The trees are beginning to shed their leaves, final assignments are starting to come into closer view, and the holiday season is just around the corner, all of which can mean only one thing: fall semester is coming to a close. Even as I type those words, the thought that the first half of this school year is ending still doesn’t seem real. This semester has flown by and left me with some great memories and stories, both academically and socially.
With the sense of finality permeating the air all around me, I have to admit that I am tempted to write my final column of the semester on my opinion of how everything went this year, but that would be too easy and perhaps a little redundant. So with that in mind, I have decided to base the year’s last issue of “So It Goes” on something totally unrelated, but still pertinent to the past week’s occurrences.
The idea for what I wanted to write began in my 8:00a.m. literature class on Thursday. While most students are recovering from the blistering outside winds and wiping the haze from their minds, I go into that morning class with such vigor to absorb knowledge that was rarely unearthed at such an hour in earlier semesters. I have to attribute all of the credit to my passionate professor, Dr. Sorisio. It still puzzles me how anyone could be so vibrantly enthused about 19th century literature at 8 o’clock in the morning, but that’s beside the point. So it goes.
Our current and final text that we’re focusing on is Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’ autobiographical book, “Life Among the Piutes.” Our class is reading it mostly for historical analysis, but on Thursday we looked at it from a gender-based perspective, focusing on the roles and expectations that both native and non-native women were supposed to abide by in the 1800s. I came across two new phrases that day: “True Woman” and “New Woman.” Basically, the 19th century “True Woman” was expected to be pure, chaste, submissive, and pious. Introduced in the 1890s, the “New Woman” was encouraged to be independent, physically adept, mentally acute, and able to be socially on par with men.
Later that day I had a conversation with a friend about the expectations she felt she had to uphold in her relationship. It got me thinking about the general expectations that women have placed on them, sometimes by society and other times by themselves, and how those expectations can influence decisions that women make on a day-to-day basis. Of course, this goes just the same for men as well.
I came to the conclusion that gender-based expectations may seem comfortable because they’ve been around for so long, but should not influence the decisions that we make as much as they currently do.
During the conversation that I had with my friend, I listened as she told me how she feels like she has to be the “classy lady” in the situation she is in, rather than act exactly how she feels. This notion of a “classy lady” seems so puzzling to me because it connotes the idea that women shouldn’t start controversy or speak their minds entirely if it doesn’t result in elegant behavior. Rather, they should withhold certain thoughts or opinions because it would be the “ladylike” course of action. And I am certain that men are faced with this gender-expectation dilemma as well, whether it is as publicized or not. The idea that we should or shouldn’t act a certain way based on our sex or gender has to stop affecting the decisions we make in our lives.
So I would like to end this column with a piece of advice: don’t let the gender expectations, whether society has placed them in your mind or you have, control how you make your decisions. In the end, individual beliefs shouldn’t be tainted by a general consensus.
Hopefully the next time this column hits stands in 2015, the campus will be blanketed in snow and beautiful as ever. I’m looking forward to an imminent end to fall and a refreshing start to winter. Till then West Chester, so it goes.
Rachel Alfiero is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at RA806657@wcupa.edu.