The other day, someone got me mad on Facebook. I know. How shocked are you?
Except that the person didn’t intend to make me mad, and what made me mad was a slow burn before I realized what was upsetting me, and also what the person thought he was doing was sharing a nice and encouraging meme on “yay, women.”
This was one of those “Ten women influential in technology” things. There were apparently the usual collation issues. Some people were given extra attention who didn’t deserve it, and others were shafted who were much more important. That sort of thing.
But I didn’t know enough of the history of tech for it to really upset me. (Except for not having Ada Lovelace in. If I had a daughter and Dan had won the arm wrestling match for the naming, she’d probably be Ada Lovelace.)
So, why was I all bent out of shape.
Let’s start by establishing that I want what every sane person wants – thereby excluding sex-supremacists of both types and gender/orientation supremacists of all stripes – I want a society in which individuals can do what they want to do for a living and attain the maximum results possible, regardless of what’s between their legs and whom they choose to sleep with. (The minimum standard on that being of consenting age and ability. After that I really couldn’t care less.)
I realize too that my dream will never be possible. Maybe what would make me really happy would be becoming starship captain, and that’s simply not an option in the present year of our Lord. And maybe some little girl in Portugal right now would like to write for a living, which is not possible, in Portugal giving the structures in place. Even if everyone in Portugal bought your book you’d still starve. And there is not much penetration to other Portuguese-speaking countries. Maybe indie will change that. So she’ll end up as a teacher or a diplomat or a translator. Could have happened to me.
What I mean is that you’re circumscribed by circumstances other than what’s between your legs and what you find a really cuddly bundle. That’s fine. That’s all right. It’s what it is. Life is only fair if you’re a child or a prisoner, and your life is controlled by others and their idea of fairness.
But I don’t want people to be held back by anything that doesn’t relate to execution of the job. Got it?
I don’t think we should lower physical standards, for professions with a physical side, just to have women in. In the same way, I don’t think we should lower multitasking or pain endurance standards for professions requiring such, for men to be able to do them. (I don’t know about the later, though it might be important in the future, but son is now in a job where he’s having to run three times as hard as the women who multitask as easily as they breathe. And for a man he IS a multitasker.)
Of course no one tries to push men into women’s jobs. That’s because the woman jobs have low status traditionally. Now the question is why.
Most of the “feminists” (truly advocates of turning females into ersatz discount store males) we’re afflicted with think it’s “because penis.” They think the penis has special powers that confer status. (Oh, heck “By the power of the penis I thee command” now wants to appear in a story. Save me.) Hence their grand plan is to have women imitate people who have penises. Hence the push to have women not look after kids, not have kids, and push into al male professions. This just might be crazier than a rabid dog wearing a pink tutu, but it seems to be their program.
Because I think that female professions have lower prestige because females traditionally didn’t give them even a fraction of their attention – which in pre-contraceptive days was taken up with minding the kids for most of a woman’s adult life – and thus the professions weren’t in general developed to a high degree of specialization, I don’t care.
I figure we haven’t adapted to contraceptives and their effect yet (such things process very slowly in society) and my great grandkids MIGHT see men trying to break into female professions. (Don’t tell me there were contraceptives just as good before the fifties. The first one of you to blurt about herbs gets the back of my hand. Yes, there were ABORTIFACIENTS, perilous to both mother and her intended aborted fetus. Yes, I know the fantasy novels all taught you otherwise. Do nah care. Contraceptives before the mid twentieth century were of the “Swallow three tadpoles every morning; if that doesn’t turn you off sex, nothing will.”)
Anyway, so people being able to perform the tasks, they should be able to enter any profession they want. There are some women capable of carrying a grown man over their shoulders. They have the advantage of – be it in combat or firefighting situation – most men wouldn’t look at them with lustful eyes unless they’d been lost at sea for years. (Seriously, guys. Hormones have consequences.)
I’m cool with that.
So what problem do I have with “giving women a self esteem boost.”
I’ve had this problem since the eighties when some education major, desperate for a project, decided girls lifted their hands less and therefore had to be given more attention in school.
A lot of you who are my age or maybe ten years younger will say something about how all the boys are good at math, but the girls get told they can’t be good, and blah.
