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Feminism is not Exclusive to Liberal Arts

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UH chapter.

I have never really thought hard about feminism and it is not that I do not believe it exists or that I am against it. I am very well aware that it exists, is a big problem, and needs to be changed. I just do not think I realize how bad it is, do not know what I should be doing to make a difference, do not think most of the problems will happen to me, and therefore do not have an urgency to take action. I am a mechanical engineer and am always busy with classes, studying, and being active in engineering organizations. It is easy to see how I am so focused on academics that I lose track of what is happening in the world outside of college. But I do have a diverse group of friends. By diverse, I mean we are all different ethnicities, different majors, different sexual preferences, and different genders. Being around this group of friends outside of my engineering friends has led me to become more aware of the problems we have in society.

I believe my problem is that I am too caught up in working hard to get my engineering degree and getting a good job, I do not pay as much attention to the problems outside of engineering until it is time. For example, I could be working really hard alongside my colleagues right now, sometimes I may be even teaching the material to a few outside of class. But after we graduate and get a job, I could be earning less than the man I had to teach because he was not studying or paying attention in class as much as I do. Even in the engineering environment, there are not as many women in it. In most of my classes there are a few women present, in my study groups, I am usually the only woman. As stated in How Men Can Help Women in STEM: Shut Up, Sit Back and Listen by Tzovaras, “according to the Economics and Statistics Administration of the US Department of Commerce only 24 per cent of STEM jobs are held by women, with individual disciplines like Engineering having a significantly worse gender bias.” Typically, I do not mind if I stand out or if I do not fit into the first image that appears when something is mentioned. But if this means that as a woman I get “interrupted more often than men,” or get to “speak significantly less at professional meetings” then I am strongly against this inequality (Tzovaras.) I have never heard of #YAMMM (Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting) or #manel and when I think back to past engineering events, conferences, and meetings, I have realized that this is a real occurrence. I guess that I am used to seeing this uneven ratio that I do not really pay attention to it anymore until I actively look out for it. I have also always been treated fairly within my engineering groups and my male friends have always respected me and my boundaries that I sometimes forget I will not always be placed in this environment. This article has made me become aware of the issues that I will have to face in the near future and has made me feel more empowered and supportive when I see a woman in the STEM field.

Aside from the male representation in STEM, I was not aware of how there are a substantial amount of male representation in everything else around me. In Male as the Neutral Default by Sharp, I realized that I have unknowingly been hypnotized into making male my default. I never noticed that my default stick figures have always been male until I needed to draw a girl, the games I play always assumes that I am a male until I change the gender myself, and my officer polo was available in male sizes only. At that time my president called to ask if a male medium was ok, I simply happily replied “Yea! That’s fine!” without having any wonders or strong afterthoughts as to why women sizes were not available. It is little differences like these that brainwash people into thinking that women are different creatures that need to be taken care of with special equipment when they are all capable and use the same things as men do. Thankfully, most of the examples in the article if I had seen in real life would have made me stop in my tracks and glare at it. But what made me furious was the price differences. Bike helmets are used to protect heads. Who knew that the head shape of a woman and the head shape of a man had such drastic differences and that it is $20 more expensive to accommodate the needs of the intricate shape of the female skull? All in all, this article has definitely opened my eyes to be more alert of the male default everywhere around me.

In a darker side of issues through a lighter way of storytelling, the comic “The phone rang. It was my college rapist.” by Sorensen made me feel more conscious about how I cannot control everything that happens to me. I can mind my own business, sit at a table by myself, ignore people that I don’t want to pay attention to, but I can’t stop “jerks” from being jerks. The comic showed how a girl minding her own business got date raped even though she was ignoring her “date” the entire time. It showed how she received a phone call but did not know the jerk was jerking off on the other end. She was a senior in college and later a mom with sons which proves that these things can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. I have always thought that since I rarely go off campus, go to parties, or answer calls from unknown numbers, it would never happen to me. After a certain young age no one would even bother me. But the main character had simply went to go buy some food after being exhausted from studying and her drink got drugged. There is a certain extent to how careful I can protect myself. But there are still a lot of factors I can’t control at that time. I can take action afterwards but sometimes I will not get the results I desire.

Even though this is only the beginning of the semester, I am already starting to wake up to the issues and expectations in society. I realized how unfair the world is and that I possess some power to make a change. I can influence others around me such as how my diverse friend group drew me into this subject which caused me to be interested in this class. I can take action by joining organizations, voicing out my opinions, and listening to those who feel society will not accept them. There is much to learn and much to change.

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Kadie Zhang is a Sophomore of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston. She enjoys arts and crafts, fried chicken, and playing piano. She doesn't know what she's doing with her life, but she hopes to figure it out in the years to come!
Ariz is the Managing Director and a Campus Correspondent at HerCampus at the University of Houston. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science on the Pre-Law track. In her free time, she likes to catch up on sleep, listen to Supreme Court arguments, and rewatch Game of Thrones and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.