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Are we trying too hard to avoid the female stereotype?

Column by Sarah ’11

I stumbled across a discussion of midlife crisis on the radio station KFWB the other day. The radio show claimed that during middle-age, women’s estrogen levels decline and testosterone levels increase. This increase in testosterone may result in a heightening of assertive behavior in middle-aged women, leading to risk-taking like filing for divorce or changing careers.

Even if the radio show was wrong about the link between testosterone and assertiveness, it got me thinking: in the past century, we’ve worked hard to move away from the feminine stereotype of the softer woman. We equate following with weakness. Those who are fearlessly loud and don’t hesitate to boss others into acquiescence are prized.

And yet girls shouldn’t feel as if they have to show that they are not subordinate to boys by being forward. Furthermore, in an effort to show that we are worthy of being heard, we use forwardness as a tactic to gain acceptance in the same way others use compliance.

This is a very popular tactic at Marlborough.

Have you ever been in English class adamantly making a point when you realize that you are passionately making an observation that has just been said equally emphatically by every other member of your class over and over and over again? But hey, at least being vocal makes it look like you’re having an opinion. Right?

Have you agreed to back up a complaint on a teacher or a class because criticizing the matter seems like a better idea than being okay with the situation and doing nothing? At least taking action makes it seem like you are standing up for yourself. It doesn’t matter that you’re not one hundred percent sure what you are standing up against. Right?

I know that many times I have forced myself to appear forward, not because I felt as if I had something worthy to say, because I wanted to appear as if I was intelligent enough to have something to say. Being forward can be used as a tactic to gain acceptance as much as compliance can. I’m not saying that forwardness is bad. I’m glad that Marlborough provides an environment in which we are free to experiment with the trait, because some girls will discover they are forward by nature. We practice standing up for ourselves, which will come in handy in situations in the real world, where we might experience true injustices. But do we need to be forward to prove that we are modern women?

I wish that somebody had told me sometime at the start of my journey at Marlborough that independence is not always linked to hyper-assertiveness. We don’t all have to be warriors to be strong or effective. Have you ever walked into a room in which everyone is shouting? Not only can you not hear anyone, but all you end up with is massive headache.