Reading Time: 4 minutes
Whoa after a few weeks of discovering reddit i think i am ready to read actual books again
I am finally getting around to reading Why So Slow (http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/why-so-slow), which I picked up from an MIT Press loading dock sale a while back (happens once a term). It’s from 1999 and consists mostly of studies.
Semi-relatedly, something that has been bothering me: Over-analysis of everything in gender terms, where I see things that probably don’t even exist.
1) I wore a skirt and pantyhose recently. biking home alone around 3 or 4 am a car drives by and the some guy inside yells out “will you marry me?” …It doesn’t distress me, but I think I’m lucky I prefer neutral clothing. (although, even in neutral clothing, a seller at swapfest kept making a lame joke about marriage too. That’s how people make idle chit-chat, right?). I guess I just rate the likelihood of physical harm, conclude it nil, and then mark it down as another datapoint to reinforce my existing perceptions of the world (and future blog-post fodder of course).
2) Robot conferences: I look at a conference like NERC
and my first thought is “oh great, more old white guys.” I asked my friend and she said her first thought was “Cool! Robot conference! I want to go!”
It is a real issue, though. For an alternative approach, see how IGEM has organized their conferences. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/oscillator/2013/11/04/gender-and-synthetic-biology-interview-with-an-igem-student/
We knew when we started working on this subject, that many fields in science suffer from gender bias, but because synthetic biology is a new field we expected that historical biases would not apply and that we would not observe an important gender bias. However what we found out is that the bias we observe in synthetic biology is very representative of the bias in other fields of science.
3) For background, see http://microaggressions.tumblr.com
My friends sometimes tend not to discuss technical things with me, and I’m uncertain if that is because I am female, or because I have been too tired to care about technical things lately and my friends are picking up on that, or just that I need to initiate more technical discussions and people will be associate me with being interested in these topics. People (I guess mostly I am thinking of MITERS, where I spend the most social time) will discover interesting things or make exclamations and walk right past me to talk to someone else. (Or maybe my brain is making things up as usual). (To any suddenly self-conscious friends: don’t worry, if I really cared and wasn’t just tired all the time I would interject myself into the conversation too).
4) I made a gif for our NarwhalEdu kickstarter. Here in media production land I actually think it’s very important to be “affirmative action.”
- “Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, cited Star Trek as an influence in her decision to join.” from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uhura (could be a rumor as the citation given is down– still tracking this down).
- I asked a mentor for logo design advice when we were designing the logo for NarwhalEdu. She pointed to mindstorms website (http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/) and said “blocky lettering in logo, blue website, aimed at guys.” Mindstorms is probably the premier robotics kit in middle schools in the US.
- http://dethorningstem.com/2012/03/01/lego-my-imagination/ (which argues that the more problematic issue than gender is that Lego advertising doesn’t focus on the “tinkering and creativty” aspect, as well as talking about work at Tufts Center for Engineering Outreach)
But my brain takes it too far. My brain thinks: good, feminine handwriting. Okay, let’s write “fun” in a different color, maybe our logo color. But now it’s all guy colors. Well let’s add orange! I like orange. Enh I want to add a third word, let’s choose green, I like plants.
Then the feedback I get back is that it’s not professional looking and we should stick to two colors. But–but–shut up, head. It doesn’t matter. (not fixed yet because I tried it and it looks aesthetically ugly).
5) I think it is important to over-represent minority populations in media whenever possible, since usually they don’t exist in media. But then how do I feel when I get pulled for a representational picture of MITERS on the MIT student groups listing?
(brought to MITERS’ attention because we have way more than 7 members, by the way).
I am amused, because it looks like I’m working on the bike trailer that is not my project. I am amused, because it’s not actually really representative of the way MITERS is at all (it’s still 90% male), despite my best efforts/experiments.
Of course, this is probably ALL IN MY HEAD. They probably just scrolled down until they found a decent image and used that. Heck, I look like a guy in the picture. I wouldn’t even be thinking about this if it weren’t for browsing through How to Be Black which was on Steve’s desk the other day (I have not actually read it all yet, though) and the author talked about always being at company representation events. I would just feel my usual conflicting attitudes toward publicity.
As I said, this blog post is part of my solution to over-thinking: write these things down
(but the list always just gets so long once I get started. I cut it off. For the future: my hall female mailing list on grad school and sexism),
then get so busy that I don’t have time to wonder about these things. I mean, seeing these all the time doesn’t make me any happier or more productive. It doesn’t solve anything, it doesn’t excuse my own failures. Perhaps it makes me more empathetic, but I’m still going to keep on perpetuating everything society has taught me to perpetuate. I will still screw up.
The only solution is to keep living.
Or to go live out in the middle of nowhere with some other female engineers and have a rocking time by ourselves. Maybe then life wouldn’t be so tiring all the time.
Disclaimer: I am using anecdotes here to make a point, which isn’t actually what you should do. You should read and summarize studies and then use anecdotes to prove a point. But this blog post as always remains about my life and the issues on my mind.