The Y factor: Step Sing’s gender bias


I feel a little bit like Kanye West writing this.

I don’t intend to dampen the celebrations of Sigma Chi, Pi Kappa Phi, or Dudes-A-Plenty. Truly, and in the immortal words of the god himself, “I’m really happy for you. I’ll let you finish. But [insert female group here] had one of the best [shows] of all time!”

As the Samford community, we are systematically allowing female and coed groups to dance their way into mediocrity and out of collective memory.

StepSingGraphCOLORIt’s common knowledge that a female group has only won the sweepstakes competition once since 2005.

In fact, except for the Indie Ladies win in 2006, only three female groups have won the sweepstakes prize at all.

I am neither a step sing judge nor a participant. This is not an accusation on the system of step sing or the judges’ decisions.

Rather, I want to understand why we let campus virtually shut down for nearly a month for what invariably results in the same winners every year.

More than being a simple farce, the masculine bias of the awards breakdown reaffirms the notion there is a correct way to gain approval and success- be male.

The message sent is “Ladies, your performance was cute. We’re glad you had fun! But you will never be the best.”

This rings of patriarchal statements of earlier decades, in which a guise of participation hid an inaccessibility to politics and society writ large.

Women are encouraged to participate only within their own spheres but stay out of the way when it comes to competing with the good ol’ boys. Then, we stop being a cute sideshow and start becoming a nuisance.

For example, though women vote more often than men, America ranks 98th in the world for percentage of woman in its national legislature according to Inter-Parliamentary Union Data.

At Samford, where women make up 2/3 of undergraduates, SGA Student Body Presidents were male 9 out of the last 10 years. In the highest levels of policymaking locally and nationally, examples of powerful women are embarrassingly few.

A common response to this accusation would be the assertion that male step sing groups simply perform better.

Yet these arguments rely on the tacit assumption that there is an inherent superiority to masculinity.

It has been proven elsewhere that men are not funnier than women, as this weekend’s SNL 40th Reunion displays well. Nor do they inherently sing or dance better.

Study after study corroborates the fact that audiences show no difference in preference for male or female entertainers.

So why do the same three groups’ names cover the sweepstakes trophy? We need to let go of the assumption that masculinity is the rule and femininity the exception.

Powerful women already fight an uphill battle in academia and politics. They should not have to fight on the Step Sing stage as well.

Natalie Bennie is a junior communication studies major. Email her at

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