Tag Archives: gender equality

The Balancing Act

It’s no secret, if you know me or have been reading this blog for a while, that my husband and I detest the pink aisle and princess culture.  We’ve asked all along for ‘no pink frilly princess-type things’ from the relatives, a request most people  have followed.  But we also agreed that once she was older and making her own choices, we wouldn’t try to stop her from liking the pink aisle if it turned out to be something she truly wanted.

Now that my daughter is old enough to be picking up princess culture at preschool (since there are definitely no princess things in our house, unless you count Leia), she is picking it up like crazy.  Most of her pretend play these days involves her being a princess.  Second choice?  Ballerina.  She also insists on wearing a skirt or dress to school every day, which gets difficult because we just don’t have many of them, and she freaks out when I haven’t washed her favorite skirt.  And I’ll admit, I cringe every time she tells me she wants to be a princess.

She mixes it up, though.  She reminds me daily that she is both her own person, and perfectly able to balance her multiple interests.  The other day she decorated a cardboard box, and informed me it was her astronaut princess helmet.  She wore it proudly around the house.  For her Easter outfit, she picked an astronaut t-shirt, pink tutu, red leggings, and her red Chuck Taylors.  She was equally excited over the new blue dinosaur and the hot pink bouncy ball found in some of her easter eggs.

I’m glad she’s still at the age where her favorite color changes every 20 minutes, because I’m dreading her settling on one.  Even if it’s not pink, the riot of colors in her room shifting towards monochrome would be boring.  I love that her enthusiasm is for things that are new and different.

The princess culture is impossible to avoid, even if it’s not ever-present in our house.  Last Halloween, all but two of the girls in her preschool class were princesses.  The outliers?  My daughter’s Gir costume (she asked to be a robot so I went with the funniest one I know), and one other girl who was Cleopatra.

I have to remind myself every so often that in addition to trains and legos and books I also had Barbies.  And My Little Ponies, Rainbow Brite, dolls, and all the girly trappings.  I turned out ok.  Well, other than some rather serious body image issues that I still struggle with.  So maybe Barbie and teen magazines will stay out of the picture no matter how much my daughter may beg for them.

But I don’t think having girly stuff made me any less successful in life – I’m a real live rocket scientist now, after all.  I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, and have shifted much farther over on the feminist spectrum the older I get, but I clean up ok when I want to.  So I try not to panic when she wants to play princess.  After all, she has other interests as well.

For the last few months she’s wanted to be a firefighter, which I think is awesome.  It gives us openings to talk about things she’d need to do to get there, like exercise (firefighters are strong!), study hard (fighting fires is a science, after all), and work well with others (firefighters are part of a team!).  I know she’ll change her mind at least twelve hundred more times, but I’m glad she has big goals for herself already.

My goals?  To do the best I can to help her navigate growing up in a country still rife with gender issues, inequality, double standards, pay gaps, and stereotypes.  To balance what she wants with what we as her parents believe to be what she needs.  To see her grow up to be a healthy, happy, productive member of society.  To see her chasing dreams but also with her feet firmly on the ground.  I want to manage the very delicate balancing act of raising a daughter  in this crazy world without screwing any of it up too badly.

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Filed under Equality, Geek parenting resources, Opinion pieces

So what exactly are the numbers for women in STEM?

I’ve always known that women were outnumbered in STEM fields in this country, but hadn’t really checked on what the stats are.  I know that in my particular job, which is a very tiny sub-field, we’re at about 9% and, thankfully, climbing (it was 7% just a few years ago).  So I found this info from the National Girls Collaborative Project very interesting.  It’s from June 2013 but probably pretty close to today’s numbers.

A couple other interesting stats, first from an ESA blog post from 2011 title STEM: where are the women?

Stats from the Economics & Statistics Administration from 2009

And this more recent one showing breakdown by generation, Economic Briefing April 24, 2012: STEM Across the “Gen(d)erations.”  The overall percentage of college graduates and of women in STEM fields is increasing.

ESA stats from 2010

The ESA stats go on to show that the bulk of women in STEM fields are in life sciences and physical sciences, and the tiniest portion in math.

The one that makes me really angry is the one showing the wage gap for women in STEM fields.  Even in specialized fields requiring degrees, and fields supposedly governed by things like logic and performance, this gap is maddeningly huge:

And finally there’s this graphic, which shows the fields where we have not made much progress in the last several decades, and in many cases have regressed, such as in computer sciences.

What do you think is holding women back from entering and competing in so many of these fields?  Why do so many more women go into life sciences fields (biology, medicine, etc.) than the computer sciences and engineering?

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This Documentary is Awesome. Makers: Women Who Make America

What a wonderful series. How have I not seen this until now?  I made it through all three episodes available on PBS.org this weekend, and was blown away.  I’ve always considered myself something of a feminist, so I was embarrassed to find out from a TV documentary just how woefully ignorant I am of the women’s movement in the United States.

The series first aired beginning in February of 2013 and covers from WWII through the present.  It is absolutely fascinating and well made.  It also made me very, very angry to see just how nasty a fight women have had so far.  For example, I didn’t realize that until are recently as my own childhood, there were essentially no laws on the books protecting women (or anyone else, for that matter) from domestic violence and rape.  In the 1970s, there wasn’t even a term for domestic violence.  Heartbreaking.  I’m glad we’ve come so far, but oh, boy do we still have a very long way to go to achieve equality.

What I found most interesting is how cyclical the fight has been: a push for rights, achieving those rights when enough support is achieved, and then the backlash.  Two steps forward and one step back.  Women going to work in WWII, gaining recognition and respect, then being fired and pushed back into the role of housewives in the 1950s.  Getting the ERA through congress and most of the states, and then women leading the fight against it in the last few states and getting the whole thing shot down.  And on and on.  To the current day, where sexism is still rampant at home and around the world (if you don’t believe me, check out the global Everyday Sexism Project or ask any woman who has ever done Cosplay at a con), and many countries in the developing world still treat women as property or worse.

If you’re interested, the series is free to watch online on PBS:

http://video.pbs.org/program/makers-women-who-make-america/

And since I now feel the urge to do more research into this history, I’ll post anything else interesting that I find.

Have you seen it already?  What did you think?

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Filed under Equality, Opinion pieces

Busting that Stereotype, Cracking that Ceiling, and Proving Those Jerks Wrong.

One of my favorite t-shirts – from http://www.offworlddesigns.com

This is for every girl or woman who had to grow up hearing any of these.  A little motivation for a gray February day.

“Girls aren’t good at math and science.”

We are.  We may not always be encouraged to be, but we are.  I’m encouraging you now.  Surround yourself with others who will encourage you.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or aren’t good at something if you haven’t tried at least a dozen different approaches to get better in your weaker areas.  Find a tutor, or a book that explains it better, or work with a friend.  You’d be amazed how much a fresh perspective and a little support can do to make you realize that math and science are fun – and not that hard if you’re not constantly told you can’t.

“Oh, don’t you look pretty in that outfit.”

You do – but that’s not all you are.  You have substance, you have worth, you have brains.  You are more than the fashion of the moment, a doll, an object, or your external appearance.

“Why are you playing with a boy’s toy?  Don’t you want a dolly?”

Variety is the spice of life.  Choice is important.  Figure out what you like, and don’t let others dictate what you enjoy.  You don’t have to pick pink sparkly things – but if you do, it should be because you were allowed a choice and decided for yourself what your tastes are.  There’s nothing wrong with pink, sparkles, ruffles, dolls, rainbows, kittens, or bows – but they shouldn’t be crammed down anyone’s throat as the only way to go or the only acceptable things for girls to play or decorate with.

“Oh, you’re such a sweet little princess”

Being a princess isn’t actually very glamorous in real life.  They have schedules, keepers, public appearances, and not a whole lot of freedom.  A real-life princess is scrutinized in the press, never gets any privacy, and has the whole world notice if she gets a gray hair or dares wear the same outfit twice.  Their ‘subjects’ often question why they are even still around – it’s rough to have a bunch of people say you aren’t necessary, or even that you’re a burden.  They’re also usually extremely well-educated, politically savvy, and highly accomplished women in their own rights, not fluff-headed cartoon characters full of sweetness and light.

“That’s such an un-feminine thing to say or do.”

Who gets to define that?  Feminine according to what standard?  None of it makes any sense and there’s no consistency.  Women should cook at home, but men get to be great chefs?  How does it even make sense that one is ‘feminine’ while the other is ‘masculine’?  Women should be in trim shape, but not so fit as to be muscular?  Skirted garments are for women in one culture, but for men in others?  You should dress ‘pretty’ but not ‘sexy’ and have to know where that moving-target fine line is at all times?  These ‘rules’ change from decade to decade and culture to culture.  So don’t bother chasing an ever-changing impossible ‘standard.’  Be yourself and find things to do that you enjoy and are willing to work hard at.

“You’re not skinny/pretty/stylish enough.”

Be healthy.  Be confident.  Take care of yourself.  None of the rest of it matters.

“You’re too bossy/b*tchy/pushy”

If you were a boy or man, you’d be described as ‘confident’ instead.  Or a ‘good leader,’ or ‘persuasive.’  It’s another double standard.  Be yourself, and stand up for yourself.  Stay tactful, but don’t be afraid to push back.  And never, ever be afraid to say ‘no.’  It’s a very powerful word.

“You’re such a feminist.”

Definition of feminism according to Merriam-Webster: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  How did that ever become an insult?  Why is it ‘ the other f-word?’  What is so awful about wanting equal rights and opportunities?  Feminist doesn’t equal misandrist.  There’s nothing in the definition about hating men, thinking women are better than men, wanting to take anything away from men.  What is so horribly threatening about people wanting to be equal?

“You’ll never find a husband doing (insert whatever they think you’re doing wrong)”

A husband is a life partner.  Partner.  As in equal.  Not someone who will take pity on you or somehow be talked or tricked into attaching himself to you for life.  If you aren’t yourself when finding a spouse or partner, you’re basing the whole relationship on a lie.  It’s not fair to either of you.  Be the best self you can be – and remember that being someone you are not won’t find you a compatible partner, it will find you misery.

“Girls/women can’t do (insert pretty much anything here).”

So there’s a bunch of stuff that an entire half of the world’s population can’t do?  Women can’t fight a war?  It’s been done at least part of the time for most of recorded history.  Win a Nobel Prize?  Many times over.  Finish an Iron Man?  Check.  Climb Everest?  Done.  Discover a new element?  Yes.  Reach the North Pole?  Yep.  Win Iditarod?  Done.  Engineer, CEO, film director, doctor, physicist, astronaut, ship captain, general, inventor, you name it, it’s pretty darned likely a woman has done it.  Probably lots of women, many of them against incredible odds and extra barriers.  So don’t tell me a woman or girl can’t do something.  When you say that, what I hear is actually, “I personally don’t think you should for some reason, but I’ll say ‘girls’ or ‘women’ to generalize so I don’t sound quite as much like a jerk.”  When you tell a girl she can’t, you’re probably doing it for a selfish or ignorant reason, or out of long habit you don’t feel like breaking.  Don’t you dare ever tell a little girl she can’t do something.  It takes a pretty soulless schmuck to squash the dreams of a child.

Yeah, ok, so I’m feeling a little punchy on this topic today.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back to work on trying to follow my own advice 🙂

Has anyone ever told you that you can’t do something?  How did you respond?  What do you wish someone had told you that you could achieve when you were little?

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