Two recent issues on campus have caught my eye this semester. Both the issue of equal gender representation on Student Senate and the removal of a flavor of tea titled “plantation mint” have become heavily discussed and passionately argued topics. I commonly hear conclusions of sexism, implicit and explicit, and statements on the racially sensitive meaning of the word ‘plantation’ respectively, but for a few reasons cannot understand why these arguments are not questioned more on campus.
As reported by the Dickinsonian journalist Nat McCloud, Dickinson College’s student body is 57% women and 43% men. Dickinson’s website states that there are currently 2,345 students enrolled, meaning that there are nearly 300 more women than there are men on campus. Yet, even with this massive inequality, women are statistically underrepresented on Student Senate.
Logically speaking, the problem at hand simply isn’t sexism. With such a large numeric advantage, a united front of women could easily steamroll the election and make the entire Senate female if they wanted. Why don’t they, then?
This leads to the argument that female candidates do not have an equal playing field compared to male candidates. Dickinson’s focus on inclusivity and diversity incredibly extensive, however, making it hard to believe for myself that such an unequal playing field could exist on campus. And, supposing it did, couldn’t the female majority nullify this anyways?
To me, it appears that the reason women are underrepresented on Student Senate is twofold: there is a lack of female candidacies as well as a lack of women voting in the election – not an issue of institutional sexism in Senate elections. Even with this unequal representation of gender, however, there is no inherent problem. Why should we vote for candidates based on factors they cannot change rather than what they plan on changing? If a candidate has serious, bold plans for the future that I agree with, it doesn’t matter in the slightest to me what the color of their skin is or whether or not they have a v*gina. They are a great candidate and should be treated as such.
The other recent issue is that of the removal of a tea flavor titled “plantation mint.” To best demonstrate why this issue is mind-boggling for me, I will ask you to think about this question: what differentiates stating that “bananas grow on plantations” and telling a person of color to “go work on a plantation”?
The answer should be obvious: context and meaning are everything. It is a fact that bananas grow on plantations, just as telling a person of color to go work on a plantation is both incredibly racist and deeply offensive. In the first statement, the meaning of plantation is how the word is typically used (more or less a large farm). In the second statement, the meaning is strictly to pull on the scarring history of slavery in the United States and insult them immensely.
Besides for the word ‘plantation’ itself, there isn’t a single reason why ‘plantation mint’ tea should be offensive. It is the very reason why explaining what the word ‘ass’ means to someone is not vulgar, but calling them one is. Context and meaning are everything. Rarely is there a word that is so bad that simply stating it is inherently offensive, and ‘plantation’ certainly is not one of them.
We need to start thinking logically on issues like these. Not everything in this world needs to be made an issue, especially since this world already has enough of them.