Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Women, Girls, Society, and Science

Girls Conference
On the 3rd of this month, I volunteered at the Expand Your Horizons (EYH) conference put on by the Equity in Education Center at UVU. It's for 6th to 12th grade girls and the purpose is to help them explore high-paying careers in math, science, and technology.  Can I just say...wahoo!!  I wish I'd been able to go to a conference like that when I was in Jr. High or High School. Maybe I wouldn't be 31 and still in college.

For me, and I suppose for many girls growing up now here in "Happy Valley", being raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that's LDS or "Mormons" for those not familiar with it), the role of wife and mother is emphasized.  The Church places a high value on family, which is fantastic.  But it also sometimes has the side effect (at least in this area) of girls not really planning seriously for any kind of career, because they plan to be stay-at-home moms.  That is even despite the fact that our prophet Thomas S. Monson, and the previous prophet Gordon B. Hinckley both specifically encouraged women to get as much education as they can.

I found this blog - which has some great quotes from Church leaders about stay-at-home-moms as well as getting education and developing talents.  As a single mom myself and a huge proponent of education, I love the balance and I agree that women need to get educated and even obtain a college degree that could open the door to a career.  I don't believe a career should ever supersede motherhood, no way.  But an educated mother raises educated children, for one thing, and as we have all become very aware of in our current economical situation, it's extremely helpful if the wife is able to help earn an income if the husband gets laid off, becomes disabled or passes away, or in the event of a divorce.

Here is just one of the great quotes from Church leaders:
Sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children.

Barbie "I Can Be..."
And can I just comment on what I happened to see on the girls' toy aisle the other day (I was going down every aisle looking for a stuffed animal moose for a friend).  I stopped when I saw a couple of Barbies saying, "I can be....[insert career here]"  Okay so now Mattel is going to tell all the girls in the world what jobs they can do?  That's my first problem with this - what if something they're interested in isn't on the list and therefore isn't cool or beautiful like Barbie is?  Will they abandon it and go for one that IS on the list?
My second problem was the options there at the toy store - Pet Vet, Teacher, Art Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Ballet Dancer, and "Kid Doctor".  Okay at least they had a doctor, but why can't you actually call her a Pediatrician?  Teach the girls some vocabulary for heaven's sake!  They've probably all been to a Pediatrician, it's not that far-fetched that they know what they're called.  Must we continue dumbing everything down?  And does Barbie HAVE to be wearing high heals and a dress only slightly longer than the lab coat (mid thigh)?  Seriously, what doctor do you know that would dress like that?

The Barbie website has some information on each of the professions complete with a couple of videos and games.  I cannot believe this game I just played for the "Babysitter" job.  You have to guide the little kid around the house and move toys out of her way so that she doesn't have an accident on the way to the potty.  When she makes it there you see her sitting on the potty, hear a distinct plop and the girl grins, and they show the toilet flushing with yellow and yes a little brown circle in there swirling around.  Holy heck!  Are you serious?

They do have more professions that just weren't on the shelves where I went, but they still have a pretty limited scope: lifeguard, snowboarder, baby doctor, zoo doctor, rock star, cooking teacher, fashion designer, track champion, tennis champion, gymnastics champion, chef, movie star, and my favorite - bride.

Girls aspire to be "brides".  But are they ready for the title that comes next - "wife"?  Or did they spend all their time planning for the wedding instead of the marriage?
The only non-traditional things are race car driver and architect.  The website showed a software engineer, but I haven't seen the actual toy of that anywhere. 

Anyone notice the trend?  Girly stuff involves either: being famous and adored by all (rock star, sports champions, movie star), cooking, or liking "cute" stuff like kitties and babies.  Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, animals and babies.  But I also love seeing cells in various stages of mitosis under a microscope, collecting Brine Shrimp eggs, taking way too many pictures of rocks, and cutting things open to see what's inside.

So, Barbie's at it again...  shaping our society.  Thanks, but no thanks, Barbie.

A Different Kind of Barbie
Speaking of Barbie, I went to this way cool seminar at the beginning of the semester by this awesome lady scientist who does a lot of work in the rainforest, and she has many non-profit projects she does to educate people about the rainforest.  She uses rock climbing techniques to study the canopy of the rainforest.  They actually created a "Tree Top Barbie" with her all decked out in her gear to climb to the top of the canopy, and she kind of joked that she was surprised that Mattell was not interested in it.  I think it's sad though, it's cool stuff like that they should promote in addition to Ballerina, Art Teacher, and Babysitter. Broaden the horizons of girls.

That brings me full circle back to Expand Your Horizons.  It's wonderful that they do this conference.  I only wish it would reach more girls out there.  The battle field is probably a lot younger than we think.  Girls in Elementary school have already been brainwashed that they need to be pretty to be worth anything, they can't "get" math and science, and they're only supposed to like things that are small, fuzzy, and/or pink.

Well, I've got one for you, girls:

A curious symbiotic relationship between an animal and algae - hungry corral polyps grasping for dinner
More importantly: AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL -  just like you.  (Source)

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