University News

March 27 Difficult Conversations Session to Focus on Gender Roles

March 19, 2013

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL – The final topic in Western Illinois University's 2012-2013 Difficult Conversations (DifCon) series, "The Gender Box: Pressures to Be 'Male' and 'Female,'" will be held 3:30-5 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 in the University Union Lamoine Room.

Sean Dixon, coordinator of Western's Interpersonal Violence Prevention Initiative (IVPI), will facilitate this conversation and provide participants with opportunities to discuss how female and male roles are defined in society and how social pressures can box men and women into certain limited gender identities. Participants will discuss the influence of traditional gender roles and values in the face of today's gender-conscious, ever-changing world.

According to Janice Welsch, Western Illinois University English professor emerita and co-coordinator of the Difficult Conversations series, questions DifCon participants can consider for this session include:

  • Are individuals pressured into particular gender roles or do they freely choose them?
  • Do they learn what it means to be male or female from media? from family and friends? from a larger social circle?
  • Is it possible to intertwine traditional and contemporary gender roles in ways that reflect their complexities and the changes sparked by the social movements of the past five decades?
  • How can women and men negotiate the choices they have and help others do the same?

"The Difficult Conversations series offers the campus community an opportunity to talk about issues often skirted in everyday interaction, issues relevant to how we connect across cultural differences," Welsch said. "They are open to all faculty, staff and students. Because participants are organized into small groups of seven or eight people, everyone has the opportunity to contribute their ideas and insights to each conversation."

At the March 27 DifCon session, refreshments will be served and names will be drawn for Macomb Chamber of Commerce gift certificates, she added.

The Difficult Conversations series is sponsored by Western's Expanding Cultural Diversity Project, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, the University Diversity Council, the Office of Student Activities and the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100.

For more information, contact Deb Miretzky, assistant professor of educational and interdisciplinary studies at Western and co-coordinator of the Difficult Conversations series, at (309) 298-1528 or via email at

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations