Sexism Starts Early and Is Reinforced Often: STEM Edition

Listen up, everyone who likes to babble about innate differences between the sexes (especially you, Sam Harris). Listen to Libby Anne, whose daughter Sally loves science. Listen to the story of Sally drawing equations on her dad’s office chalkboard, and a science colleague dude walking in, and asking a little girl who’s enthusiastically writing numbers-

(No, he didn’t ask her about her math stuff. Don’t be silly! Everybody knows girls don’t math, even when they’re happily scribbling numbers.)

(No, you weirdo, he didn’t ask her if she likes science. Of course not! Her dad and her two year-old brother can like science, but even if she’s doing sciencey stuff all on her own, that’s obviously not what she likes, because girls don’t science.)

(No, of course he didn’t ask what she was doing! She was obviously just doodling. It didn’t mean anything. Numbers don’t mean things to girls, duh.)

No, of course he asked her the only rational thing you could ask a girl who’s playing with numbers on a chalkboard:

“What’s your favorite princess?”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

Because that’s not reinforcing sexist stereotypes at all.

Libby Anne spoke to the gentleman about it, and you’ll be relieved to know he’s totes aware that women are under-represented in STEM fields, it’s just that his nieces like princesses, so of course that’s what you ask little girls who are playing with math about.

Then, y’know, when those little girls tell you they haven’t got a favorite princess, but they adore science, of course it’s fine to walk out while they’re in the midst of sharing that love, because you’re probably busy and don’t have a moment to listen to miniature females talk about science. She’s supposed to have a favorite princess, anyway, amirite, guys?

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

Libby Anne has a message for us:

Many little girls are into princesses, yes, and that’s fine. But but others prefer legos, or art, or My Little Ponies—or science. I want a world where girls are treated as individuals first, a world where girls are allowed to fill in the blanks in their own stories. Is it so hard to ask a girl her interests instead of assuming them for her?

My son Bobby is two, and I’m interested to hear what people say to him as he grows so that I can compare. What do people lead off with with five-year-old boys? It will be gendered as well, I’m sure, and that’s the problem—this is part of the process of socializing children into specific gender roles. Girls are assumed to like sweet sparkly pretty girly things and boys are assumed to like strong manly messy boy things. And then we do studies on psychological differences between men and women or differences in occupational choice as though these things are wholly natural rather than largely the product of relentless cultural shaping during childhood.

Can we please stop doing this shit? It’s 20fucking14. Isn’t it time to stop shoving little kids into gendered boxes and let them love what they love? Can’t we please encourage kids to figure out for themselves what floats their boat?

And if you engage in stupid oblivious sexist shit like the above dude, you really need to take another look at your assumptions, and consider that your thoughtless actions are a major reason why women and men turn out differently. Hint: it ain’t all biology.

/rant. Sod this for a lark. I need a vat of tequila and a truckload of limes, now, please.

 

 

 

Taking Boys Out of the Box

I didn’t like being a girl. It was harder to duck behind a tree when nature called when we were out playing in the woods. I sometimes had to do cruel things to the boys to prove I was tough as them. One of my friends wouldn’t let me play with his army men because I was a girl, and girls don’t play soldiers (I quickly disabused him of that notion, much to his astonishment).

But a lot of the time, I didn’t notice I was a girl. I was wearing pants and jumping my bike and getting in the mud and building stuff and commanding the pack, just like one of the boys.Hell, I was even more hardcore than some of them. When I crashed my bike on a road chip-sealed with cinders and road-rashed myself from toe to waist, I told ‘em I’d be right back, and hobbled home for some quick patching up. Alas, my mom decided someone with that many bleeding wounds needed to stay inside, but my friends respected the fact I hadn’t shed a tear. One of our buddies would head sobbing for home the instant he stubbed a toe. None of us wanted to be like that. [Read more…]