I have been surrounded by strong women my entire life.
My paternal grandmother, raised in Depression-era Puerto Rico, was the first from her working-class family to go to university. She was only 16 when she set foot on the campus of Longwood Women’s Teaching College in Farmville, Virginia. Upon graduation in 1948, grandma worked at private and public schools alike, finally settling down in Iowa where she now campaigns for Hillary Clinton LAW ’73.
My maternal grandmother grew up in Nazi Germany where, according to family rumor, her mother won a footrace in the Black Forest that led to a session of tea and congratulatory remarks with the Führer himself. They then moved to the United States where my grandmother, without completing four years of higher education, worked her way up to a vice-presidential position at a bank in the Pacific Northwest.
Meanwhile, my mother, the first female ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, presides over a crucial bilateral relationship as Islamic State forces rage less than 100 miles away from Amman.
Indeed, the words “strength” and “fierceness” are commonplace when describing Amend female lineage. Towards the end of Thanksgiving dinner, attendees have typically lauded the accomplishments of the female attendees more so than the men’s. (Frankly, I am often frightened of this cadre of X chromosome carriers.) We not only commemorate our women in a professional sense, but support them domestically through an even distribution of household chores and child care. We pay close attention to their political views and hold reciprocity as a bedrock principle of daily engagement.
This Amend model of hacking at the gender gap is on full display at Yale, where I’m surrounded by female-identifying individuals pioneering new startups, advancing computer science scripts and molding policy initiatives for foreign NGOs. Either through competition or sheer personal will, women on this Neo-Gothic campus healthily parade their achievements and tilt their chins up rather than down in the face of patriarchal oppression.
Unfortunately, however, there are a couple exceptions to this blitzkrieg of female empowerment. For one, campus sexual assault is a toxic problem, as 16.1 percent of our surveyed students reported having experienced assault in 2015, higher than the 11.7 percent average of 27 universities who participated in the same poll. The second exception is one behavioral root of sexual assault: pernicious fraternity culture. When some male Greek organizations flaunt the objectification of women as a prerequisite for membership, moral boundaries evaporate, leaving room for dangerous sexual activity.
This mixed bag of female success extends beyond Yale’s borders: In the United States, 34 percent more women than men currently graduate from college, and the U.S. Department of Education expects this gap to reach 47 percent by 2023. Yet despite this advantage, women are still paid just 79 percent of men’s salaries — in 2014 alone, median annual earnings in the United States for women and men were $39,621 and $50,393, respectively.
There is still hope, however. Angela Merkel continues to butt heads with Vladimir Putin, Marillyn Hewson presides over Lockheed Martin and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dominates the Supreme Court at 83 years of age.
We can begin supporting fierce women while we are still in college, on both a moral and romantic level. Several columnists for the News have written extensively about hookup culture and an imbalance of emotional labor in relationships. Their arguments should not be ignored as freshmen dot this campus with potentially naive understandings of sexual intimacy, or lack thereof. If we want to empower fierce women in professional arenas and beyond, we can start now by respecting their desires and their status as moral equals. A culture of equality will not spring into being on its own. It takes practice.
On a more personal note, a Freudian twist of fate has left me in need of a tempestuous counterpart. Allow me to end this column with a personal add of sorts:
“Fierce woman, O thee!/Come to Isaac/For heart and har-mony.”
Isaac Amend is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. His column usually runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .