In an essay previously published on Odyssey.com, Taylor Hawk '20, explores the merits of activism.
Passing on Being Passive
I am done with being passive.
I have decided this for myself. From now on, I am going to be one assertive badass.
I came to resent my passiveness when I realized it was a character trait that I was taught to have as female. Being the stubborn feminist that I am, I decided to really examine my passive tendencies and how these behaviors have stemmed from my female identity.
The dismal realization of my passiveness occurred after one of my theory classes. As a class, we discussed Susan Bordo's “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity” (if you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do). Essentially, Bordo suggests that the body is a text that can be interrupted and read in different ways.
My professor related this to a point that started this whole examination of my own passiveness. My professor highlighted how women are often not hired over their male competitors, even if their interviews were stronger, their words were more impassioned, or if they had clearer goals in mind. This is because the women were often more passive and less assertive than their male counterparts. Women are often “read” as passive, and this has real life consequences.
My professor then brought up Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, and the ways Sandberg argues that, in order to get ahead and be successful in the working world, particularly the technology and media industries, they must associate themselves with masculine, assertive behaviors. Taking charge, standing up for oneself, not letting oneself being interrupted (as many women often are), and being direct and honest about one's wants and goals are all assertive behaviors that many would deem as masculine instead of feminine. Sandberg explains women must adapt and display these active instead of passive behaviors.
This also presents a double-edged sword, as Sandberg recognizes. She says, “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”
I am not going to let myself or others walk over me because I am female. I am female, I am feminine, and I will be successful. It's all about changing my mindset.