I always felt like I took up too much space.
As someone who was off the charts for both height and weight at every doctor's appointment growing up, I always felt physically large. I was always the tallest in the classroom — even taller than the boys — nearly into high school. And, as a woman, I was overwhelmingly cognizant of the space I occupied.
So I made myself smaller. I crossed my legs and folded my arms, ate less, and wore more black. I spoke rarely and quietly, deferring to my peers and making space for others. I prided myself on my obliging character — my "rationality." I was a people pleaser, and a damn good one at that.
This self-applied pressure to be small manifested in a myriad of ways at the beginning of my college experience. During my first few years, I was in the depths of an eating disorder and dating men who fostered this smallness until I felt nearly invisible. As I became physically and mentally smaller, I smothered my own brilliance and my enthusiasm for life. Princeton was overwhelming, and I felt my voice shrinking by the day.
Then, in March 2020, we were sent home. And with the absence of a physical room, I slowly but steadily found a place for my voice to grow: the now-virtual community of The Daily Princetonian.
I started out as an Opinion columnist, putting out op-eds every few weeks. During the pandemic, I launched myself into transforming the Opinion section as an editor (on my second try — my 'Prince' editor application was actually rejected when I had applied a year earlier). As an editor, I felt empowered to give others a voice, and I wanted to keep doing it.
As I grew in my role as an editor, I began to think more holistically about which stories we were telling and which voices we were empowering. The choices we make and the writers we choose have a tremendous effect on how our many communities are perceived. Thus, diversity in journalism is key.
Fostering diversity isn't about removing bias; it is about bringing people to the table who have all sorts of biases. We must recognize the plurality of biases, and we must tap into that plurality when it comes to our journalists and the leaders of those journalists.
This is why the female voice in journalism is so crucial. Stories such as Marie-Rose Sheinerman and Evelyn Doskoch’s phenomenal investigation of professor Joshua Katz's alleged boundary-crossing can only be told when we choose to listen to the stories of these brave women. And these stories are best raised when we empower individuals who have the necessary biases to recognize the importance of such stories and possess the willingness and dedication to write them.
I am proud of my staff and my editors. On this International Women's Day, I am particularly proud of those at the 'Prince' who identify as women. Every day, these leaders, journalists, and thinkers inspire me with their perseverance, their voice, and, most of all, their unflinching ability to take up space in a room. To keep speaking loudly and to push back vehemently when your voice is drowned out is commendable. To do so with the grace and poise of the women on my team is extraordinary.
As we reflect, this month, on the courage of women, I want to remind you all: you should be taking up space. It is okay to listen, but it is also okay to speak. At the 'Prince', we strive to make that happen. It is when you speak that change happens.
I still struggle with confidence and with asserting myself. I still hesitate before voicing my opinion in a room. But I have come such a long way in these few short years; 12 months ago, I never would have dared to publish a piece so centered around my own journey. Yet, here I am.
I can say it now without hesitation: I am proud to take up space.
Emma Treadway is editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.