Category Archives: Women in media

Making Feminism Cool

“Bra-burning. Man-hating. Angry and unattractive. Such stereotypes have shadowed the women’s movement over the past few decades — and a slew of young, fashionable celebs are working to clarify feminism’s true definition.” (Fairchild) Setting aside for another day the question of why such a stereotype may have come to life and remained, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, so persistent, Caroline Fairchild raises a good question in her article “Will young celebrities make feminism ‘cool’?” Besides noting Emma Watson’s epic speech at the UN launching the “He for She” campaign, Ms. Fairchild mentions Taylor Swift’s recent realization that she has been a feminist all along and Beyoncé’s performance at the VMAs backed by the word “feminist” in huge block letters.

Feminism, many analysts note, has been waging an uphill battle for years to define itself as being in general far more inclusive than it is typically portrayed. I’ve certainly seen many students over my three decades here echo Ms. Swift’s sentiment when she said, “As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.” (Swift, quoted in Thomas)

Certainly, many of my students admire Emma Watson (both for who she is and for having played feminist icon Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies), and certainly students in rock groups down through the years have proposed Taylor Swift songs. But more and more every year, my students have also been raised with a healthy skepticism for the media. I wonder to what extent that will limit the effect that these, in effect, celebrity endorsements will have on them – granting, too, that I want them to be individual, critical, free-thinkers in the first place. Time will tell on that point. But if Ms. Watson’s speech, Ms. Swift’s declaration, Beyoncé’s performance, and other such examples of celebrities embracing feminism can lead to further conversations, that’s a great place to start.

Themes of equality, equity, and justice will of necessity run through those conversations. Statistically, equality is of course the easiest to measure: when females and males each make up approximately 49% of any profession where size and physical strength do not matter (intersex people making up the remaining 1-2%), when people of all genders receive the same pay for the same job (assuming the same experience), and so on, we will have statistical equality. Whether that’s achievable without working explicitly for equity (fair not necessarily being equal) is another question. And given historical oppressions, working toward equity must go hand in hand with working for justice (see Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper’s outstanding article in Salon for a thought-provoking examination of this). Through that lens, it’s easy to see that not just diversity of genders but also diversity of race, sexuality, class, age, abledness, and more come into play, along with the continuums of support and oppression, privilege and marginalization that come with each of those axes of diversity.

In short, as I wrote the other night during a Twitter chat, we have to fight relentless hierarchies (and associated binaries).

All are welcome.


n.b. Thanks to Jane Mellow, Director of our Learning Center, for introducing me to the “Crafty Girls” font, which adds an extra layer of fun to drafting blogs on feminism!

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To ban or not to ban: “Bossy”

“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’” So begins the website at http://banbossy.com/, a new organization co-founded by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In Foundation and the Girl Scouts of America. The website points out that girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boy’s from elementary to high school, that girls are twice as likely as boys to worry about being called “bossy,” and girls are still called on less and interrupted more in class. (Ban Bossy) There’s no question that we need to do something about that, and there’s no question we know some of the things that work.

On the Girl Scouts’ website, for example, they share the results of a study done in 2008 that showed the following (Girl Scouts):

  • Girls, even at a very young age, have definite ideas about what it means and takes to be a leader.
  • Promoting leadership in girls is primarily a matter of fostering their self-confidence and providing supportive environments in which to acquire leadership experience.
  • To be relevant to and successful with girls, a leadership program must address their aspirational or preferred definition of leadership, their need for emotional safety, and their desire for social and personal development.
  • Girls have a range of “leadership identities,” from strong aspiration to outright rejection of the leadership role.

Of course, girls schools and other girl-positive organizations epitomize supportive environments. However, these environments need not necessarily be all girls organizations (to whatever extent one can ever say with confidence that one’s organization is in fact “all girls”), though that does facilitate the process. In helping create supportive environments, these principles suggest that we need to – following principles of best practice – engage with the individual girls in front of us, helping them figure out how they now view leadership, how they came to hold that view, where they see themselves going, and ultimately how they see themselves able to help move a given group of people forward (the goal behind all good leadership and all good membership).

