There are a lot of different constructions of identity and an entire set of pressure the come along with each. Maybe I’m silly for not noticing this before, but self-identifying as a feminist has caused me to internalize a whole host of pressures and expectations that I never had to reflect upon before, that is, until I changed my major. This past summer I went through a bit of a life change. I quit a oragnization I had been very involved with, changed my major, and basically re-organized my personal life. It was great and I haven’t looked back since, but I have been noticing that I experience a strange anxiety with my new major, which happens to be nursing. It’s not that I don’t love the curriculum or that I think the major is wrong for me. In fact, I haven’t felt this alive and happy in years. That’s not the problem. Perhaps it can best be described in a joke (which cut) by one of my friends, “But there are so many women in that field.”
I hadn’t really thought about that before, but now this strange anxiety crept into my mind. I’m a feminist. Aren’t I supposed to be blazing trails for the generations ahead, bravely venturing where no woman has gone before and defying all sexism ever?!? Without realizing it, I had internalized this belief that I had to “blaze trails” so to speak, that I needed to prove something, to others, and definitely to myself. I had developed what I like to call, a “Superwoman complex”. I can, could, and definitely should do everything AND choose the hardest path, just to prove that because I was a feminist, nothing and no one could stand in my way. It’s not necessarily that I disagree with making waves or leaving a trail for others, I just hadn’t even realized that I was 1) holding this view and 2) that I was making myself miserable in an attempt to achieve goals that I wasn’t necessarily realistic or passionate about. The question loomed in my mind: was I being a bad feminist by entering a field that is still predominantly female?
Obviously this was silly, but still I feared that changing my major made me weaker in some weird, it obviously makes no sense but you still fear it kind of way. Maybe going to a major that was historically mostly female made me a cop-out feminist? Maybe I wouldn’t be an example to my peers anymore because I was a conformist? Was I a conformist? Why was I even worried? The fears got worse when some of my friends began to ask me questions like “Have you given up on your dreams?” “But why would you ever do that?”, etc. No one could seem to understand that, I’m happy with my major change. I haven’t lost any dreams, if anything, I’ve gained more. I can’t wait to be a nurse, I’m going to be a great one. And there’s no lack of need for feminism in the medical field.
I forget which scholars they are specifically but I know that it’s often remarked upon that women can “have it all” now, which feminist scholars translate to mean that now women have this internalized pressure to not only be able to do it all, but to actually do it all. A false belief has been imposed on women that we HAVE to do it all, that something is wrong with us if we can’t, don’t or won’t. I now wonder if I feel this pressure even more because I am a feminist, that I almost feel the need to “carry the torch” so to say or to be even more gung-ho about breaking stereotypes. However, the beautiful flip side of this dualism if that I am actually equipped with the tools to identify this and break it down from a feminist perspective. That being said, am I the only one who feels that it’s easy to slip into this new female role of having to do it all? Thoughts?