Why I’m Writing
One particularly odd memory stands out to me as I reflect upon my development as writer, student, activist and woman. And it happened of all places, in a frat house. Ubiquitously and notoriously known as a breeding ground for anti-feminist sentiments, I remember being dragged into this particular frat party by my roommate, thinking I was in for another repetitive evening of loud music and bad drinks. I soon found myself in the midst of a conversation with a young man, who was all too eager to share with me how awesome his frat was. I was surprised by what he had to say.
He told me not of the perks of the constant parties, nor his relationships with sororities, but instead of the camaraderie he shared with his fraternity brothers. He explained how his relationship with his brothers was like nothing he’d ever felt outside of home. Impressed by his sincerity, I left that party feeling two things: the first, a tinge of jealousy of these frat boys, and the second, an odd sense of nostalgia for my days of high school.
I grew up the eldest in a family of four girls, later attending Presentation, an-all girls high school in San Jose, California. Though my teenaged-self expected a single sex education to be nothing less than a plaid skirt clad death sentence, my experience proved to be much more. At Presentation, where the Cross Country team’s shirts read “Yes, I run like a girl, try to keep up!” and posters commending our all-female speech and debate team’s latest championship constantly lined the halls, womanhood was celebrated every day. The close bond I shared with my classmates and sisters fueled my competitive nature, while also providing me with an indispensible support network. The beauty of this learning environment was that neither success nor failure was ever attributed to gender; individuality triumphed over gender norms.
However, I was never truly aware of the empowering and motivating effects of my surroundings until I became removed from them. My junior year, I attended a test prep class to prepare for what nearly every high schooler fears — the SAT. Every Saturday morning for 8 weeks, I would sit in a classroom of boys and girls, listening to the instructor explain ordinary high school-level things, like how to write a college-level thesis in 10 minutes. During one particular lesson, I remember another teacher peeking her head through the door, asking if there were any boys who would help her fix her projector. This notion had never occurred to me — that boys were the only ones who might be able to fix her problem.
Later than year, I attended a UNICEF-sponsored student colloquium, where I was the only female on a team of four other males. While working on a task that included devising a strategy to deal with water shortage in Africa, one of the boys handed me a pen and asked to write down their ideas.
These examples are incredibly minor, yes. So what if a teacher did ask the girls to help out, or the boys in my group thought I should be the one taking notes — does this really matter? And while it took me some time to understand, the answer is yes, it does.
Soon senior year came and went, and I graduated from Presentation, fearless and eager to pursue college head-on. However, the realities of attending a co-ed university proved to be far different than my admittedly sheltered lifestyle had been, and I lost sight of the women I once was.
Attempting to embrace college lifestyle in every aspect, I traded in my plaid skirt for a crop top, opting to binge drink on weeknights and sleep-in on the weekends. But for me, this wasn’t the worse part. I began assuming a passive role in the classroom, where I sat near the back. I let my male classmates dominate class discussions, preferring to sit in silence rather than risking voicing the wrong opinion. And worst of all, I grew annoyed with that one girl in the front who always raised her hand.
It wasn’t until that night at the frat party when I began to realize that I needed to reevaluate both my opinion of myself, and my opinion of my fellow female classmates. I began to realize, every girl needs learn how be a frat boy.
At its finest, female empowerment and solidarity is a transformative and inspiring spark that brings out the very best in women. And I want this for myself, for my friends and for society not because males wield unfair advantages or because the playing field needs to be ‘leveled’, but because every woman deserves to feel liberation and support only this sort of environment can provide. The problem is that women shouldn’t need to be in an all-female environment to feel this way! Empowerment and solidary should be readily available to both males and females in every educational setting, especially because the dynamics of academia are irrefutably translated into the workplace after graduation.
So, emboldened by my rediscovered sense of self, I tossed my inferiority complex and remaining caution to the wind, and started embracing the instincts I had followed so unapologetically before college. I took the harder classes and sat near the front, building better relationships with my fellow students and professors. I applied for the hard-to-get internships and to my surprise, was actually selected for some of them. And now much more aware of self-growth as a female, I dare to write about these issues.
Let me be clear in stating that I’m under no impression my self-journey as a feminist is by any means drastically changing gender stereotypes. I do, however, believe that through simple steps like initiating a conversation and leading by example, positive change will follow. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, I hope to continue to work towards fostering environments of female empowerment on a deeper level. Particularly, I plan to traverse my passion for government and gender equality by creating policy that reverses the subtle barriers that promoted gender inequality for so long in our society. And most of all, I hope to be a part of the reason women of the future will grow up in solidarity with not just a sisterhood of females — but with society as a whole.