"I can tell by the looks of you that you're only going to college to find a husband."
I looked at the man who said this to me with disbelief. I thought pretty hard about how any person's physical features could define their intentions for going to college. Then all I could think was that he looked like the type of man whom one day I would like to be more successful simply to prove him wrong.
Since when has pursuing a college education been something to belittle? Battling the expectations of being a woman in college is something that has to be done far more than it should. With stereotypes swarming college students, it comes as no surprise that women feel the pressure to break free and create a name for themselves.
However, by creating a name for themselves, I do not mean going to college specifically to find a partner's name to take.
I'm a white woman pursuing a degree in special education. I without a doubt fit a stereotype, and this was made clear when I looked around in my education classes to find not even a handhold of men. This expectation spans across many majors, usually ones that have to do with children, education or social work. The math and science department is a man's world, and regardless of if it's addressed aloud or not, women need to go above and beyond to prove their capabilities.
The hard to swallow truth is that stereotypes are inevitable, and no matter how old we get, traditionalists will view women as the ones responsible for caring for the home and children. Luckily, there are so many successful women in our society that act as role models to strive to break the glass ceiling and pursue whatever we are most passionate about. What mindset do we need to take these next steps?
As difficult as it will be, there needs to be a mutual respect for all fields of study. We can't assume that math and science are harder than arts and education. All majors are difficult and complicated in their own way. The idea that women are expected to study the "easier" majors feeds the minds like the man who made that comment to me. On the other hand, it is also offensive to the men who have found passions for these stereotypical women oriented majors.
Meghan Markle, our newly crowned Duchess of Sussex, has made her advocacy for gender equality very public. It is women like she who can set expectations higher for girls in college and prevent men from Michigan from chastising a student because of her physical appearance. She speaks about the power of raising your voice, and at the age of 11 was able to take a stance against gender inequality and make a change.
As studying women, we must not allow others to minimize our passions. We must do it for all of the college students who fall outside of their stereotypes. We must do it for the girls who are told they are studying too difficult of a major. We must do it for the boys who need to try harder and be the "breadwinner." And we must do it for the next generation's boys and girls so they never have to face this kind of discrimination.
You can be the woman who looks like she is the one going to college only to find a husband. But also, be the woman who proves all of those stereotypes wrong.