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Midshipmen’s “Gender Matters” Performances Inspire Discussion

Posted on: April 23, 2014 08:00 EDT by Midshipman 1st Class Colleen Randolph

As six midshipmen stood on stage the crowd grew silent. Simply dressed in winter working blues, PT gear or Blue and Gold jogging suits, they looked as though they were taking a stroll to do homework or meet a friend.

But the midshipmen performing “Gender Matters,” a student-produced monologue session on gender bias within the brigade, were armed with their words and keen observations on the topic of gender and sexuality within the brigade. Their words, though humorous, were powerful.

“Gender Matters” is produced a small group of midshipmen selected to write monologues, three each, which relate to the issue of gender at the academy. One of the pieces is on a perspective the midshipmen disagree with, one is from a serious stand point and the other is meant to be humorous. The purpose of the monologues is meant to provoke thought for both the midshipmen and the audience.

Midshipman 1st Class Erin Bacon of the 11th Company, a future surface warfare officer, performed her monologues as a writer taking to the stage for the very first time. Bacon, an English major, believes that the dialogue is the most influential part of the acts and that bringing the issues to light helps with their discussion.

“I hope it helps make these topics less taboo,” said Bacon. “All of our pieces are true stories, and I think that's refreshing for mids to hear.  It's okay to poke fun at ourselves and the way things happen here, but also to hear firsthand accounts of some quiet tragedies.”

Bacon’s monologues were based largely on the experiences she’s has over the past few years while at the academy. Her topics and discussion were aimed at the more humorous side of things, as humor has been able to bring issues to light, she said.

“One was with a particularly misogynistic midshipman, something I haven’t experienced frequently.  He was incredibly insulting to a friend, and that moment has stuck with me,” she said. “My fun piece was just a reflection on civilian women and what happens when they visit the Yard looking beautiful in their sundresses.”

For Bacon, it gets personal and she admits that performing her writing was nerve racking at first. 

“But issues of gender have always been important to me.  I think that mostly stems from talking to my mom about her academy experience – she graduated in 1982 – and comparing it to my own.  I love the academy and have few bad memories, but we're too ambitious of a group to let social progress be stagnant. Even one particularly hurtful insult or action, intentional or not, can stick with a person for years, and these monologues were an opportunity to draw attention to that.” 

The issues discussed during the monologues exist in any work place, any part of the country and any part of the world. But talking about the issues and recognizing them on the lowest levels is where progress starts. 

One midshipman wrote about an interview with the academy’s Deputy Commandant Colonel Roberta Shea in which she told the story of her own encounters with gender bias while she was at the academy. As an officer, walking into the Pentagon one afternoon, she encountered a senior officer who had been a second class midshipman when she was a plebe. 

The officer stopped her to apologize. He was now married to someone on active duty and had a daughter. He wanted to apologize for the jokes and gender bias he and other had made Shea experience when she was a mid.

“I think ‘Gender Matters’ is a great asset to future officers,” said Bacon. “It sheds light on both big and little issues regarding gender, and freely acknowledge that there's still progress to be made.” 

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