In that context, the “Ban Bossy” campaign can be, and is, seen by different people as anywhere from an essential component of doing this good work to a needless distraction. A recent chat on the Feministing website brought out several important points:

  • Rather than bringing attention to women’s exclusion from leadership, [it] distracts from these realities by making the issue semantic and easily dismissed. (Jos Truitt)
  • Also I honestly don’t feel like “banning” words like this ever really works, and I actually find it a lot more effective to find power in that word vs. a bland attempt to get rid of it. (Jos Truitt)
  • I do appreciate the goal of starting a conversation about the negative feedback we give to girls who show leadership qualities and how that particular double-standard has real consequences for how kids are socialized. (Maya Dusenbery)
  • This campaign exists without analysis of how “bossiness” is perceived when women and girls of color are bossy, which I think is a really important point. (Verónica Bayetti Flores)

One of the people in my Twitter family is a member of the Tea Party, and she certainly had a vehement and visceral reaction to the campaign and what she saw as thought police. As we discussed the issue, it developed that we agreed that the conditions that led to girls with leadership qualities being more likely to be called “bossy” are something we as a society absolutely must discuss but that we both were uneasy about outright “banning” use of some words. Also, I do believe that gender activism in general and feminism in particular strongly need to continually listen to the full range of voices in the movements, work on intersectionality, and strive to bring out nuance in service to the greater goal of true equality for all humanity. Towards that end…

When posting a link to the “Ban Bossy” campaign in its earliest days, my Twitter and Facebook friend Kenzo Shibata added a comment that caused me to respond, “Like to the power of like.” He said, “I got a better idea. How about we teach children of all gender identities to be collaborative and stop making authoritarianism the ideal?” (Kenzo Shibata)

That, I can absolutely support. Anyone else with us?

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Filed under Current Events, Gender, On Education, On Parenting, The Girls School Advantage, Women in media

No Makeup Policy

As I pulled into the parking lot of Target in attempt to find a yellow T-shirt for our Spirit Week Colour Wars skit, my phone beeped to tell me I had a text. It was Jeff Conlon, our Athletic Director, asking me if I was watching the Olympics and quoting one of the announcers. It turned out they were talking about the women’s downhill race and the tough course, and focusing on how strong and skilled and athletic the racers were…

Just kidding. The actual quote Jeff texted me was “Maybe a bit of makeup” and it turned out the announcers were, surprise of surprises, focusing on how the women looked and what they were wearing. I couldn’t disagree with his comment, “horrible,” even if I had wanted to. Which I didn’t. As he added later in our text-conversation, “Talk about taking the focus off the amazing athletic accomplishments and making them into ‘girls.’”

Though I was certainly angry to hear of this blatant discrimination, I wasn’t particularly surprised. Indeed, shortly after my texting chat with Jeff, my Twitter feed brought up a tweet stating an official complaint was being lodged with the BBC about their treatment of silver medalist Torah Bright, as they had commented that she is “nice looking,” “feminine,” and “the full package.” (quoted by Diedrichs) In addition, on the day the Olympics were beginning, NBC posted this image on Facebook.
NBC_Olympics
I originally took the figure skater’s costume to be an evening gown, but in my defense, while the three men look serious and confident, she is smiling and is standing in a somewhat sexualized posture. Plus, as my mother-in-law pointed out, she presumably also owns a winter jacket.

Earlier in the day, I had come across an article entitled “Medals Aren’t Enough: Female Olympians Still Have to Sell Sexiness.” “Have to?” I thought to myself. And clicked on the link.

With a sense of inevitability, I read, “For male athletes, it’s primarily about their performance. And for female athletes it’s definitely as much about their looks as it is about their performance.” (Adler, quoted in Dockterman) I was saddened to learn that the WNBA offers makeup seminars to rookies, and that “women who compete in sports that require helmets are spending 30 minutes in front of the mirror putting on makeup before competition preparing for their HD close-up when that helmet comes off at the finish line.” (Dockterman) And of course, whatever their sport and uniform, female athletes far too often end up posing in bikinis or other revealing clothing. And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, Ashley Wagner was accused of having only made the figure skating team because of her looks. Women, it seems, have to hit a fairly precise target in terms of appearance, a task that almost makes biathlon look easy.

As Jeff said near the end of our chat, “The system is skewed.” I am well aware, of course, that this isn’t just the sports world – indeed, as I was writing this blog, the New York Times tweeted a link to a desperately important article on a major issue of our time, “A new kind of cleavage ideal on display at the awards shows.” But that doesn’t excuse sports announcers and reporters, nor does it excuse advertisers. It really shouldn’t be that hard to focus on female athletes’ accomplishments.

