Hitting the Wall

By Elizabeth Schlyer, 11th Grade Student at New Milford High School

When I take my first steps into the world as a young woman, as someone who is enthusiastic to take part in a new chapter with exciting opportunities, I will persevere; I will blow through life, head held high and reach for my dreams with the longest arm possible. However, I will hit a wall. I will approach the wall of prejudice and stumble. This wall has been building higher brick by brick overtime. Individuals come and break down the wall only to see no damage done. If someone other than the young, willing women of the world would come forward  to help, the obstacle standing in between women’s opportunities and the world of stay-home motherhood and female appropriate activities could be crushed.

I was never one to understand the titles put on women that place them in a box of “lesser”. “Women are lesser than men; women are dumber than men, women are weaker than men, women are less capable than men,” are the brainwashing phrases I- and others- have been subjected to as a girl maturing in this world where I believed opportunities to be endless for all. My question is, why are these phrases of the past still being put forward in the present, and how can we prevent them from creeping into the future?

Ever since I was a young girl, experiencing the world and learning what it would bring to me, I managed to overcome the gender stereotypes I had heard. Education quickly became my passion and I excelled in my studies beginning at a young age. I was often haunted by my classmates words of my brother being smarter than me, and regardless of whether the words were true or not, I was hurt. Why would my classmates, my friends, assume that my brother, who I believed to be equal in brains to me, was superior in the passion I had taken up with learning. This is perhaps when my persistence to defy standards began. I learned to ignore the conformity and pursued not what others believed I should, but what I believed I could.

My “unorthodox” passion did not stop there in elementary school. By the time I entered high school, it became obvious that I had a specialty in math, a subject not easily learned by
many, and especially not excelled in by women. I did not only excel in writing equations and solving derivatives, but I also enjoyed it. Coursing through the beginning of my life with a determined attitude aided me in throwing off ideas of what women should become and helped me to develop my own idea of what I wanted to achieve later in life.

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Just by striving for excellence in studies, women can show that their mental and physical
capacity is not lesser than that of men’s; maybe the submission held over us women could help
our passions and determination exceed that of the male population. The power of women to
overstep that wall of prejudice and enter the world of opportunity does not begin when they
reach the wall, but it in fact begins very early in life when young girls are taught the ideals of
I their world. To overcome the stereotypes of the past, it is necessary to teach young women that their possibilities are endless and are not limited to staying home and taking care of the children. Our dreams are not limited by our peers or our misconceptions. With the determination and passion I had in school since I was young, I prepared myself for the future that I mapped out for myself, and when I reach that wall, I will be more than ready.

This blog post was an entry into Young Women Rising’s annual essay contest in which 11th grade students were asked, “What is one of the most important issues facing young women today and how do you see yourself having an impact on that issue?”

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