It’s the annual club fair for prospective students, or as I like to call it “confrontational parents day.”
There are two types of parents that approach the College Republicans table, their children usually too embarrassed to follow: the “let me tell you why you’re wrong” Democrat parents, and the “let me tell you why you’re wrong” Republican parents. You should be noticing a theme here.
The first usually walk by and look at me the same way you look at a bell-ringer outside a grocery store when you know you’re not going to donate anything. Then they’ll circle back and say something like “So, what do the College Republicans do on campus?” I’ll politely explain that we partner with College Democrats to host voter registration drives and viewing parties for political debates and events, host both local and national political figures on campus, and give students opportunities to get involved in campaigning for officials of their choice. Then they will say something vaguely sarcastic like “how progressive of you.” Some are more bold and will ask me about my own political opinions, and depending on the mood I’m in, I’ll give a range of answers from “I have no obligation to disclose that information” to “I didn’t vote for Trump, if that’s what you’re getting at, but I am a supporter of the Republican House and Senate.”
The second type of parent usually finds a man at an adjacent table and strikes up a conversation with him, assuming he is representing my club. Then they will be completely and utterly shocked when I intervene to ask if they have any questions about College Republicans I could answer for them, and offer them a handshake, stating firmly that I am the Co-President of the club. One time a father altogether refused to believe I was in charge of the club, and told me I wouldn’t understand him (a “radical evangelical elected official”) or Trump’s policies because I was a woman. Another asked me if I was comfortable leading a group of all men and laughed when I told him our club has an equal number of active males and female participants. Once a father and his son got in a heated political debate in front of me and the former said “We can’t talk about this in front of the more sensitive sex.” To which I replied, “I’m no stranger to controversy, but if you aren’t willing to have an open discussion about something just because I’m woman, then perhaps you should reconsider your position to include a more balanced argument.”
Now I’m not complaining–just highlighting that I’m no stranger to sexism and stereotyping–and I really wouldn’t want these events to go differently. If it was easy to be a political thought leader, then everyone would be willing to do it.
A common saying among millennials, when describing something that we take for granted, is “check your privilege.” And my response would be it IS my privilege.
It’s my privilege to live in a country where freedom of thought and speech is encouraged.
It’s my privilege to break stereotypes about my gender and my political affiliation.
It’s my privilege to disagree and discourse.
And believe me–with the number of times I am reminded of everything I am, and everything I’m not–I won’t take that privilege for granted.