Written by: Jane Kim | Photograph by: Abi Koh
As it turns out, I share my taste in beer with "The Most Interesting Man in the World." And as I sit here with my half-drunk bottle of Dos Equis, I’m wondering if this could somehow qualify me as the world's most interesting woman. But if it did, I would have to share the title with thousands of women around the world who share my fondness for the beverage in question.
I’m writing this because I overheard a man tell his friend (a woman) that she would not like Dos Equis because "Dos Equis is a man's beer” and his words slipped down my throat and lodged themselves in the bottom of my stomach where they have remained undigested and unsettling ever since.
I’d like to tell you that I marched up to him and downed a XX on the spot and that I even shot an impressive belch his way to seal the blow. I’d like to say his friend gave me a high-five and women in the bar raised their glasses and cheered. And the man? He went home, vowed to undo his wayward sexism (he even picked up Women’s Studies at a community college), and was found to never appropriate gender standards to belittle women again.
But that’s not what really happened.
What really happened was this: He was a man. He was fifty pounds heavier than me. He was drunk. And I, having a history with physically violent drunk men, was too afraid to suggest that his friend might actually enjoy Dos Equis and offer her a sip of my own. In fact, I shrouded my bottle and turned aside to avoid offending him in some way. As if me being myself could somehow be an offense to him.
As a young Asian-American woman, I am not unfamiliar with this shroud. I was introduced to it long before my first sip of beer and I was encouraged to use it to hide all sorts of things about myself like my humor, my knack for building things with my hands, my ability to lead. The list is as miscellaneous as it is endless and it pains me to know that women like myself face criticism and attack when trying to define It.
The truth is, It is hard to define. It is gender prejudice. It is sexism and societal standards raised to limit women. It is the instinctive handing over of the hammer from “dainty” hands and the adding on of the male co-leader to the “bossy” lady up front. It is the beer that is ill-suited for the friend who is a woman.
But the point is, It is real and It instructs women to hold themselves back.
As I enter my last year of college, I fear I am nearing the day I will much more likely be denied a position or promotion because of the urinal that I do not use than be denied a drink because of my “feminine” palate. But I mostly hope. I hope that our generation and those to come will continue to oust the cultural brainwashing that devalues girls and is bewildered by the successful and brilliantly capable woman. I hope for the day that women will no longer be placed behind a shroud of incompetence. And I hope for the day that the shroud will be obliterated altogether.
In the meantime, this message is for myself as much as it is for every woman reading it: Be yourself. Be funny. Be funnier than the boys in the room. Be intelligent. Be bold. Be great at leading discussions and not needing permission. Be the boss. Be the boss’s boss. Hold onto the hammer. Hold your place in the argument. Hold the purse, ball, diploma and whatever else you want. And on nights you find yourself seated in a crowded bar, place your order and drink whatever you want. Cheers.
Jane S. Kim is a senior at Northwestern University studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. She serves as a student leader of Asian-American Intervarsity on campus and is a devoted reader of the works of Jane Austen. Her other areas of interest include urban medicine and community development, the Chicago Bulls, and green tea flavored desserts. You can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jane_kimbo and read her ramblings at jane-sk.blogspot.com.