Commentary Uncategorized

The Gendered Election

As Andover’s Student Body Co-Presidential Elections approach, several Uppers have begun to advertise their campaigns. I’ve already heard many pairs present feasible, interesting platforms, but I have yet to see any homogeneously-gendered pairs circulate Paresky Commons in search of signatures and support. Although I am a new Lower and have yet to experience my first co-presidential election at Andover, I feel that what I have witnessed thus far suggests a stigma against homogeneous co-presidential pairs on campus.
Andover implemented the co-presidential system for the spring of 2013’s election, having had only four girls in the position in the 39 years since Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy merged in 1973, as according to “The New York Times.” The year the co-presidential elections first took place, however, Clark Perkins ’14 and Junius Williams ’14 were elected as Student Body Co-Presidents. Since then, no same-gender pair has even made it to the final round of voting.

Ever since the election of Perkins and Williams, most co-presidential candidate pairs have consisted of one male and one female. After speaking with many of my friends and teachers, I have noticed that many favor heterogeneously-gendered pairs. Though I do commend Andover for attempting to support heterogeneously-gendered pairs at Andover, I worry that this expectation pressures many students to run exclusively in heterogeneously-gendered pairs. There is no way to determine whether this pressure is inherently good or bad, but there is no doubt that it limits the pool of potential candidate pairs.

The tendency to favor heterogeneouly-gendered pairs over homogeneously-gendered pairs also indirectly discriminates against students who do not identify as either men or women. The Phillipian’s 2015 “State of the Academy” reports that 45 percent of the respondents identified as men, 53 percent identified as women, one percent identified as transgender and one percent identified as other. While the position of co-president does not explicitly exclude any genders, it does perpetuate the strict gender binary that exists throughout campus.

Though there is certainly nothing wrong with heterogeneously-gendered pairs. students should not feel forced to conform to this standard. I encourage Lowers who are planning to participate in the Student Body Co-Presidential elections next year to run with any student they want to, regardless of gender or sex. The less we limit the leadership opportunities in our community, the closer we come to redefining who may be a leader on this campus.