How to NOT Raise Wonder Women :-(

This post is not about the movie. But as it’s one of the many things being talked about – in my social media filter bubble anyway – I thought I’d just borrow the theme and image :-) For some reason I’ve been in ferocious feminist mode this week. I told my co-workers that maybe the older I get the more passionate and less patient I get with some of the bullshit woman have to live with every single day. Some of the stuff might seem like insignificant details, but in the big scheme of things every little bit matters. To me anyway. Whether it’s the way a 50 years old man can just call a 30 year old woman “the girl…” or the way many Germans still predominantly use only the masculine form when they talk/write about other persons, whether these persons are male or female. That’s a specific German language problem, probably, but a lot of other issues are the same issues all over the world The gender pay gap, mansplaining or the fact that there are still more men than women in leading executive positions, even on a middle hierarchy level. And don’t even get me started on harassment and violence towards women. There is still so much more to do.

As part of my job in a environmental agency I spent the afternoon at one of the local highschools at a small STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for my German readers or “MINT” as we call it here) conference. Part of it was watching a robotics challenge between groups of students from various high schools. For someone like me, who doesn’t know anything about programming and engineering, it was absolutely fascinating to see what those 14-16 year old students came up with. I was watching one of the groups working for about 15 minutes, fine-tuning their robot, which had to throw a ping pong ball a certain distance.

From the 6-7 students in the group there were 4 actively involved during the period of time I was watching them. One boy was measuring the distance, two girls were handling the robot, adjusting settings either by pushing some buttons or in fact hooking the robot back up to the computer and do some programming wizardry. (Like I said, I have no idea what they were doing). The fourth student was another guy and he was quite the show off. Not really doing anything for the project, but strutting around, joking, trying tricks with the ping pong ball and just being kind of a dick. At least that was my impression. Maybe he made his important contributions to the group project earlier, but in the few minutes I watched them working, it was the two girls who actually did the necessary work to get the robot to do exactly what it was supposed to do.

When it was time to present the robot on stage, only two of the group could do that and guess who took the robot and strutted forward to the stage? The show off guy. He took one of the girl from the group along, but she wasn’t one the two girls who actually worked on the fine tuning in these last few minutes. Those two didn’t even claim to present their work, but kept in the audience watching how the robot would do on stage. Like I stated above, maybe each of the other members of the group did their fair share of work earlier in the day. But it still rubbed me the wrong way and I felt a bit sad to see how those two girls, who had been working so diligently on the end result, seem to take for granted that the show off guy presented their work on stage. Maybe I’m reading too much into this small moment, but it felt symptomatic, because it’s something I’ve seen over and over again. Hell, I myself often enough did and still do sometimes let a male co-worker take over when it comes to presenting stuff even when I did more of the work than he did.

The other thing that not just rubbed me in a wrong way, but left me quite speechless and raging on the inside, was something I saw in the school library later, where some of the talks / presentation took place. I haven’t been to a school library in decades, so whenever there was a small break I strolled around a bit and looked at the shelves books to see what books they had available for young adults these days. That’s where I noticed the different genre labels on the shelves. Those were among others “Fantasy”, “Historical”, “Crime”, “Adventure”, “Graphic Novel”, “Comedy” and then there also were two shelves labelled “Girls & Romance”.

WTF?!?! Girls AND Romance? What’s that even supposed to mean? Don’t girls read other stuff? Do only girls read romance? What a great way to not encourage either gender to read whatever they want to read! *ironymodeoff* I walked all around the library to find a “Boys & Whatever” shelf, but that didn’t exist. Of course. So boys are allowed and encourage to read everything, except maybe girly romance novels? And girls better keep to their two shelves of pink-bubble-gum love stories? Yes, I do simplify the issue here. But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

There is still so much work to do here. And I’m more than fired up to doing it, even if that means I get on the nerves of the people I work with, when I’m pestering them to pay more attention to the nouns they use when they’re writing about men AND women. More than fired up to speak up more for this issue and to encourage other women and especially girls to do the same. Also more than fired up to watch “Wonder Woman” once it hits the movie screens here in Germany next week…

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