First in Family

Allen Harrison

Mandy W. Wong '15

Mandy W. Wong '15

Ever since I was young my mother always emphasized the importance of obtaining a college degree so I could find a decent job and live a “good” life. She always stressed to never lead a life like hers. With this in mind, I started my track to find a career I would enjoy. During high school I thought of getting a medical degree but I was never sure if this was actually possible, so I never shared my thoughts with my mother. However, after arriving on the Hamilton campus and meeting some amazing mentors and professors, my mind was set on pursuing a medical degree. So I finally told my mother about my goals this past spring. Instead of encouraging me like I thought she would, she asked if I could pursue a different career. She said as a woman, the pathway to becoming a doctor is way too long and difficult.

At first I was taken aback. I did not understand why she encouraged me to pursue a college degree and at the same time told me not to pursue my dream career. When I finally had the courage to ask her, I saw who influenced her. It was my androcentric grandfather. It’s hard to believe now since Alzheimer’s has taken over his mind, but my grandfather held a strong belief that a woman’s place should be at home. Even after doing extremely well in school my mother was forced to drop out of high school to work so the family could support my uncle’s studies overseas. To my grandfather, my uncle was the one who deserved an education since he needed to uphold the title of being a man. My grandfather never gave my mother a chance.

After hearing my mother’s story, I thought of dropping my goal to pursue a medical degree. However, at Hamilton College I learned about the social construction of gender and how powerful it can be. Therefore, I have decided to fight these hegemonic gender beliefs. As best as I could, I tried to explain to my mother how I cannot give up my goal. If I give up my goal I would be giving in to the cultural beliefs about gender. Not only for myself but for my mother as well, I need to help us break away from my grandfather’s patriarchal influence. Even though the pathway to become a doctor is long and difficult, I will persist. And with the support of my mentors from Hamilton College, I believe I can pursue my goal while breaking down the invisible gender norms that exists within my family.