My Experience-- Annabella Lugo
I want to highlight two specific phenomena in MUN that made me realize how comments that seem innocuous in the moment actually signify a much larger issue. The first was while attending a conference that had a large amount of international delegates. Our chair instructed us that the language to be spoken during unmods was English. At the beginning I thought “Ok, I mean I guess that makes sense since the conference is in the U.S. and most people speak English” but after awhile I realized how divisive that could become. I met some delegates from Colombia who were hanging around the bloc speaking to each other in Spanish and since I’m bilingual (fluent in Spanish) I decided to start talking to them. They explained to me how they wanted to take part in the group discussion but didn’t think their English was good enough so that everyone would be able to understand them fully. At that point I realized that by making English the default and not allowing other languages to be spoken, the chair has inherently, even if inadvertently, created a language barrier that detracted from the MUN experience. The chair’s (and conference’s) rationale behind requiring English to be spoken during unmods was in fact to create unity so international students would work with students from other countries instead of just people who spoke their same language. In reality, this practice had the opposite effect and led to the silencing of minority voices. I believe that if a conference is to make a decision on language during unmods, it should consider what would foster the most exchange, not hinder it.
My second experience is probably one that is more obvious. I’ve been told before (as have most of my former teammates) that being in a girl/guy partnership is seen as a “winning tactic” because female/female partnerships won’t get enough attention from the room and male/male partnerships can be seen as too aggressive. Guys and girls then fall into the stereotype and reaffirm the behavior they are expected to portray. Think about how many times girls/women add onto articulate points with “but I’m not sure that’s right” or “I don’t really know that’s just what I think” in an attempt to soften their arguments. When guys in the partnership automatically assume they’ll be giving speeches while their girl counterpart writes the clauses, the system continues. Girls and women are seen as being less assertive so they’re told they won’t attract enough following, but the moment they become assertive they’re scolded for being overly aggressive. It’s a Catch-22 that no one has found a solution to but the start is to urge girls to speak up from a young age.