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The Scarlet & Black

A brief response to Fox and Friends

This week’s edition of “Fox and Friends” devoted a segment to criticizing Grinnell College’s gender-neutral policies and in doing so disregarded the reality of living on a campus that is accepting of different lifestyles. No one can deny that the concept of gender neutral housing and bathrooms may be difficult for some to digest. Just as Oberlin College made the cover of Life Magazine by establishing co-ed dorms in 1970, Grinnell’s gender-neutral policies will understandably ruffle a few feathers. However, as colleges and students across the nation enter into discussions about the gender binary and what it means for group living, it is important that we correctly understand the facts of the situation. The Fox and Friends hosts use the phrase co-ed to describe what is gender-neutral, they misrepresent the gender-neutral system, they ignore basic gender theory and they are unwilling to recognize an entire community of people. The S&B would like to correct some of these erroneous assumptions.

Fact #1: Co-ed is not the same as gender-neutral. This is a distinction entirely lost on our friends at Fox: “Now we’re hearing of co-ed rooms, co-ed showers, co-ed bathrooms,” said Brian Kilmeade, co-host. Co-ed housing means that men and women live on the same floor or in the same dorm. Unlike co-ed, gender-neutral housing does not require that students identify their gender, which better accommodates students who don’t identify with either gender.

Fact #2: The gender-neutral policies at Grinnell are self-selected and are not mandated for any student. Gretchen Carlson’s comment “… that stuff was going on in college when I went way back anyway, but it wasn’t mandated,” reveals just how little she knows about the system. Students can choose from a number of different housing options, including all-female, all-male, gender-neutral and co-ed floors. The claim that Grinnell has “co-ed showers” is also intentionally misleading. As the Des Moines Register reported in the Oct. 23 article, “toilets have stalls and showers have doors so that anyone can use the facilities at the same time.” Allowing any one to use a dorm bathroom does not mean that the college is encouraging group showers. Grinnell College does not control students’ interpersonal relationships.

Fact #3: Being transgender is not a “fad like bell-bottoms” as Kilmeade described it. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, “transgender” refers to a person “who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth.” A biological male, for example, may feel as though he should adopt the mannerisms of a woman. Transgendered students are also not the only supporters of gender-neutral housing or bathrooms. Most floors have at least one gender-neutral bathroom, and many students appreciate that they are not segregated by gender identity. The stark increase in available gender-neutral housing was driven by an increase in demand for gender-neutral housing by the student body at large.

Fact #4: The number of people who identify as transgender has no bearing on whether or not they deserve respect and consideration. Co-host Steve Doocy’s concern that “there could actually be a man in the next shower to [his] daughter” is no more relevant than the concerns of a parents of a transgendered child who worry about their child’s ability to express themselves in a group living situation. For those who are uncomfortable playing a gender role with which they do not identify, group living within the gender binary can be unnecessarily problematic. Understanding that both of these viewpoints are valid, the residential system at Grinnell pro- vides opportunities for students and families with disparate opinions on the matter to enjoy a comfortable housing situation. As in most civil rights movement, the LGBTQ community does not represent a majority of society, but that does not limit their rights, especially in a country that so explicitly protects the freedom of expression.

Fox and Friends misrepresents the gender-neutral system and demonstrates an overabundance of outright errors illustrating how unprepared they are to seriously address this issue. As students at a college that values intellectual pursuit and open-minded acceptance of all people, we insist that others strive to understand the facts. We are proud of our progressive residential system and we are proud to accommodate the housing needs of all of our students.

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  • 2

    2013Oct 31, 2011 at 10:16 am

    @ Dave — I fail to see how your comment is relevant to the discussion at hand.

  • U

    ummOct 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    The phrase “either gender” is problematic, since some people identify with a gender other than “woman” or “man”, but do not reject gender altogether.

    Other than that, yes.

  • D

    Dave McCrereyOct 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Refer; to anti military in schools

    Maybe we need to tell students in school not to get an education and a job. Just be uneducated and live off the government handouts.