Intellectual Development - Rethinking Gender

Essay Prompt

Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.

Sample Essay

He's wearing a dress. She has a beard. So are we sure that "he" is really a "he" and "she" is really a "she"? What makes someone a "he" or a"she?" Learning to challenge a concept as fundamental as gender was the intellectual leap forward I made in my AP Language class last year. Our teacher chose readings that brought up genuine and consequential issues, like gender, and then guided us in conversations that forced us to question our assumptions. For me, this was the first time that I actually had classroom conversations of this sort with my peers; in past years, the classroom conversation was more of a dialogue between teacher and student and focused on less controversial topics.

What I heard from my peers in our hours of conversation about gender completely changed my previous understanding that gender was simply a matter of biology. Instead, I came to understand that gender is also individually and socially defined. I reached more than an intellectual understanding of this idea when one of my classmates shared that he felt more like a female than a male. He explained that many of his behaviors are regarded by society as "female," so he, in fact, felt more female than male. After that discussion, I had to rethink my views of gender.

The same thing happened many times throughout the year and as a result I ended the year with new understandings of many concepts. More importantly, I came away with a capacity to be open to new ideas, to engage in conversation that challenges even my most fundamental assumptions, and to be skeptical and inquisitive about everything.

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