At a storytelling on campus a few months ago, my blood was boiling. A girl around my age was reading a piece on feminism, but she was highlighting the reasons why her desire to lead made her “not a woman.” She said she was defying gender norms with her desire to succeed; she was acting like a man when she accessed success. “I’m not a woman when I say I want to be president of the United States.”
Perhaps what she meant was that people would not associate her actions as being female when she acts this way. But it made me uncomfortable. She was shaming her identity rather than celebrating it.
Why are we women always trying to shed our femininity? Why are success and being female at odds? Why are we told to “grow some balls” when we want to succeed? Is there anything good about being a woman?
Advice for women in the workplace typically emphasizes the need to be more assertive. Speak up in meetings. Negotiate for a raise. Brag. Become male, essentially. And while that’s necessary for survival, at a certain point we’re becoming self-hating women. We don’t want to have any feminine traits.
Moreover, when I’m told to act like a man, I wonder if men are ever told to act like a woman — a better listener, creative, generally not socially inept — or if it’s just women who should change themselves.
Take nursing and engineering — both dominated by one gender, and both rapidly growing professions. The tribulations of being a woman in the sphere of engineering are a common topic of discussion. And rightly so — women in engineering have to face, to be brief, a whole fucking lot of shit. To respond to that problem, a slew of nonprofits, politicians and companies are focused on getting women into tech.
But why don’t we want more male nurses?
The numbers prove that nursing is growing more quickly than software, in both number of jobs and salary. Home health care services and outpatient care services are projected to lead salary growth in America, respectively, at 4.8 percent and 4.1 percent in the next decade. The first software jobs are further down the list — tech consulting services and software publishing will grow at just over 2 percent in the next decade.
Only 9.4 percent of nurses are men. People are concerned that women aren’t encouraged to be logical and interested in science, but no one seems to care that many men lack the empathy and intelligence necessary to become a nurse. My move to take a programming class my freshman year was lauded as some sort of bold feminist move that would be rewarded with a great internship, but no one seems excited about men in the School of Nursing — despite the stability and excellent expectations for growth that field promises.
I’m supposed to take programming courses not because it’s a growing industry, but because it’s a male-dominated one. If that wasn’t the reason, then why don’t we see more campaigns to get men involved in nursing?
We’re championing a wrong sort of gender equality. Certain brands of feminism have become about dropping everything womanly just to become male. It’s gotten to the point where completely neutral behaviors are seen as negative, solely because young women overwhelmingly have them. It’s bad to be emotional simply because it’s bad to be a woman, and industries like education, nursing and publishing, which are overwhelmingly female, aren’t prioritized due to their demographic makeup.
I cried at my internship last summer. Hunched over my desk, hiding my face, drops fell off my face onto my desk after one of my bosses was short with me in front of our entire office. This was bad, but thankfully no one noticed.
I was too ashamed to tell anyone, especially my mom and especially my female friends. I committed the biggest vice — the number one way a woman can lose respect from everyone around her in the workplace. At 20, I had already failed at the office gymnastics I’m required to do to avoid being slapped with the label of “emotional.”
I’m sick of being ashamed that I cried. I’m sick of being scared that I wear skirts too often, or that I absentmindedly touch my hair. None of these actions are inherently bad, save for the fact that women tend to do them.
When I enter the workforce, I certainly intend to negotiate my salary and state my opinions in meetings. Not because I’m tapping into some secret Y chromosome within me, but because I’m very happily being a socially savvy, creative and intelligent woman.