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Student Essay: A More Profound Awareness of Contemporary Social Issues

Our society has stigmatized people since their formative years to conform to stereotypes that have been instilled for generations. So, it is difficult to break the entrenched stereotypes and challenge the status quo, for they are already deeply ingrained in our subconscious.    

My earliest memory about social norms occurred when I was in primary school. I noticed a few teachers telling male classmates to stop crying since it was inappropriate for males to weep and show their vulnerability. I found that behavior was odd and unfathomable because, at home, my mother often scolded our nanny for saying similar things to my brother. My mother then reassured him that everybody could express their emotions despite gender, and he must also try to become stronger. 
 

“My inquisitiveness urged me to ask my mother about two different behaviors, but her answer was quite puzzling to me at that time. Later in life, I slowly learned that the former notion is what we now call gender norms or toxic masculinity. Another memory concerning that would be when my classmate once wore a pink floral shirt, a teacher teased him whether he changed his sexual orientation, and the class burst out laughing.”

Twenty years have passed, and gender conformity still exists in modern society. For instance, the obligation of men to pay for everything, criticizing the way guys dress and househusbands as a failure, restraint of expressing emotions, devaluation of women's opinions, and domestic violence. What is more, I noticed that single mother colleagues received criticisms because of being single mothers. From my standpoint, I believe more attention should be paid to appreciating their courage and resilience to stand on their own feet or leave an abusive relationship. My cousin had also been withstanding domestic abuse for years without disclosing a word. She was afraid of criticisms against a single mother while her husband constantly displayed his patriarchal power as violence.

In my culture, some girls have been told at their tender age that they should stick to one relationship and will disgrace themselves if they have multiple partners. Consequently, although they receive disrespectful manners from their toxic partners, they might end up behaving in conformity with that belief, without trying to escape from an abusive relationship. Moreover, some females have been told not to wear modest clothes revealing too much skin, and society has strongly condemned premarital cohabitation. However, young adults hardly follow these norms in this era. Many girls have been judged concerning their number of dates or marriages and their choice of outfits. My colleague, a doctor, had been reproached because she dyed her hair red, and a male coworker, for having a tattoo. Those kinds of personal grooming are considered inappropriate for the medical profession. There was also a time when my examiner administered a rebuke to me due to my light brown hair and red lip color during a viva examination.  

“Although our culture has increasingly been influenced by contemporary and liberal perspectives, conservative people still measure the value of a person or a female's modesty in the ways mentioned above. People tend to make quick judgments without empathy for others' hardships.” 

Regarding the idea of love and marriage, it is indisputable that love does not require certain expectations, conditions, boundaries, or manipulations. However, in reality, interracial relationships and marriage still exist in my society on a deep level by virtue of the fact that some conservative families have a strong desire to carry on their family lineage by not mixing with a different race. Personally, some Chinese families I have known still harbor strong prejudices, prohibiting marriage between other races, even to a mixed blooded Chinese. In the 21st century, I believe relationships and marriage should not be limited according to different cultural, religious, or racial identities. 

My 34-year-old sister has recently opened up her thoughts on marital stereotypes through her personal experiences concerning marital issues. Although she, an independent and career-driven woman, founded her own company at the age of 26 and led a successful life, several people criticized her that she is older than what is considered a prime age and still incapable of finding a suitable partner. Peer pressure of marriage inflicted on all adults, in both genders of my community. It is unbelievable that society gauges a person's accomplishments by marriage. 

In my workplace, verbal abuse and discrimination have been the most common issues. Out of the blue, one of my friends married her boyfriend, whom she had dated for nine years. Once, in a seminar, she was defamed by a professor accusing that the reason for marriage was due to premarital pregnancy. That calumny spread like metastatic cancer. Although it was nothing to be ashamed of, people indulged in idle gossip, and my colleague had been asked a lot of intrusive questions concerning that matter. In my perspective, marriage should never be meddling, no matter what reasons lead to it. 

Additionally, orthopedics, surgery, and other physically demanding medical subjects remain a distant dream for female doctors since enrollment in these subjects is hardly available for them. Although it is plausible to assume that males generally have more sturdy and muscular physiques than females, I believe no woman would pursue these challenging professions without concrete, strong enthusiasm, and dedication. Therefore, everyone should be offered the same opportunities and determined by an individual's competence according to skill and practical assessments. 

To summarize, social issues have a myriad of detrimental drawbacks and act as roadblocks to the progress of every society. I am convinced that social problems would ultimately vanish if we were adamant about combating gender stereotypes and fighting against illiberal people. 

This essay is written by Aurora Poe Su Myat, a Parami modular student from the Parami Summer modular course, the Writing for Social Change taught by Dr. Frances O'Morchoe. She is a doctor who graduated from the University of Medicine, Mandalay. Aurora joined the Writing for Social Change summer course to expand her horizons regarding how words impact and influence society. 

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