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How Studying At Fisher Fine Arts Helped Me (20, Masc) Understand Girlhood

Photo By Andi Cui

Contrary to what my creative writing professor and ex-seminar classmates may think, I actually totally understand the feminine gaze and women’s mindsets and am totally never misogynistic. 

I watched –and related to– Fleabag and Ladybird, so I must be holy, correct? Now, if you’re reading this, you are either interested in how I have been absolved of sin or because you seek erudition yourself. Lucky you ;) for I underwent a religious experience upon my arrival to Penn’s campus circa Aug ‘21 that opened up my mind to more. I shall attempt to recreate said religious experience and share it with you. This is my attempt, as a man, to do more. I would like to start by warning the reader that I have the collective memory of a mosquito and a goldfish both addicted to methamphetamines.

One of the many dilemmas I still face at Penn is finding a place to sit and ponder everything. Everywhere I look, there is someone seeking conversation or conducting one; is there no place where an individual can shut the fuck up in peace? I think girlhood is all about finding a quiet place to scream internally; for this, Fisher Fine Arts –and, occasionally, the Moelis Grand Reading room – aids us in exploring and conveying the idea of girlhood. When I first entered this harrowingly silent building, I thought to myself “thank god I have finally blinked out of this overstimulating world”. My peace of mind was quickly interrupted by a guard nodding at me, quietly and with care, to open up my bag for inspection. This vulnerability, bestowed upon me from an almost newly-acquired motherly figure, was the start of my mentality shift. I did not offer a visceral reaction of disapproval towards the guard interacting with me, but an appreciation for the kindness they exhibited. I was a changed man, nay, a changing man, for more measures needed to be taken.

I walked through the gates, and was presented with many options to use for my leisuring, my relaxation, and my internalizations. Should I be privy? Sit in front of Furness’s non-functional furnace, on these cute couches? Or should I find solace in the dust on the lamps with this pristinely quiet and hyper-focused girl sitting right across from me? No, I must focus on the matter at hand. I am here to ponder, to research.

Have you noticed by now, esteemed reader, that I have started the past two paragraphs with “I”? Exactly. Prior to the experience, everything was self-centered around my male self. It was not until I attempted to check a book out, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, that I was made aware of this issue; the lady at the desk asked me “what would one like to peruse or borrow today?”, and the moment I said “I”, she told me “you don’t fucking matter”.

And that was my greatest takeaway of any experience I ever had at Penn. That I should disassociate from everything around me in order to never suffer imposter syndrome, for if I never desire to relate then I never suffer.