“I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”
I was so impressed with this quote from Humans of New York (and this one, too) that was posted yesterday. I wasn’t as surprised by who said it, because I’ve learned as much about her from her many biographies.
I’m pretty sure that all women can relate to being told:
- You smile too much
- You don’t smile enough
- You are too loud
- You are too quiet
- You’re too open
- You’re too closed off
- You’re acting/talking/sitting/dressing like a guy
- You aren’t girly enough
The list goes on and on (and on and on) and it sucks. It really sucks. Because when you’re working hard at whatever it is you’re doing and the feedback you get is to “smile more/less” or “talk louder/softer” you can’t help but feel like you’re trapped in the middle of some (patriarchal?) paradox that makes zero sense.
When a woman who’s made it to the top is telling you that she’s been there and it’s hard to keep your head down and focus on yourself rather than the noise, and that it’s worth it if you do? That is pretty inspiring.