Because they’re good. Better than good. They’re quite literally world class. They deserve to be treated as such. And my students who love sports and are perpetually frustrated as they repeatedly bump up against the reality that, outside of the Olympics, only 4% of sports programming is devoted to female athletes, they deserve more as well.

The #NotBuyingIt campaign has proved remarkably successful in causing Super Bowl advertisers to cut back sharply on the level of sexism in their ads in just the past two years. They have shown that grassroots activism can be incredibly powerful. Perhaps we need a similar effort to reshape TV programmers’ thinking. Perhaps, too, it would help to get more women involved in advertising (where only 3% of creative directors are women) and journalism (where only 6% of sports editors are women).

Ideally, sooner rather than later.

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Cringe-Worthy

Three years ago, when working on my annual Martin Luther King Day piece, I wanted to connect his dream that children in the U.S. might “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” to similar dreams for social justice for other axes of diversity. As it happened, once we had published the piece and I had spoken in housemeeting, a discussion emerged on Twitter about whether or not these very kinds of connection were appropriate or appropriation. Concerned, I wanted to seek out opinions, and seized on an interchange between two of my friends, John Spencer and José Vilson, to bring up the question. I emerged from that short discussion believing that I needed to focus more specifically on racism in any future Martin Luther King Day speeches, and I believe I have done so for the most part (20122013 (less so) – 2014). But in the process of reacting to that 2011 post, I added another cringe-worthy moment to a long and ever-growing list.

However much I might have tried to disguise it to myself at the time, what I did was unfair to José and John, and perhaps especially to José as a person of colour. Through my actions, I was making them responsible for teaching me rather than going out and educating myself. In the process, in other words, I was not being an effective ally in the anti-racist fight for social justice, however well-intentioned I may have been. I’ve tried never to do that again – which is not to say there haven’t been other cringe-worthy moments since. Hopefully, though, they are at least becoming fewer and further between.

Recently, Piers Morgan invited Janet Mock, a trans woman of colour, onto his CNN program to talk about her book Redefining Realness: My path to womanhood, identity, love, & so much more. The Tuesday night interview, in his mind, went well, but when Ms. Mock saw the final version (they had pre-taped the interview four days previously), she went on Buzzfeed to air her concerns. This ignited a brief but intense Twitter war which ended up with her agreeing to come back on the program Wednesday. On that program, Mr. Morgan asked her the following question:

Here’s what I want to learn. I don’t want this to be an ongoing issue that I have with the community of which you’re such a great spokesman and advocate. I want to learn why it is so offensive to actually just say that you grew up as a boy and you then, because you’ve always felt that you were female, you had surgery to become a woman, to become a real woman, as you say in the book. Why is it offensive?

“Why is it offensive?” Well, Mr. Morgan. Let’s break down your question. First, you refer to Ms. Mock as a “spokesman.” Then, you state she grew up as a boy. Then, you characterize her surgery as the moment she became a woman. Finally, you rephrase and say “a real woman.” In other words, first you misgendered her, then you misgendered her again, then you characterized her surgery as a “becoming” rather than a stage along her life path, in the process focusing attention on her genitals rather than her personal sense of identity, and finally you implied that everything she did and felt before her surgery was somehow fake.

Beyond all that… Mr. Morgan could have avoided every single mistake in that question simply by consulting the readily available GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Glossary of Terms. That, too, is part of the problem. It only would have taken him a few minutes, and could have changed the entire tone and direction of the interview. But – as I had done with José – when someone who professes to be an ally places the onus for their education on the oppressed person, that is not being an effective ally. When someone who is trying to be supportive of an oppressed person focuses on their personal hurt at being accused of having been (however unintentionally) insensitive, that is not being an effective ally. When someone who is trying to be supportive of an oppressed person repeatedly interrupts and talks over that person, not really seeing or hearing them, that is not being an effective ally. When one repeatedly states – during and following the interview – that the oppressed person should be grateful for being allowed a forum for her voice, that is not being an effective ally. And when one tweets, “As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you’re being. I’m on your side, you dimwits,” well, that too is not being an effective ally.

