Nov 052002
Authors: Ashley Wheeland

Success. How do we measure it? How do we achieve it?

For some it is determined in the money they make. Others measure it by what they build or produce. Others say it comes out of their ability to lead. At any rate, this is why we are all here at CSU. We have to succeed, and we were trained to believe that success is rooted in education.

However, I argue that success has become a measurement that many of us fail to truly understand or achieve. I have gotten to this conclusion in studies of critical and feminist thought. These studies show that in today’s society success comes out of the individual. I question this idea itself.

This idea of success in the United States comes out of the traditional Western tradition, which branches into two categories, the realist and the liberalist. The realist measures success in power. If I can get you to do what I want rather than what you want, than I have power, and in turn I am successful. The other category, liberalism, is also very individualistic, and has its roots in universal rights, (like money making), and can reach success by receiving those rights and using them to our advantage.

Where I am going? I want to propose that we may be learning about a type of success that we all think we want to achieve, but it may not actually be what we want. For women, theorists have tried (in feminist writing) to show that this individualist view of success comes out of a white male dominated view. This bias, this ignorance and this problem help to keep women and other groups from ever truly achieving “success.”

For example the female politician may be successful, but how did she get there? In many situations they left their womanhood behind and became that individual needed to achieve success. They can’t cry, they can’t bring their husbands out in public, they must be men in a men’s world. Women in business follow the same patterns. They become the hard-ass bitch, and give up their human feminine qualities in the meantime.

Another example, and important to note in this research institution, is women in science. After all science is the most likely to be fair and unbiased. Or is it?

CSU has a lot of women on campus; we make up around 51 percent of the population. However in the school of engineering, I pulled out some information and saw that out of 362 undergraduates enrolled in civil engineering, only 85 of them are women. In forest science, out of 258 students, only 90 of them are women. Biology is one exception at CSU, but where do women biology majors go after college I ask? One suggestion is to be types of caretakers like nurses.

After this exploration, I decided to look at women in social sciences, or the sciences deemed by those “hard scientists” as non-knowledgeable, rather describing knowledge. In the sociology department the numbers are pretty equal with women holding the majority by twelve at the undergraduate level. The major technical journalism, which is based on the ability to describe (one of my bachelor’s), out of 486 undergraduate enrolled, 324 of them are women.

So men discover truth, women describe it. Looking at college numbers only goes so far, what happens after? Women become reporters; men own the paper. Women become researchers; men determine the research. Women become nurses; men become the doctors. I am not saying that change has not happened, and that women have not broken levels of the ceiling, but rather that the building, or our definition of success stays concrete.

Extending this idea of success to society, one can see the advantages of following the old-school idea of success. The successful are men, or the women who have determined to become like men. The successful are people of color who have come to behave accordingly in the model of American success.

So where do we go with success? Could it be that there is more to it than the individual? Can women and people of other groups out of “the group” that has defined success, perhaps pose the questions, and help to get to the answers? Here is something to think about when your parents are pushing you to succeed. Who is defining your definition of success?

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