Maybe. I have no idea what in heck you were told in elementary. I know what I was told and that was that girls had no business in school past nineth grade. Their job was at home learning to be good housewives. And it wasn’t just some anonymous teacher telling me this. Oh, no. Mom told me this. In fact, she wanted to pull me out after fourth grade, and probably would have if dad hadn’t put his foot down. See, I didn’t have a face to catch a man, so I was supposed to learn housekeeping and needle arts. (Turned out I captured him with storytelling and science fiction and mastery of English. Who knew?)
So… did that discourage me? Of course not. I simply couldn’t see myself marrying anyone and I certainly couldn’t see anyone I might marry in Portugal putting up with me for more than a few days. Maybe less. And besides, I fell asleep over sewing (true fact, stuck a needle in my eye that way. Fortunately the white part. The drops for it still hurt like heck.) I was not very good at cleaning (until the advent of ebooks, which keep me from rushing through to find something more interesting) and I WANTED to write for a living. (Well, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but mom had already pronounced on that to the extent that she’d trust me with a room full of female-deprived males when h*ll froze over. I still have no idea what her idea of engineers was.)
So I kept on. I kept on even though through seventh grade (after that, I was in an almost all-girl school through 11th) every teacher treated girls like they were mildly mentally retarded. Until they saw the first tests. And then they treated me like a competitor for top honors. Which I was.
This is not bragging, just part of my illustration that “if you really want to do something, you’ll do it.” I don’t need a hand up or a hand out, and these memes on “the best women” just make me feel like I’ve been patted on the head and told “you’re pretty good for a girl.” I don’t take well to that.
And that’s the main problem. Making these lists of “top women” sends the subconscious message that women can only compete against other women.
And having half of these be non-entities (have to be because pre-contraceptives few women made it to the top in any scientific field. Few men too, but relatively fewer women, so it was hard to find truly exceptional ones. Intelligence distribution must hurt here too. Look, most women cluster in the center. Men have relatively fewer representatives of average intelligence (though of course still most.) They have a lot more geniuses. They also have a lot more morons. Which means by average distro only, you’re going to find a lot more male geniuses. They pay for it in morons.) helps no one’s cause.
If I were a young woman about to go into science, those memes would disquiet me as outright discrimination wouldn’t. Discrimination would just make me want to fight. Those memes though would say “this is the best you can aspire to. Being the best of not very good people.”
I’m of the “go all in or go home” type, and that would discourage me more than (overt, this is covert) sexism.
For those of you who are saying “but women need help. There are fewer women in STEM.”
Yes, there are, and what I think needs to happen is that people need to stop “helping” them.
Let’s establish first that studies have proven the best way to teach adollescents is in gender-segregated schools. Now, I’m the first to say that has social issues. I attended one of those schools and after three years men were mysterious beings I wrote sonnets to. But that can be solved as my elementary school (1 through 4) was: two schools side by side, sharing a play ground and recess, as well as excursions and social activities.
OTOH on academics, there is no doubt that gender segregation through high school gives the best results. And at this time with most teachers being women and of the “feminist” (read female supremacist) type, I don’t think we can say men would be better taught. (Well, actually we could. Most of those teachers are as rational about everything else as they are about sex. But so are male teachers. Teacher education delenda est.)
But they don’t do that. Because discrimination or something. Instead, they try to make the learning style better for women, and to encourage women and to… And to completely drive men insane. Which is why women are now a majority in colleges.
You say “But Sarah, women are still a minority in STEM.” NOT precisely. Older son majored in biochem and there the majority is very much female.
Younger son OTOH is in Engineering (Dual – or perhaps triple, since Aerospace engineering is his minor – degree, with minors in math and physics.) He says THAT is a “sausage fest.”
It’s not how it started, though. It started out three quarters female. It also started out with amphitheater classes in the hundreds.
Now for Electrical, at least, he says his class is 45 people and maybe a dozen are female. The others, male and female alike, ran screaming from the “designed to fail” freshman classes in calc and physics and thermo. Mostly they ran to business and journalism.
Relatively, of course, disproportionate numbers of girls ran. Why did they run.
