Underlying sexism within the Model UN circuit
By Anna Chuprun
Networking, intriguing debate, partying, and thousands of ice caps… What's not to love about Model UN? For a (mostly nerdy) extrovert interested in international politics like myself, Model UN sounded like the perfect opportunity to engage with current events and issues, meet new people from around the world, and finally channel my argumentative nature into something constructive. And it has truly been an activity I love to this day.
However, despite the amazing experiences I have had, there is a hyper-masculine and often sexist energy ingrained in model UN that must be addressed.
In my first conference, I walked into the committee room eager to discuss the topics at hand, my statistics prepared into an organized little folder and my freshly ironed blazer hiding the sweat on my shirt from how nervous I was. It was not, however, the debate or paper writing that I wasn’t prepared for; it was the blatant misogyny.
Throughout that conference I had to fight harder than any man to be put on the sponsors list for position papers, get my ideas heard and understood, and be recognized as a valuable delegate to work with. I learned that even the amount of space you take up matters, since during unmoderated caucuses, delegates stand around in circles to discuss issues. If you are small, you can more easily be overlooked. I began to understand why most short women in the room continued to wear heels to committee sessions even when they complained that their feet hurt.
Only when I raised my voice at an older male power delegate and took on stereotypically male characteristics did I earn the respect of my peers. In an activity so focused on diplomacy and cooperation, I should not have had to.
Both for me, and so many other female delegates, this has not been a one-time experience, and definitely not the worst of it. I understand that as a white and middle-class woman I speak from a point of privilege, but there is a consensus among most MUN women that this is a somewhat universal experience.
Whether it be stolen directives/clauses, exclusion, mansplaining, etc, most women experience some form of discrimination. The repeated pattern of micro-aggression can usually be dismissed by female delegates as insignificant actions. However, when it is not addressed, it allows Model UN, an activity practiced equally by men and women, to remain a Boys’ club.
Model UN, as much as I love it, has been my first taste of gender discrimination in a professional environment. One would think that “woke” model UN men would take the appropriate steps towards promoting equality, but most are blinded by the guise of fairness that is presented. I understand that my experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexism in professional environments. However, when we dismiss underlying sexism because it is not “bad enough”, it not only permits it to continue in MUN but further into the professional world.
I distinctly remember winning a gavel (prize) for being the best delegate at a conference and hearing male members of my committee complaining that it was because I was “charismatic” and “bossy”. I am not alone in these experiences, which just goes to show how even when women beat the odds and manage to win, their success is viewed as meaningless.
It is crucial when addressing micro-aggression in the professional environment to not only focus on preventing men from taking destructive actions, but to bring up women however we can by removing systemic barriers. As the current executive of training for Dawson College Model UN, I make sure to instruct all my delegates about female oppression and how to deal with coercion. Although conferences are becoming more and more aware of the frequent assaults within them, micro-aggression continues to be dismissed, especially by male delegates and executives, as trivial complaints.
"Model UN, as much as I love it, has been my first taste of gender discrimination in a professional environment."
Perhaps Model UN may seem like an insignificant field to focus on, but considering the thousands of participants each year worldwide, most of whom strive to take on positions of power, if the systematic oppression of women is not addressed now, it could have drastic effects on our future.
If we want a more positive future for women in MUN, underlying systemic issues need to be viewed as a crucial problem to fix, not an inconsequential inconvenience. Women are not bossy; we are bosses and deserve the same respect as anyone else.