One of the moments when Piers Morgan talks over Janet Mock without really hearing her is when he brought up an article that appeared in Marie-Claire about her life’s journey entitled “When I Was a Boy.” His point was that he should not be blamed for using a similar phrase when those were her own words. Her point, which he never once acknowledged, was that those weren’t actually her own words as she didn’t write that title. Furthermore, when I Googled “Janet Mock” and “Marie-Claire,” I quickly found an article written by Ms. Mock reacting to the piece and stating in part, “But I do wish I could change one thing in the piece: the term “boy” which is used a few times. Overall I’m fine with it because I was born in what doctor’s [sic] proclaim is a boy’s body. I had no choice in the assignment of my sex at birth. I take issue with the two instances in the piece: The first instance proclaims, “Until she was 18, Janet was a boy,’ and then it goes on to say, ‘I even found other boys like me there…’ My genital reconstructive surgery did not make me a girl. I was always a girl.” Had Mr. Morgan taken the time to type four words into a search engine, he would have been able to avoid that egregious mistake.

Or, again, had he actually listened to her saying “Those were not my words.” rather than repeating back at her “Those were your words.”

What could have been a learning opportunity for Mr. Morgan appears to have been thoroughly squandered through his focus on his own feelings, his sense of being personally wronged, his sense of being in the right regardless of what anyone else says. Whether or not he likes it, that is his privilege speaking. Male privilege. White privilege. Class privilege. I don’t entirely blame him – our culture incorporates and inculcates an embedded sexism, racism, and classism, and he can’t help but have been shaped by it.

But he can help how he chooses to react to it.

That’s something we all can help. As we work together, each of us absolutely unique individuals, to build a better world, examining our reactions to our culture needs to become part of our work.

Even – perhaps especially – including the cringe-worthy moments.

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Oh, joy. One whole day.

Whatever you might have thought of the Super Bowl, at least it’s a chance for the people of Seattle to celebrate their first championship in pro sports in 35 years, right?

Wrong.

Although you wouldn’t know it from reports from ESPN, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, or a number of other media outlets, this is in fact the third Seattle pro championship since the 1979 SuperSonics won in the NBA. The Seattle Storm of the WNBA won their league in 2004 and 2010.

Of course, the Storm are used to being ignored. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen people write about their dream of returning pro basketball to Seattle when, unlike the Sonics who moved to Oklahoma in 2008, the Storm never left. But just because they are used to being ignored doesn’t mean they like it.

In fact, Lauren Jackson, one of the all-time WNBA greats, was furious, tweeting “We were good enough then and we are certainly good enough now to be acknowledged.” They certainly were. The 2010 team went 28-6 during the regular season, and were undefeated at home through the year and undefeated anywhere during the post-season. WNBA fans of other teams (as I ruefully remember!) were reduced to hoping and praying for their teams all the while shaking their heads in admiration.

With play of that quality, if coverage of women’s sports were handled differently, things might be different. In her recent op-ed, Irish track star Derval O’Rourke noted that women receive about 5% of sports coverage, and the focus is still far too often on an athlete’s appearance. And those who offer the rationalization that “sex pays” might be interested to know that in her article, O’Rourke also notes that women athletes receive a miniscule 0.5% of sponsorship revenue. A 2012 study at Syracuse “found that American companies rarely employ female athletes as spokespeople, and when they do, they don’t do it well.” Furthermore, the study raises the question of whether or not sex even pays from the perspective of advertisers, finding that “ads highlighting sex appeal impacted consumers negatively, especially when female consumers compared themselves to the spokesperson. The authors suggested that highlighting the similarities between the endorser and the targeted consumer might be a more effective strategy.”

Not to mention, even if sex did pay, would that make it right? Certainly, the sexualization of female athletes not only belittles them but also potentially opens them up to “a barrage of online abuse,” as Rachel Oakes-Ash commented in her excellent article on Australian cricket player Ellyse Perry.

Meanwhile, the WNBA is just emerging from a holding pattern. As I was first writing this blog, their Collective Bargaining Agreement had expired, the future of the Los Angeles Sparks was up in the air, and league officials had not yet issued a schedule for the upcoming season (which normally begins in May) nor scheduled a date for the draft (which usually takes place quite soon after March Madness). David Stern, a longtime advocate and supporter of the WNBA, has retired from his position as NBA Commissioner, which added an extra note of uncertainty. However, as I am rewriting this blog, a press conference has been scheduled and it appears that a group including Magic Johnson and an owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers is ready to purchase the Sparks and keep them in LA. This would enable the league to start making their schedule, and is a relief for all involved.