Please, please, please, don’t tell me “lack of encouragement.” You’d be out of the water. The top students who get prizes, everywhere before college are women. Even when they’re DEMONSTRABLY inferior. (Uh? What? Well, wayyyyyy back in this blog you’ll find comments from when my blog was invaded by my son’s eleventh grade class for English. One of those commenters was the valedictorian. She had As in English in 11th grade. My son wrote better than that in 3rd grade. He was also a published (professionally published) author by then. He had a C+ I think, which was the first time he had less than an A for English, but required so that the top students could be female. This teacher achieved it by downgrading him on using words she didn’t like. Like “show” “I don’t like show because it reminds me of flashers” was actually written on the side of his essay. No, seriously. I suppose nowadays she’d have demanded trigger warnings.)
More than that, on the encouragement phase, when I volunteered in the kids’ classes, if the teachers had said once more “girls can do anything” or “girls are GREAT at math” they wouldn’t have time for anything else.
Younger son was in robotics. Most of his friends are still the kids he met then. (I enthusiastically recommend First Robotics to any parent of any kid who won’t hate it.)
That said, his classroom for the robot assembly was strewn with magazines: Women in Engineering, Women in Stem, Women in Physics, Women of Wrench (okay, that’s made up.)
I often arrived early to pick him up and found NOTHING on “Men in Engineering” or even just neutral “Engineering Careers.”
So, given all this encouragement, why did they run?
Well, if you want to do something badly give it to a quasi governmental institution. The school has to show they’re encouraging girls. There are goals. What that means is that these girls got the same as that meme. They’d get A for being “Good for a girl.” (I’d have hated it like poison and probably spent the entire school year trying to make the teachers look like fools. Okay, fine. I did that anyway. I have a leetle problem with authority. But I’d have done it MORE.)
Then they went into college. And in college in the first year, results count. They don’t want to invest time and instruction in you (and run up your bills) if you’re never going to cut it. So they squeeze and run of everyone who is not absolutely determined.
Most of these women had been acclimated to a regime of praise for very little. They wanted to be engineers sure, but they didn’t want to work THAT hard. The boys, otoh, who’d been kicked in the teeth since middle school, stuck it out. (In greater proportion than girls. A majority of boys and girls were run out, mind.)
Some of these girls might have done fine if they’d been made to perform like everyone else from elementary on. Some were just there because GRRRL power and should never have been there if idiots hadn’t convinced them there’s a virtue in invading traditionally male areas. The REALLY good ones stuck it out, anyway, but I suspect another half of them could have made it, if they hadn’t been mollycoddled, lied to about their abilities, learned that they could get As with no effort because vagina, and been told they were always better than men at everything because Vagina!
Now, I’m a hard woman and without mercy and I say “if the best ones are in there, good.” But in a society that needs every even decent tech brain we’re ruining women for science with all this cotton wool. (And again, if you’re my age or older, or up to ten years younger, foggeht about it. You don’t know about the “affirmative girl power” going on since the eighties at least in our schools.)
Were girls discouraged before? Probably. They were in Portugal. But the solution is not to ENCOURAGE them. It’s just to stop discouraging them. To let it be known that we don’t care what’s between your legs. We care how much you want to make machines that fly to Mars.
Another further intervention might be needed, but that’s more difficult. A lot of younger women report a culture of the “crab bucket” among young females. I dimly remember this, but not very clearly because I was competitive as heck and most of my friends were (and are) male. But I seem to remember if you were “too good” you were a show off, and that the goal was to fit in with the general mediocrity. There are evolutionary reasons for this culture among females. Group cohesion is more important than excellence, because gathering was done in groups and child watching was done in groups.
So it will be hard as heck to break up and the only way I can think to do it is to stop schooling kids in groups, and stop socializing them by age group. We’re going that way, but not soon.
Or not soon enough.
Until then stop with the “self esteem” building exercises and memes for girls. They already have enough unearned self esteem. Which, as studies show, is paralyzing. If you don’t know why people are telling you you’re so great, you’ll be afraid of failing without knowing why you failed. This has been proven.
Stop treating our girls like morons and special snowflakes. Teach them to earn their accolades.
Will this make their numbers in STEM the same as men? Who knows? More importantly, who cares? Humans are so different from each other, on every facet from sex to upbringing, instincts, inclinations, that equality of results on any axis you choose is not proof of anything except that someone is tampering with the selection mechanism. Let girls be girls. Let boys be boys.
And let us have good, competitive and competent scientists.
We’re going to need them.
And anyone patting me on the head for being a “pretty good writer for a woman” will withdraw a bloody stump.