Gender equality and feminism didn’t make sense to me when I was a young girl. I never felt that my gender changed my life in any particular way. Everything in my life was merit-based.
It didn’t matter if I was a boy or a girl. The only perceived injustice I had was that my last name started with a W and my elementary school teachers always lined us up alphabetically. That’s it. Everything else I wanted to do, I could work hard and accomplish it.
My gender never dictated whether I made first viola in middle school, had the top grade in my chemistry class in high school, or became valedictorian at graduation. It was all hard work. Because of my gender I didn’t receive any more or less attention, praise, or credit for my work.
But as I got older, I hit a wall. The wall was the first time I was told I could not — or should not— accomplish something, that a peer of the same age and opposite gender was told to pursue. I brushed it off. That’s just silly—I could accomplish it. Look at everything I did in the past!
- I was told women shouldn’t travel abroad, and especially not alone, while my male peers went on backpacking adventures. At 20 I traveled mainland China and Hong Kong for eight weeks, alone.
- I was told that it made more sense for women to come home after college. I stayed in my college town and landed my first internship.
- I was told women should stay close to home, to keep strong family ties. I moved 600 miles away and started my career all while still keeping my family ties strong (thanks to Skype).
- I was told women should get married in their hometowns. I got married in the city I lived in.
- I was told women should cook and clean in the relationship and leave decisions to the husband. I handle the finances and all legal logistics.
- I was told that I should have children right away—tick tock. I’m waiting to have children.
As the list grew longer of what I should not do, but clearly was capable of, I began to realize why there still was a need for feminism and gender equality.
Because once little girls grow older, everyone stops saying you can do something, and starts saying what you should do. And the should do, can’t do list for men is different than the should do, can’t do list for women.
What’s something on your should do or can’t do list that you overcame?