Friday, September 11, 2009

My high school experience was not like your high school experience

I have a class this semester call Gender and Communication. Interestingly, last class we took a survey with the class. The vast majority, all but 3, said that educational opportunities were equal in the United States. The reasoning for this was a varied as the individuals in the class themselves. Some argued that no program at UCF or any university they knew of restricted admission based on gender. Some pointed out how women were getting the majority of bachelor’s degrees around the country, as well as the scholarship opportunities that were available for young women.

I was quick to point out that discrimination is not always so obvious. Boys and girls receive very different kinds of attention, especially when they are younger. Forgive me for not remember the sources I looked at in another class, but last semester we read several articles, all of which came to the same conclusion. Girls were taught to be neater, especially when it came to physical appearance. Girls are rewarded for trying, and are often quickly “tracked” into more nurturing roles. Young boys get away with more physically aggressive behavior, are challenged by teachers in search of the correct answer instead of merely getting praise for trying. So, yes, no one tells women at the university level they can’t be engineers, but very few teachers promote this idea among young girls. If this wasn’t the case, would be around?

As far as my own school years, I had very different experiences than the ones given in RED. I did, however, identify with the one story about the friend of the girl who tried to kill herself. Mostly, I was the girl who wanted to die. And believe me, it was not for lack of trying. I did, several times. How I made it to adult hood is beyond me, but I give the vast majority of the credit to my best friend, “Marie” (name changed). I met her in 6th grade. She is still one of the few people I have met in my life I can be myself around. She knows things about me that no one else does, in graphic detail. She is one of the strongest women I know, and she does not care who you are – she will kick your ass. I learned so much from her, and I am stronger because she told me it was ok to not be what society told me I should be.

I am surprised how important prom was in the online reading. Maybe it was just me, but when I look back at high school, I do not see my prom. I went, yes. I had an expensive dress. I couldn’t afford the salon hair or nails at the time, because I was supporting someone else who needed the money to eat. We went solo, four of us girls. We took my brand new car (that is something I will never forget – my parents kept telling me I would never get a car from them then one day, I came home to find one there. Apparently, since I had gotten enough scholarship money to pay my tuition, my reward was a car. It was bought with my college fund). We were there a couple of hours. The best part was the stop at Steak and Shake after. I guess when I look back at other people though, prom was a huge event for them. I do remember going to the restroom at one point in the night and hearing one girl complain about all the bobby pins in her hair. I was very grateful at that moment that I was not being poked all night by hair pins! I had really already left high school at this point. For my 12th grade year, I was entirely off campus taking classes at a local college. I had already left behind the need to impress them I suppose. I remember seeing several popular girls pregnant that night and I was grateful. I made it out of high school. I was in college, I was going to a major university, I wasn't pregnant. I survived high school, and while my future was uncertain, I had more possibilities in front of me than I could imagine.


mhendrix said...

Wow, thanks for really opening up and sharing your struggles. I truly believe you will be able to help many other girls who are struggling in the ways you have. What a great friend you had. Like she told you it is important we convey the message to girls that they do not have to be what society says they do. It is this immense pressure that leads down a path of self-destruction. Looks like someone has bigger plans for you! I know you will go on to achieve great things...what are you majoring in?

AmandaF said...

I'm majoring in Political Science. I graduate in December (scary!) And thanks. It's really only been the past couple of years that I've opened up about my depression - I was 12 when I was suicidal. It's recurring, and I think I've had 7 episodes. And while I still don't talk about some of the worst stuff, I've started. I want people to know these things are survivable, and that they are not things that should be stigmatized. I also want people to know they aren't alone because you do feel completely alone.