Friday, November 28, 2014

Science & How To Uplift Girls...Not.

I need a new computer, half the keys are missing from mine, I can't type a colon or a semi-colon and now letter L seems to be joining in the fun. Oh well.

I didn't post last Friday because this time I was in Scotland no less.  I was invited to speak at a pro-life ladies lunch (I never realised just how often L appears in the English language! This is like a comedy!).  It was a real experience and I have a lot of thinking to do just to process all the conversations I had during that visit. However, I'm glad to be home with no more trips on the horizon.

This post is about a little incident I witnessed yesterday and while it was innocuous, it points out a sort of attitude that has slipped into our culture.

Years ago, even before my generation, education was not considered for women and it was unusual to see a woman  going far in a career.  Lots of social and cultural factors contributed to that and I'm not about to address that here.  However, I think we can all agree that that has changed dramatically and that women are pursuing excellence in all sorts of areas in life.  In fact, it has probably tipped in the opposite direction as I've blogged about before in that a woman's decision to raise one's children at home full time as part of a two person team (that will be the husband who is earning the money) is seen as demeaning, escapist and non-contributive to society.  I think differently, but why then did I feel humble when I signed my name as a patron of something recently and my name and occupation was nestled nicely between those of lecturers, journalists,  business people, academics and medics?   Why did the words home-maker embarrass me on that list even though every fibre of my body knows and believes that I carry out a noble and worthwhile task?  Just asking.  I was even more uncomfortable with the fact that I felt like that because I have such a clear vision of my role, how must mothers feel who know it's the right thing for her family but might not have the reasons behind it?  I have no answer to how to tackle this and actually it wasn't what I was going to write about anyway...just my usual lengthy preamble. (damn you L!!)

Yesterday I was at our children's school open day for parents of next year's Junior Infants.  I didn't really need to attend as I know the school inside out at this stage but because two of ours were playing instruments and helping showcase their work I went along.  I was really impressed with how the children had pulled out all the stops to display and explain all the activities of the school.  Each classroom had an open door and the children were rehearsed with little speeches explaining their wormeries, their incubating chicks, weather studies and so on.  I was impressed at my Mr Understated's class because I was unaware of half the exciting things they were up to.  He just gets on with life, no real need to tell Mom about the baby chicks waiting to hatch.

Anyway, noticing that most parents were just glancing at the stalls and walking on by,  I resolved to ask every single child about their work and listen to every practised and endearing speech because there's nothing worse than having something planned to say and nobody asks you. I figured there went my morning and I already knew the stuff but would be worth it. One of my pet hates is seeing the wind being taken out of somebody's sails, especially a child's.

Then I heard it.  At one of the science stalls ( now, remember this is a smallish co-ed school, to the best of my knowledge all the children are treated equally by the teachers and staff), there were a few experiments on display and three children eagerly waiting to explain them to the adults-two girls and a much smaller, fine-featured, bespectacled boy, all about 11 years old.  As I stood there, two separate adults loudly congratulated the girls on their work, announcing how great it was to see girls doing science and how there weren't enough girls in the sciences. They didn't even acknowledge the existence of the little boy.  I happened to be looking at him and observed the wind well and truly leaving his sail.  'Well, it's great to see boys involved in the sciences too' I added and proceeded to ask the boy about the experiment while everyone else gushed over the girls.

Five of my children are girls.  I only have one boy and, as I said, he's understated. He's not shy, just understated. So this isn't prompted by 'my boy is always in trouble', he doesn't really get into trouble.  But I have noticed this uplifting of girls in our culture, which is good in itself, but not when it's achieved by crushing boys.  I don't actually agree with quotas giving preference to women, what sense of achievement is it for any woman to be chosen or promoted over a man simply because she is female?  I'd personally feel demeaned by that.  Surely we should be chosen for our ability, our qualities and so on?  That policy is still only seeing one aspect of woman...her sex.

 I've noticed this attitude wherin boys are considered disruptive because 'he moved in the line', because he 'ran on the grass'...I'll bet every one of you could list ten incidents.  Girl good...Boy bad.  So we have a generation of young men and women who have been subliminally and/or perceptively  told that typical male characteristics (such as strength and leadership) are bad (in a boy) and need to be suppressed and that equally, typically female characteristics (such as perception and nurturing) are demeaning (in a girl).  So we end up with the family of Peppa Pig where Silly Daddy is a loveable idiot who always gets it wrong and Mummy Pig (never back-answered by anybody) is the problem solving responsible adult who carries the family.  And we have a bossy, over-self-assured little girl who will grow up to think nothing of taking the wind out of a little boy's hopeful sails for no other reason than that she's a girl and therefore the best. 

I don't think this is the way to uplift, or advance girls.  We are fully aware of the cultures around the world where one sex totally dominates the other.  Where women are seen as nothing more than servant carriers for the boy-child.  I watched a video on YouTube last week depicting the sale of the spoils of 'war', completely sickening.  I felt like bursting into that room of sniggering cowardly men and demanding to know just who the heck they thought they were?
Now I know it's a big exaggeration and leap of aspects to even compare the two incidents but my point is this.  A rise in tide lifts all boats.  Can we try and uplift all mankind to a greater understanding of all our qualities.  One is not better, or superior, or of greater or less dignity than the other.  Strength and leadership in boys can be channelled into the unfolding of a just and noble man.  Nurturing and self-giving of a mother is not demeaning and no woman should feel embarrassed that that's her role. The 'feminine' genius of perception and multi-tasking are of infinite value in the world, be it applied to family, the workplace...or oh hurrah...the sciences.  The protective and self-sacrificing service of a man is vital to the world, be it applied to the family, the workplace...or oh hurrah...the sciences.

Mankind is designed to be complimentary and complete.  We will never thrive in a power-struggle over who's superior and who needs to be crushed.  Let's not let those scales tip in the other direction.  No good can come from a tipped scale. 

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