk about what kinds of things are within our control and which are outside the realm of our control.

More than anything, I hope that when my students observe an inequality in an institution or organization in which they are active participants, they commit themselves to working assiduously to address the problem.

[For more Equality is not a Feeling posts, see the archive here.]