Still, this is one of the premier women’s professional leagues in the world, and the longest-running women’s professional league in U.S. history. Fourteen years into the 21st century. Although everything seems to have worked out for the best, it does give one pause.

During class on Tuesday, I mentioned National Girls and Women in Sports Day to two of my students, and their eyes lit up and one bounced up and down in her seat. It wasn’t long, though, before one of them said, “We need more field hockey coverage on television.” and the other said, “Exactly. And lacrosse. You can only find men’s lacrosse.” There’s no question in my mind that we need to build support for and viewership of women’s sports, not just for these girls, not even just for girls and women, but really for all of us.

By all means, let’s take the time today to celebrate girls and women who enjoy, practice, and excel at sports. And as we anticipate the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, we know there will be plenty of opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of elite female athletes. The key will be to build on these moments until women’s sports are just as integrated into the daily fabric of our collective lives as men’s sports.

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Your Thoughts

On Sunday, I received an email from my friend Jeremy Deason (a former Athletic Director and middle school teacher/advisor here) with the subject header “Your Thoughts.” I always smile whenever I hear from Jeremy, and was excited to see what was up. He invited me to look at the following three links in order and write some quick notes of reaction after reading each article before proceeding on to the next. I’ll share them now in case anyone wants to do the same before reading on here, though I will also summarize important ideas for anyone who prefers to simply continue reading:
1. http://t.co/l5UGFV66fW
2. http://t.co/ZFSZgtAFpP
3. http://bit.ly/KgBZ4n

**********
[optional Jeopardy theme song here!]
**********

As it turned out, and as I had vaguely suspected, I had read the first article already. Indeed, my Twitter feed had lit up with people reacting to it. On Wednesday, January 15, Caleb Hannan published a piece on Grantland, an ESPN-affiliated website intended to support and highlight excellent long-form sports writing online. It was entitled Dr. V’s Magical Putter and, in a not uncommon initial reaction, one of Mr. Hannan’s followers tweeted on the day of its publication, “This could end up being the best article I’ve read all year.”

That was not the message of the tweets that had lit up my Twitter feed on Friday. What I was seeing was anger, outrage, hurt. What had gone wrong over those two days?

The story concerned a physicist, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, who had come up with a radical new design for a putter that seemingly worked like a charm. As Mr. Hannan checked out the club (he loved it) and tracked down the rest of story, he uncovered strange gaps in her past, and found among other things that she had lied about her academic credentials. If he had left it there, it would have been a gripping and fascinating story that people might continue to be calling the best article they read all year. But he didn’t.

And even when he learned that she was a trans woman in deep stealth, had he kept that information to himself or shared it with her while explicitly saying he would honor their original agreement that he “focus on the science and not the scientist,” things might have turned out differently. But he didn’t.

He outed her to an investor. Dr. V learned what he knew, and became increasingly desperate. The last time he heard from her, she threatened him and told him he was about to commit a hate crime.

And then, last October, she killed herself.

Mr. Hannan included all this information in his piece, including her birth name, misgendering her on multiple occasions, and thus repeatedly violating the guidelines of the easily accessible GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Glossary of Terms. So the hurt, outrage, and anger being expressed on Twitter (and elsewhere) stemmed not just from the events leading up to Dr. V’s suicide but also to the article that came out afterwards.

To Grantland’s credit, Bill Simmons wrote what both Jeremy and I felt read like a sincere and heartfelt apology, and they provided space for Chistina Kahrl, a staff writer who also serves on the Board of Directors of GLAAD, to write a response. Mr. Simmons wrote in part, “I realized over the weekend that I didn’t know nearly enough about the transgender community – and neither does my staff. I read Caleb’s piece a certain way because of my own experiences in life. That’s not an acceptable excuse; it’s just what happened.” and Ms. Kahrl noted, “Because of this screw-up, we owe it to the ruin wrought in its wake to talk about the desperate lives that most transgender Americans lead and the adaptive strategies they have to come up with while trying to deal with the massive rates of under- and unemployment from which the trans community generally suffers. And we owe it to Essay Anne to understand how an attempt to escape those things became its own kind of trap, one Grantland had neither the right nor the responsibility to spring.”

