This summer, I’ll be taking the LSAT and applying to law schools. Somewhere over the course of the next two years, I’ll likely be moving out of my home state of Michigan for the first (official) time to attend law school. For some reason, I’m more excited than nervous about all of these things. My decision to go into law is not for the status or for the money, like many assume, but for the opportunity to serve and defend marginalized voices, to work on our prison system and, optimistically, to do my part in making our country what I know it can be.
You’ll hate law school, my family and well-meaning friends say. You know you’re going to be working 70 hours a week. I wonder, though, if they’d think differently if I was a man. Men are cut out for hard work, for long hours, for doing whatever it takes to “provide.” Women, apparently, are not.
When I think about law school, I think about the hell that Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford has been living in since the Kavanaugh hearing, while her abuser sits on the Supreme Court and accepts visiting positions at law schools. I wonder if someone like him will be my professor. I think about President Trump’s continued accusations against and slandering of Hillary Clinton almost three years after the election has ended. I think of how the President can be excused for what seems like anything, while a small misstep by a female politician amounts to an explosion of criticism and dire threats to their careers. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez paid more of a consequence for dancing in college than Trump did for openly boasting about his tactics for sexual assault. I think about how the female candidates in the next election cycle will almost positively be treated the same — What is she wearing? Shouldn't she be a mother? Won’t she be too moody and unpredictable to serve our country?
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, mourned with her country after the Christchurch attack less than two weeks ago. Six days later, Ardern announced that all military-style semiautomatic weapons and ammunition magazines that can be modified into these types of weapons will be nationally banned. Our U.S. government offered only thoughts and prayers for victims of countless mass shootings in our country; I was going to list some here, but there are too many. Ardern, a woman, proved more fit to serve her people after one instance of hate and violence than our current and past administrations have in hundreds of opportunities to do the same.
I’m conscious of my gender when I call myself a writer, too. I once said this at a party and was asked, Oh, so what do you write? You journal and stuff, right? I quickly learned that men are also valiant for choosing a creative field over a professional one — their work is important, profound, world-changing — while women are simply wasting their time. Women writers have historically been written off as “emotional” or “melodramatic.” Male writers — Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, David Foster Wallace — have been hailed as literary icons for years, if not decades. I’ve never been in a writing workshop where David Foster Wallace has not been brought up and subsequently praised. I always sit silently, letting the discussion progress into something like worship. In my head, I wonder if we will ever talk about his abuse toward Mary Karr — a brilliant writer, perhaps even more brilliant than Wallace himself. I wonder if we’ll ever talk about Hemingway’s alcoholism and bar fights in a way that isn’t glamorous, or Salinger’s abusive relationship with Joyce Maynard when she was only 18 and he was 53, which she has been ostracized and blamed for for almost 50 years. I’ve had men who’ve never taken a creative nonfiction class, or even read a memoir for that matter, explain to me how to master the art of creative nonfiction, even after I’d told them that I’m a creative nonfiction writer with countless workshops and essays and memoirs under my belt.
We should look to Ardern for example. We should look to our female writers, lawyers, politicians, teachers and mothers’ examples. We ignore women doing hard and just work simply because they are women. If we allow women of all races, demographics and professions the space to step out of the shadow of men, maybe we’ll find the change we’re looking for — and the change that we need.