I had always rejected the idea that women were treated differently or unfairly in their fields. I mean, the wage gap could be because less women are even pursuing that field, and I always thought that feminism was presented in a light that made men look like the enemy, so I never really agreed with it. But, I have to say, I experienced it finally.
I was sitting at my desk reading the feedback from the longest and most important presentation of my life thus far. My graduation basically hinged on this presentation in front of all of my peers and some of my professors. I had been practicing for an entire week, researching for two months, revising constantly, and mentally preparing for this moment since the beginning of school. I was so proud of my presentation; I had a compelling and thoughtful topic, a never-before-seen synthesis of information, and attention-capturing graphs and figures. This was planned weeks in advance. I had been working so hard to research this topic and prepare myself for any question my classmates could throw at me.
And I felt really good about my presentation at the end of it. I had stayed calm and collected, presented my little heart out and met my time mark nearly perfectly. And then I got my peers' feedback. 95 percent of it was really great, and I got some super helpful constructive criticism that I can use for the future (after all, this was definitely not a perfect presentation). Then I got to the one comment that tore me apart. I knew it was in that stack somewhere, knew there was at least one really harsh grader, knew they would catch all of my flaws, but didn't know it would be completely unrelated to my presentation.
There it was. My outfit wasn't good enough. I needed to go easy on the make-up. My nose ring was distracting. At first, I was confused as to why this mattered. And then, I was angry. And then, I finally understood this idea that women are not always respected for what they can contribute. I worked endlessly on the research and data that would support my thesis. I planned to take this research to graduate school. And all this person could say was that my looks weren't good enough. Had they even listened to what I said? Had they even paid attention to the fact that seal populations could see a major decline because of climate change? Had they acknowledged the fact that I just synthesized information in a way that no one else has?
Maybe they did. But, all I got was a comment on how I looked. I don't even know if it was a guy or girl that said it. All I know is, that I see what everyone is talking about. I finally got to experience this unfairness that women are sometimes subjected to. I don't think I'll be going on a man-crusade anytime soon, and I still think that feminism can be twisted in unfair directions and assumptions, but I see it. I get it. And it is every bit as maddening as everyone said it would be. But don't worry, I'll shake it off as I ace my classes and head for my masters degree, septum piercing and all.