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Letter to the Editor: Karley Petersen

How many South Americans does it take to change a light bulb?

…A Brazilian.

Hopefully that joke has drawn in more people than were scared away by the title of this article. Nice to meet you. I’m Karley, and if you don’t know me, I’ll get you up to speed. I’m a woman. But I’m also a lot of other things. And so are you. If you are deeply uninterested in critically thinking about the world around us, I advise you to put this article down immediately, and return to your home under a rock. I do not wish to waste your time. While the main focus of this article is based off of my personal experience, I write in hopes that someone might benefit in some way.

I was recently asked what I plan on doing after college with a biology degree. Hmmm…what was I going to say this time? The Queen of England? Mulan? Patient Zero? One of those people who dress up like life-sized dolls? “That’s a good question!” I replied. When the individual pressed the situation and wondered if I would go to medical school (because that’s the only thing you can do with a biology degree apparently), I answered that no, I wasn’t interested in being a doctor. Horrified by my obvious lack of drive, the individual retorted, “So what are you going to do? Get an MRS degree?” For those of you who are unaware, this rather unoriginal burn eludes to the occupation of a trophy wife (“MRS”=Mrs.). Knee-slapper huh? I didn’t think so either.

What ended up being a very short conversation illustrated perfectly how we have been conditioned by our society to put people in boxes. I like biology? I’ll be a doctor. Not a doctor? But what else could I possibly do? Oh thank heavens I have a vagina to fall back on! Trophy wife it is.

We like clean-cut clarity. We like knowing where we fit into society. And since we can only judge that relative to the ones around us, we like to know where they fit too. If you don’t fit into a clear cut box with walls constructed of the few traits you are allowed to identify with, the whole system will be thrown off! You will be the thwarter of societal homeostasis! So quick, make a decision of how you want to be perceived and then hide the rest of your qualities because that would make you too versatile and interesting.

But wait, let’s think about who is creating these boxes for us. Today in our technological age, the media tells girls early on that what’s important is the way they look. Boys are also informed about the importance of society-dependent, aesthetically pleasing attributes of girls, and on top of that are influenced to become emotional robots. We are bombarded every day by the limiting mentality of ‘cookie cutter’ gender roles, especially through avenues such as political media coverage. For example, in a snapshot our congress looks like a room full of angry white guys trying to win a manly-man contest to subconsciously fulfill society’s expectations, with just enough women represented to make it look like we try not to discriminate. We’ve allowed the body to be classified as a quality. The message is sent out by the media that the quality of a woman’s brain is far less important than the size of her chest. They are immediately dismissed, they aren’t taken seriously, and people don’t even realize that it is happening. The politician box has already been constructed, and women apparently don’t fit into it.

Instead of defining ourselves, we are allowing the boxes to do that for us. If the importance of a woman is placed on her physical appearance, how could she really be expected to reach her full potential? Furthermore, what will happen to her appraised value as she ages? What will happen when I’m no longer child-bearing age? As men age, their appearance is associated to words like “charming,” “astute,” and “wise.” Yet when women age, they are described as “gray,” “haggard,” and “saggy.”  Why is the value of a woman placed on something that is only temporary?

There is a very dangerous sense of denial that the glass ceiling no longer exists. I hear all the time that, “Things are SO much better than what they used to be.” And I think to myself, yes, this is valid. But why would we ever settle for that? We need to stop taking these words for what they are and start opening our eyes to the world around us. Somewhere along the line, people fought for women’s rights. They attempted to make the world without gendered bias. They did what they could to better the lives of future men and women, and if we settle for the current atmosphere we are failing them greatly.

So I’m asking you to think outside of the box you have been placed in. You don’t have to be defined by it. You can be versatile, interesting, all encompassing, and well-rounded. You can be a contradiction. I want to be a woman that is a sister, a student, passionate, independent, an awesome dancer, driven, a scientist, a friend, a good hugger, a Harry Potter fan, an athlete, an asset, taken seriously, and NOT a trophy wife. I want to be so fat with qualities that there is no box that I will fit into. And you know what? I think I’ll do just that.  I think I’ll get some more degrees under my belt, none of which are going to be an “MRS.” I don’t want to be empowered solely by sexuality. Brains last people, boobs don’t.

Here at Concordia we are encouraged to become responsibly engaged in the world. If you think about it simply, that means doing the best for the world with what you are given. This is exactly what our predecessors have done, and it is exactly what we MUST do for future generations. Jump out of your box—whatever it may be—stomp on it, and just for good measure, light it on fire. Inequality makes us look tacky. I’m not tacky. And I don’t think you are either.

This article was submitted by Karley Petersen, contributing writer.

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