By Rachel Ezrol
Leaving home for Emory University, I expected to satisfy my pre-med requirements, study for the MCAT, apply to med school, and begin this cookie-cutter process once again as an admitted medical student four years later.
It was not until I enrolled in an introductory Women’s Studies course that I learned to take an entirely different approach to my studies. Instead of memorizing facts or solving equations, I started to think critically, not only in the classroom, but also on campus, at home, and when it came to understanding local and international communities. My good friend coined this type of experience “an ah ha moment,” and indeed it was.
Never before had I considered the difference between sex and gender, the ways in which we are socialized to accept pre-determined roles and power distributions, or the motives behind the media’s careful, deliberate selection of images and text. The prevalence of eating disorders, depression, teen suicide and bullying is a testament to the dangers associated with trying to conform or failing to adequately do so.
In order to encourage individuality and acceptance of others, I recognized that the “deviations” traditionally rendered invisible must be mainstreamed. The idiosyncrasies and tendencies we are encouraged to hide, must be celebrated. I wanted to redefine “normal.”
As a rising junior, I have created Project: Redefine Normal, a free, easy-to-navigate “mini-course” geared towards an 8th grade audience to demonstrate my confidence in school-based education as a mechanism for change. My studies have led me to believe that there is a critical window of time during which youth can be awakened to restrictive gender stereotypes and media bias. I am exploring themes such as gender, sexuality and media literacy through the use of compelling readings, articles, video clips, and activities.
Not In Our School has been a fantastic source of information in my search for meaningful content. Their videos, lesson plans, and study guides will either appear within the login component of the project, or on the web page I am creating to serve as a resource hub, featuring the platforms of existing, like-minded organizations.
I am actively collaborating with Be More Heroic, a non-profit anti-bullying group that strives to “create aworld free of complacency where everyone chooses to be a hero.” The Be More Heroic school tour came to my middle school, the University School in Fort Lauderdale, FL this September; the school will be using the curriculum I develop as a summer assignment next year. Please check out the Be More Heroic PSA! I am in the process of trying to bring the Be More Heroic team to Atlanta in the Spring, where they will hopefully work with both Emory students and local elementary/middle/high schoolers!
Both schools and individuals will have access to this course and its resources! I welcome any and all feedback! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can reach out and get involved through our new Facebook page! We are all in this fight for change together. Please join me in redefining normal! Visit the website by clicking here.
Rachel Ezrol is currently a junior at Emory University, majoring in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and minoring in Global Health Culture and Society. She is a founding member and the vice president of Emory’s STAND chapter, a student anti-genocide coalition, and is a JHealth fellow.