Next week I will be teaching a class on gender and (in)equalities in education as part of the module I lead on Societal Change and Education.

The lecture and seminar tasks have been prepared for a while now and I will not dwell on it too much here as not to spoil the surprise for my students (!), but one thing that kept coming to my mind as I was preparing this class was the impact Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter had on me when I first read it in my first year of University. Her struggles with her parents, family traditions and societal expectations was something that I could relate to only too well. At the time, I too was attempting to create my own world as an independent young woman with aspirations and opinions of my own. All of a sudden it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in experiencing such internal struggles between the patriarchal approaches that surrounded my experience and my dreams for personal emancipation. In my case, education was the solution I found to become me. And it was also the vehicle through which I conquered my intellectual and emotional liberation. It reassured me that it was OK to follow a different path; my path.

I no longer asked myself: what shall I do? There was everything to be done, everything I had formerly longed to do: to combat error, to find the truth, to tell it and expound it to the world, perhaps to help to change the world. ~ S. Beauvoir

It was OK not to have a partner. It was OK to travel and to explore. I didn’t have to meet expectations others had of me: dating, getting married, having kids at a ‘proper’ age. I only had to seek to fulfil the expectations I had for myself, even if that meant not to fit in. Beauvoir taught me it was more important to be confident of my ambitions than to conform with someone else’s.

However, looking back at my own experience and what I have learnt from Simone, a question persists in my mind: this search for (personal) meaning is not only a women’s quest … surely. How do men navigate and/or refuse patriarchy as part of the role they aim to play in society? Here’s me off to search for more readings.