I love being a woman, but I hate not being a man.

Don't worry, I'll explain. But first, let's talk about Joel Stein.

Stein, a well-known columnist for Time Magazine, came to campus last Thursday night to talk about his book, "Man-Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity."

Stein admitted that growing up, he was a wimpy kid. He liked showtunes better than sports, and watching "The Brady Bunch" more than "hanging with the boys."

Later in life, Stein found out that his wife was pregnant with a boy.

In preparation for his role as a father, he did countless "manly" things, such as crawling in the mud under real machine gun fire, going one round with a UFC fighter and driving a Lamborghini. But as ridiculous as he thought these activities were, he found that they also taught him bravery, leadership and strength.

I started to wonder: what would a quest for femininity entail?

Would I have to buy dresses and open-toed pumps? Or bake a cake in a frilly, pink apron?

But, then again, why did I automatically equate womanhood with weakness and superficiality? I've bought into the wrong image of women, it seems.

I'm not ashamed to say I like applying black goop to lengthen my eyelashes, that a little black dress can be empowering and, to be honest, painting my nails is pretty damn relaxing.

Being a woman can be awesome.

At the same time, though, I lament that the quest for femininity fails to include adventure.

Growing up, I dreamt of becoming an international journalist, a member of Congress, a cast member on SNL or a paratrooper – too much "Band of Brothers." I realize now that all of these professions require the traits that, according to Stein, are naturally manly and only incidentally achieved by women.

I hate not being a man if having an adventurous spirit, being a leader and taking risks is exclusively masculine. I don't want to be applauded for reaching beyond my feminine expectations to aspire for these manly traits.

I don't want to rail against these expectations just to undermine them. I want to be applauded for my actions alone, impressive not because I'm a woman or in spite of being a woman, but because my achievements are simply impressive.

This column is not only about stereotypes of women; it's about the stereotypes of gender roles in general. Though a woman should be accepted if she wants to lead, a man should be just as accepted if he doesn't want to fight some guy at the bar or enlist to crawl under a barrage of gunfire.

Traditionally, women are the caregivers, the child-rearers, the stay-at-home-moms. But I've known single dads who can do the job much better than some women.

Traditionally, men are the hunters, the bacon-bringers, the protectors. But I've known some women who possess many times the security and confidence of a lot of men.

Compassion, kindness, love and tenderness should not be uniquely feminine traits. In the same way, strength, courage, confidence and decisiveness should not be expected only of men.

Majority rules, but it shouldn't – not anymore.

The simple fact that men have fought more wars and women have raised more children is not grounds to expect uniform behavior from each individual man and woman. To confine an individual to a gender role is to chain a person to a store-bought expectation that may or may not fit him or her.

Let Joel Stein listen to his "Mamma Mia" soundtrack. Let me dream of paratrooping into foreign lands.

Let an admirable trait be honored in isolation from the gender of the individual; strength from a woman and tenderness from a man are no less commendable when the roles are reversed.

More importantly, these traits should be expected from everyone, macho men and demure Jane Austen characters alike. Let's focus on being the kind of human – not the kind of man or woman – that our kids could be proud of.

I love being a woman. But I'd love to love being a person.

Hayley Brundige is a freshman in political science. She can be reached at hbrundig@utk.edu.