Mr. Hannan tweeted on Jan. 17, the day Twitter exploded, “For what it’s worth, I haven’t blocked anyone today. I’m reading all of this. I’m totally overwhelmed, but I’m reading.”

Jeremy commented during the course of our exchange that “[he wonders] if this is the type of thing that we will (hopefully) look back on in 10-20 years as being even more ridiculous and ignorant than it is today. If it makes sense, it’s almost like the same piece could have been written 10-20 years ago with the only difference being Dr. V was gay, not [transgender].” There’s no question that, just as our culture’s attitudes toward lesbians and gay men shifted as they became increasingly visible in our society, so too our culture’s attitudes toward transgender people are beginning to shift with their own greater visibility. That is all to the good, and brings hope.

But that visibility must come at a time of their own choosing. No one else has the right to make that choice. No one.

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No Retreat, No Surrender

We need to make sure we’re making it possible for people of all genders to feel acknowledged for their contributions and not feel held back by something as arbitrary as their genetics or appearance.
– Emily Graslie

Chief Curiosity Coordinator has to be one of the most awesome job titles ever. The position, created by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, is held by Emily Graslie, who is STEAM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Art – Mathematics) personified. A studio art major, she interned at the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, where she was tapped to host her own show on YouTube, “The Brain Scoop,” to show and discuss the behind-the-scenes workings of a major natural history museum. She also manages a tumblr by the same name.

Ms. Graslie’s path to success is one which may have been impossible a decade ago; certainly, YouTube didn’t begin service until 2005. In 2012, successful vlogger Hank Green, who lives in Missoula, Montana, met Ms. Graslie when she was tapped to guide him around the university’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum for one of his shows. She did so well on camera, and provoked so many positive comments, that Mr. Green offered her her own YouTube channel within his science-focused Nerdfighters community. Some of the staffers at the Field Museum of Natural History had seen and liked her show, so when she called and asked permission to film there, they not only gave her permission to do so but also set up three day’s worth of tours, invited her to “after-hours get-togethers,” and eventually offered her her dream job. (Graslie) She was just two years out of college and had not yet even earned her Masters (currently on hold due to work obligations).

Yet, as a woman in science, Ms. Graslie’s career path has not been all sunshine and roses. As NPR correspondent Robert Krulwich noted in the piece Science Reporter Emily Graslie Reads Her Mail – And It’s Not So Nice, “It turns out her mail is, well, troubling.” Much of it focuses on her looks, often in crude terms. On her blog, Ms. Graslie notes, “The remarks are enough to make me want to throw my hands up and retreat to a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere. (…) Let’s not create that kind of environment for our peers. Let’s be supportive, encouraging. Focus on the content, not the presenter. Ignoring the fact that these comments are uncomfortable is dismissive and counter-productive: let’s have less tolerance for both those comments, and the apathetic attitude attached to how they affect our community.” The video lasts about six minutes, and is well worth watching.

This week is Computer Science Education Week, and our school is participating in the Hour of Code. As experience and comfort with computers becomes increasingly important in our society (as reflected in the growing numbers of college students of all majors who are taking at least a few courses in Computer Science), it will be wonderful for all the kids to join the 4,000,000 students worldwide who are participating. And beyond that, perhaps the experience will awaken, or confirm, or deepen some of the students’ interest in and commitment to STEAM fields.

I am quite certain there is not one member of our community who wants any of our students to be subjected to the kind of harassment and abuse which is a daily part of Ms. Graslie’s life. Yet, she is after all only a few years older than our oldest students. Even the most hopeful of optimists has to concede our future STEAM majors will undoubtedly be facing a certain sexism. Fortunately, they will carry with them the benefits of having attended a girls school – a greater sense of agency, self-esteem derived from within, experience in an environment 100% comfortable with the concept of women loving and being skilled at STEAM. Fortunately, they know that those of us who support them now – parents, friends, faculty – are also working towards a world where they will be unquestioningly accepted for who they are regardless of gender.

My mother, a Physics major and college professor, was subjected throughout her career to the same kind of overt harassment as Ms. Graslie has experienced, and more subtle sexism as well. She has said things are better now than they were, but not as good as they could have been, and not remotely as good as they need to be. It’s time to step up the pace of change. Ms. Graslie’s words provide the direction. It’s up to all of us to join her in taking the lead.

(note: the title of this post was taken from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s song “No Surrender.”)

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