In the Victorian Era women were denied the right to vote (and other rights) because they were “too frail” or “too delicate” or “too weak” or to “not man enough” whatever you want to call it, to compete with men in the marketplace of ideas and labor.
Today, the Feminist Movement (and allies) have taken the exact same arguments for why “the world” should change to accommodate women rather than telling women to make like a suffragette and kick some ass. There are even entire blogs written by overweight snarky men living in Chicago dedicated to “fighting the new misogyny online” (we didn’t hunt the mammoth David, our ancestors did, and did so in a world where “misogyny” was simple survival). David perpetuates the soft sexism of “you can’t do it because they won’t let you” and blames the lack of success from women on men.
That schtick is old and tired, but it doesn’t seem to go away.
Today, in the “poststructuralist feminist” movement, women are now writing Doctoral Dissertations that analyze the implicit bias in the STEM fields.
Examples of STEM classroom practices that contribute to a chilly climate are weed-out courses, courses that grade on a curve, a competitive environment, reliance on lecture as a teaching method, an individualistic culture, and comprehensive exams (Mervis, 2011; Morganson et al., 2010; Shapiro & Sax, 2011). For this discourse analysis, I explored STEM syllabi for language use that perpetuated a chilly climate or the practices that have been found to cause it.
No shit, not only did this Ph.D. candidate write that comprehensive exams are excluding women from competing in the STEM fields she had citations to prove that it wasn’t even her own original thought. If you want to read the original, it is here: http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2467&context=tqr and an important caveat is that her analysis is simply looking at the STEM programs for one midwestern college, which she thankfully states as a side note, but that still doesn’t excuse her for the unsupportable title with which she chose to paint the entire STEM community.
In the field of philosophy or soft disciplines shit often boils down to “what you can prove logically” and “what you feel about what can’t be proven.” In the STEM fields if you can’t prove it experimentally or make the math add up, no one gives a rats ass about your feelings. Alternately, NO ONE IN THE STEM FIELD CARES AT ALL ABOUT YOUR GENDER.
I can’t state that enough, NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR GENDER. Either you can do the work, or you can’t. And if you can’t, KEEP TRYING if it is important to you! Albert Einstein’s famous struggle to master the mathematics needed to prove his insight is a credit to his tenacity rather than his genius.
We can’t change the rules of mathematics. That doesn’t mean a former child actress can’t absolutely excel at math:
Or a “pro wrestler” couldn’t ever be a research microbiologist:
While STEM doesn’t care about your gender that doesn’t mean that the world outside of STEM doesn’t care about your results. If you are interested in relationships and math, by all means learn the math you need to prove your insights into relationships. Like this mathematician, Hanna Fry:
The world we live in isn’t perfect, and while we like to say “anyone can grow up to be President” we don’t mean that “everyone can grow up to be President.” Because quite simply everyone can’t. We believe, and rightly so, that everyone has the potential to do great things, but reality says that the bar to becoming President is high, and that discipline and sacrifice are required to achieve that office. Becoming a scientist, engineer, mathematician, or even a competent technician in a specialized field is not something that “everyone” can do. It is something that “anyone” can aspire to become, but just like every Presidential election has at least one loser (not including the entire population of the nation, we all lose this year) there will be people who don’t become what they wanted to be as a child.
I wish I could make STEM more accessible to everyone, women and minorities included, but one thing I don’t want to do is make it less rigorous. Some classes will be “weed out” because it only wastes a student’s time to let them take classes they are not prepared to take. If you are struggling with English as a Second Language delving straight into a year long program of “The English Language from Beowulf to Canterbury Tales” is probably NOT the right course for you.
If there are any women reading this blog, or young ladies or girls, don’t wait for the world to be “more inviting” in terms of STEM. Take charge of your own life, and if you fail, fail because you tried. If you succeed, succeed on your own efforts. I can’t empower women by tearing down men, nor can I change the fact that the STEM fields are going to be harder than the Fine Arts and Liberal Arts programs. But if this blog post has given you a smidgen of encouragement, pass it on. My favorite Chemist was Stephanie Kwolek, and she ended up in Chemistry because she thought it would be a good way to earn money to pay for medical school.
If you are going to be a feminist, be the kind that empowers women to run with the wolves and hunt with the pack. Be a lioness, be a mama bear, be strong. Don’t be intimidated by the words on a syllabus. Go for it.