Nevertheless, She Persisted
Written by Mahin Sekendra
Edited by Jasmine Akrivos
We were always compatible with men. We were always equals. This concept of feminist justice can be seen as a rather universally objective one in our day and age. We were just convinced that we are inferior.
Early humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies in which women were often gatherers and men, the hunters. Bearing in mind that prior to the Agricultural Revolution, it is assumed that our earliest of ancestors were not aware of this division simply because newborn babies were (and are) naturally drawn to their mothers and bringing them to hunt would make noise and scare the prey. Note that some archeological evidences portray women as hunters as well. This division of gender in ancient nomadic tribes was not done to achieve power or dominance over the other sex whatsoever. One may argue that men were the hunters and chiefs of the tribe while elders were given unique respect. In fact, as you may have learnt in your sec IV and V history classes, these indigenous and aboriginal societies were matrilineal – from our very own Tiohtià ke tribe to the Hopi reservation, patterns of matrilineality are the same. These male chiefs were chosen by a group of women who were themselves the leaders and elders of the tribe. During this time, there seems little to no traces of power-based gender hierarchies. Everyone was invited to the table. Women were at the table making decisions, women were a part of the conversation.
However, with the Agricultural Revolution came the awareness of power in human kind’s mind. The more our ancestors adapted to a sedentary lifestyle, the more things and property they started to accumulate. The principle of accumulating only for what we need had slowly started to evaporate, allowing the ability to control natural and animal power for our own benefits to take place.
Moreover, notions such as “private life” and “public life” are brought forth. With the privatization of life, a woman’s contribution got uniformly pushed to private sector- dealing with child-bearing, cooking, and so forth. Meanwhile, the public sphere of politics, discussion, business, and practice of religion were occupied by men. A wild transformation had just happened. Women were no longer at the decision-making table, women were no longer a part of the conversation.
With the evolution of time, happenstances transformed into culture and legal traditions. In such continuances, sexual double-standards and an unnamed gender-based hierarchy arose. That newborn notion of “property” applied itself on women and enslaved peoples- a father always “gave away” his daughter’s hand in marriage, a wife’s legitimacy was recognized by her husband’s signature and last name.
So, how does this link to Model United Nations?
Model United Nations, birthed initially as Model League of Nations in the 1920s, set itself out to be series of revolutionary conferences, inspired by the actual League of Nations (retitled as the United Nations later on). In a time of difference and combat, this new forum presented the opportunity for conversations to be held. Right after the World War I, during which women were exceptional contributors, this event allowed young university students to light the torch of a peaceful, secure, and diplomatic future by ensuring representation of nations and their soulful values. Yet, that very philosophy of representation initiated in an incomplete form as women were not participants. Due to a meager number of women in university institutions, their participation in peacemaking activities such as Model United Nations was left absent.
A 100 years later, in 2020, mankind has moved forward because a few women and men who fought against injustice and such momentum on inequality of opportunity – intellectually, forcefully, through grass-roots movement, through revolutions all over the globe. And now, in 2020, women are presidents, secretary-generals, chiefs, and prime ministers of nations, organizations, and Model UN conferences. Yet still, during those long committee sessions of political debate in Model UN, young women from high school to CEGEP to university still persevere and walk a longer mile for the same effect as their male counter-parts.
Being talked over (constantly), being told you’re too “aggressive” or too “bossy”, being reduced to your wardrobe choices, being pitted against other women in your committee, not being perceived as substantive, having sexist and unprofessional working paper names. Detailed instances of sheer ignorance such as these showcase the everlasting effect and presence of female double-standards dating from the Agricultural Revolution.
What I find so brave, however, of the young women continuing their journey of skill-building and leadership is their persistence – because she will speak louder than the one 6 foot-tall Georgetown student before her, she will wear her favourite red suit, and she will stand alongside other women. This is a form of resilience that I am lucky to witness and taste; something the women in the past would be proud of. We were once not allowed to be in the table making decisions. So we created a time in which we are. And Model United Nations is one of the places we have done it.
Because nevertheless, we will persist.