Jacqueline, age 17
My best friend and I are in the car, HAIM blasting on the radio. It’s the kind of day that has passed quickly, a day we deem as inconsequential. Like all seniors, the future is a topic we discuss often. Daily even. We talk about potential majors, dream schools, desirable jobs…
But then my friend says, “I’m probably going to get married and give up my career anyway, so what’s the point?”
I look at her incredulously. Give up my career? What’s the point?
It reminds me of my mother, who gave up her career to raise me. A college-educated woman, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she worked for years as a nurse until she had me. Then, at my father’s insistence, she quit her job.
At first it was only temporary—they believed that at least one parent should play an active role in their child’s life for the first few years. Naturally, the job fell to her. And what began as temporary soon became permanent.
In my parents, I see a relationship defined by traditional gender roles—mother the housewife, and father the financial provider. It bothers me that after two generations, gender roles are still a prominent part of our society.
There have been various attempts throughout history to end gender inequality, but until we change our mindset, we will continue live in a world where girls are marginalized, where they are told they will never be as good as boys. We see it in movies, hear it in lyrics, live it every day. It’s this mindset that leads girls (like my best friend) to believe they will never amount to anything besides a housewife. It’s this mindset that elicits frowns of disapproval when I tell people that I will one day be a foreign correspondent for a newspaper.
We are taught to dream, but only limitedly. We are taught to be educated, but to give up that education to raise a family. We are taught to pursue a career, but to be okay earning less than men. We are taught to be confident, even in the face of overwhelming and unreasonable beauty standards.
One reason this problem has endured for so long is that both girls and boys are taught to be silent, to accept their place in society. So many people see the movement for gender equality as a movement led solely by women.
And this, I believe, is what allows gender inequality to persist—this division.
But working together, we can bring equality to the sexes. Girls around the world should be allowed an education, a chance to express themselves using pen and paper. Writing is important to ending gender inequality, because our voices sometimes fail us. Our voices, it turns out, we can sometimes best express through the written word.
So we must encourage girls to write—creatively, technically, in any form. Because it is only when girls process and accept their thoughts and feelings as normal—better yet, as necessary and valuable—that they will find the confidence to dream and succeed.
Writing is what allows girls to discover themselves and the world around them, to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, it serves as a tool for change. It is only when a girl realizes that she, as Maya Angelou put it, is a “phenomenal woman,” that she can break down the barriers that threaten to limit her growth.