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Behrend students challenge standards


Annabella Lassiter, Arts & Entertainment editor

One of the most difficult things to deal with in society are set standards that people seem to live their lives by, or at least try to. From body shapes and sizes to gender and race, there are opinions on almost everything and these opinions have created a hierarchy of people: those that look worth the time and those that don’t. These are the standards that many try to combat today.

As students, societal standards have a large impact on us. From young ages, men with muscular bodies and skinny women in skimpy bikinis took over magazine covers. Predominantly white males and white females were models. There was a set idea of the “perfect” man and “perfect” woman.

Thankfully, with our generation, a lot of change has followed and begun to shatter these set images and therefore has begun to shake that tower of standards that had been at work for much too long. We now see men and women of any size, race, or class getting a voice. Rami Malek, a first-generation American citizen of his immigrant Egyptian family won an Oscar for his role in the popularl film, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The fashion industry now hires models of many different backgrounds like Winnie Harlow, who suffers from Vitiligo, or Brenna Huckaby, who lost her leg.

This does not mean that a change has been completely made throughout all of society, though. We still struggle with highlighting and treasuring our differences, putting them out for the world to see because many of us do fear being beaten down. Two Behrend students, Tresslyn Froehlich and Karen Hor, each recognize their differences and, through their years at Behrend, have worked hard to bring those differences out in the most positive of ways.

Froehlich, a junior Communications major from Pittsburgh, has worked to challenge what beauty truly is. “Most people want a size two model walking around. It’s too unrealistic,” She said. “Realistically, most girls are a size 6 and up.”

Coming from a high school that also upheld strict standards of what beauty was, Froehlich became aware of the conflict very early on and sought to resist the expectations of how a “beautiful woman” should look.

“I think people want to put a label on size and shape, but, at the end of the day, I really think it comes down to confidence.” She explains. “No matter what you look like, it all depends on how your present yourself.”

Her Instagram does a wonderful job of demonstrating this, too. Froehlich is not afraid to show how she embraces her body with relaxing photos of herself on the beach and traveling the world with her own sense of style, not caring what others think.

Karen Hor, another Behrend student with an English and Economics double major from Malaysia, also challenges societal norms as a study abroad student.

“Due to the fact that I am studying abroad, a lot of my friends and family back home assume that I am “living the American Dream,” and that I will make it big in America after graduation, but they don’t see the three bedroom house I share with my five housemates.” Hor stated. “They don’t see the part-time job that pays rent, and they don’t see the companies who state “U.S. Residents Only” on their job vacancies.”

Karen Hor decided to transfer to Penn State Behrend after her parents encouraged her to get out and see the world, her parents both being adventurous themselves. So, Hor packed up her things and came to the States to earn her Bachelor’s degree. However, the idea of the “American Dream” became a standard that she battled not only when it came to her future but also when it came to what her family thought. They, as she said, imagined that she would immediately make it once she got to America. This has created some discomfort and an unrealistic amount of pressure.

Hor said, “Whenever people use the phrase ‘American Dream’ on me, I try to explain to them that it’s not that easy. It is hard to stay motivated to combat this expectation, but I remind myself that I have a responsibility in challenging the stereotypes of studying abroad... A quote that helps me stay motivated is: ‘If not me, then who?’”

Standards are hard to combat, but they are also not permanent. They are things that should be changed and molded to fit a diverse society, because that is what we are. On campus, especially, it is important that we embrace all differences. So, do not be afraid to challenge the standards and norms.

Froehlich said it best: “Don’t change based on how society’s image is. Go into the world confident and happy and chances are people are going to gravitate towards your light.”