Gender fair brings in large student crowd


Students gather in Jamrich Hall’s lounge space for the third annual Gender Fair. The fair included designated gender neutral bathrooms on the first floor. Photo by Ben Garbacz

Ben Garbacz

Last Tuesday on March 19, NMU held its third annual Gender Fair sponsored by the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on the first floor of Jamrich Hall. It shared insight and educated passing-through students about gender roles, problems facing particular genders and the LGBT community. It’s purpose was to raise awareness of the similarities and differences between the genders.

The fair was set up with multiple booths set in two of the three sitting areas that each presented a different topic whether it be scientific research, political activism or cultural awareness. Each booth had a student or group of students overseeing the area assigned and would give curious students time and attention to answer questions about their particular booths.

One of the coordinators, English major and Gender Studies minor Stephanie LeDonne said she was excited to be able to see such a large interest in the fair that had been put together.

“It’s awesome to see that Northern is supporting cultural awareness in the school community, because gender is a cultural thing and not many people realize that,” she said.

LeDonne expressed a concern that gender issues and studies are often misunderstood. When she was making sure the fair was running smoothly and that assigned students were overseeing her booths, she was more than willing to try and talk to students curious as to what those misunderstandings were. The fair had displays addressing concerns Gender Studies addresses, with some of them being the amount of women who hold political power in government, the discussion of the importance of pronouns, education on intersex individuals, and over emphasized masculinity in African superheroes.
The diversity of the subjects were able to give passing NMU students a look into fields that they were unfamiliar with and able to learn from.

“I think that this event demonstrates how progressive NMU is, as well as how accepting of others we are—or should be,” Associate Director of the Multicultural Education and Resource Center Shirley Brozzo said. “It’s meant to be inclusive and affirming as well as educational. Everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in some part of this event.”

Aside from the booths, there was also a demonstration in action. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the restroom on the same floor were designated gender neutral and anyone of any gender could go into either restroom. In honor of theme, the fair felt it would be appropriate to let people choose the bathroom they would feel most comfortable in. The subject has been controversial in politics in recent years, but LeDonne said that the demonstration went peacefully, as people who were not interested had the option to use the restrooms on the two other floors which remained designated by gender.