It was my last day of AP Language Arts. School was out and I was saying goodbye to my teacher, Mrs. Kassem. Just as I was about to leave, she stopped me and told me something that I will never forget; “Zakaa, not many men like women of our type. You just have to remember to be strong in what you stand for and never back down.” “Our type?” What does that really mean? I was the type of student that would not seize to state my opinion on a subject no matter who challenged it. When many girls in my class stayed quiet when a male was firm on an opinion, I spoke up.
My high school was primarily 95% Arab-American both students and faculty. Our generation had taken a step towards equality among men and women but people were still uncomfortable with a woman having the capabilities of competing with a man. I remember a post I was tagged in on Facebook where friends would be labeled as “the funny one, the one with beautiful eyes, the nerd, etc…” I was labeled “the feminist.” Before I took this class, I had the stereotypical view that feminists were angry women who hated men and did not want to be known as this. But now with some clarification on the true meaning of feminism, I am proud to say that I AM A FEMINIST.
As I went on to my senior year of high school and started applying for colleges and scholarships, I noticed the competition was becoming more intense. During that year I realized that as women, we are born unequal to men in the eyes of many cultures in society. Just like minorities, women have to prove themselves especially in traditional settings where men dominate such as the medical field and the sciences so that we can earn the respect of others.
One time I was working in a hospital and made it to work just on time with little minutes to spare due to a family emergency. When I explained it to my trainers I felt like having anything to do with family, which is usually a woman’s role, was looked down upon. Or if I laughed at something, I was not taken seriously as if the staff wanted me, as a woman, to prove my seriousness. This never made sense to me but the more I opened my eyes, the more I saw this reality. What can we do about this and how will the future look for women of my kind, the women who want to excel in academics and in the medical field as well as maintain a family? I will wrap up by sharing a promising experience at the hospital that gave me hope for the future. I was walking towards an ER room with a physician and a tight space was coming up so I let him go first. He stopped in the middle of the hallway and looked at me and said, “I don’t want you walking behind me anymore. Walk in front of me or side by side.” I left work that day with a smile on my face a brighter vision of the future.