My teen years were saddled with depression as it dawned on me that “you can be anything” was not true. And that a hostile world – professions and workplaces – would greet your enthusiastic leap into their arms to fulfill your dreams of how and what you wanted to be.
One of my stories: as a college student, in an airport, I met a woman who said she was one of four female surgeons in the country. (1960s) I told her that that was one of my dreams. She said: “It will be very hard to get in, and you will be battered every step of the way. You will have be to very tough.” She explained to me why there were few female surgeons, and doctors overall. For example, there were quotas for women entering medical school at that time. (And they probably did NOT get financial aid equal to men.) I had NO IDEA how someone like me could finance the education. I was too timid to ask anybody in authority (…refugee mentality, lay low). No internet. No kind librarians in my daily world. I knew I was not that tough. I majored in literature. (You’ll be able to teach elementary school!)
Several college mates who went into science and whom I met again 20 years later had QUIT. Harassed out. Disgusted. Discouraged. Wasted years of trying. And they were tough, and assisted by savvy parents.
There are so many books and movies explaining subtle discrimination, and what it’s like to be put down, harassed, and even raped or killed with no compunction. About racism: Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me. A mind-blowing experience watching the documentary based on James Baldwin’s work, I Am Not Your Negro (directed by Raoul Peck, 2016).
There is a poignant and insightful piece by Christine Emba after the white supremacists landed in Charlottesville. (Washington Post, August 18, 2017) She writes, about painful memories of current racism and marginalization: “No, I can’t just ‘get over it.’” Her last line: “Why is it so hard for you to care?”
Petula Dvorak writes about the abuse of girl gymnasts (six years old and up, over decades) as the result of a systematic denial of their complaints.
After mentally reliving some incidents in my past, I thought, how could I have responded better? In some of my experiences, I froze up, walked away, ran away from insults and aggressions. (No assaults, thank you, God.) There must be guides on what to do? Any tips for the weary?
Yes, there are, it turns out, for example:
“How to Respond to a Harasser? 10 Things to Say”
“Assertive Responses [to street harassment]”
I saw a video tutorial by Act.tv, on “Understanding White Supremacy (And How to Defeat It).”
It inspired my own take on MISOGYNY. It is 7.5-minute tutorial on WHAT is misogyny, what causes it, how it is expressed in social practices and rules, and how we can reduce it.
Finally, on a positive note, the wisdom of the recently departed Ursula Le Guin, a writer, who gave a commencement speech at Mills College in 1983, that tells women a way to think about where we find ourselves.
There is MUCH WISDOM out there. It just wasn’t in my mind when I needed it and could have handled it, e.g., entering college. I wish for a boot camp on “the world for women and minorities.” It is possible to be better equipped for the bad stuff, and to learn to roll with some punches, ignore, resist, and succeed in chasing your dreams in spite of it. Bring your sisters along on the wisdom. And, if you have any strength left, act to change it.