Questions we don’t want to answer

If you’re a woman (especially between 20 and 35), chances are people have asked you these questions.

Let’s go beyond trying to analyze why and how can people let themselves be so inconsiderate, insensitive and downright mean to ask questions they would not want to answer themselves. They probably can’t help it. The interesting thing is: how to respond appropriately? Is there a funny, witty and smart way of a comeback? According to Amanda Marcotte, the author of It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, there is. If someone asks “are you planning on having a baby anytime soon?”, you just need to say: “I can’t.” And how is this not a (bit cruel) lie? “Here me out.” begins Amanda. “You really can’t have a baby anytime soon. After all, you’re not pregnant, are you? So having a baby is, at bare minimum, nine and a half months away, and that’s if you just so happen to run right home to find an erection-spotting man who doesn’t mind skipping the condom and you’re currently ovulating. So you quite literally can’t have a baby anytime soon, depending on your definition of “soon.” Not a lie at all.

HeForShe. Men raising their voices for change

2014 campaign of the UN. They are encouraging men to: “Record a video of yourself speaking out about women’s equality. Visit heforshe.org, send it to us and we’ll share your message with the world”

I wonder if participating in campaigns like this is only considered to be cool in the US and in Western Europe — I have a hard time imagining that there will be a lot of contributions from Eastern Europe, where the general sentiment is that “women are already equal, what more do they want?!”

Street harassment reversed

A brilliant video appeared today in the Guardian about what if we reversed the roles in street harassment.

Check out the men becoming all uncomfortable and even say: “You can’t talk to us like that!”

video

On female scientists and engineers… and why toys matter

I work in a research and educational institution which specializes in (tropical) medicine. While the gender balance is quite good if we look at all employees, there is certainly much less balance if we see the number of women in leadership positions. In my department only 3 out of the 11 professors in tenured positions are female, so less than 1/3rd.

So why are there so few women holding leadership positions in research and academia? And why are there even less women in science than in other fields of academia? Recently I have had a number of discussions on these issues (mostly on Facebook), and it struck me how many men (and women!) think (=read: have been lead to believe) that women don’t study science and engineering because they are not interested, because their “brains are wired differently”, etc…

Some of these discussions ended up being about nature vs nurture, in which I was trying to argue that if, from an early age you wire little girls in way that they think that science is for boys, then they will not see that as a valid option for themselves regardless of their otherwise inherent interests. And where does this begin? Some argue it begins with toys. For example, there is a UK parent-led campaign called Let Toys Be Toys which is asking retailers to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys. Because if you so do, this is what happens:

so-few-women-engineers-comic

You may have also seen the video by GoldieBlox that went viral on social media after being picked up by Upworthy. GoldieBlox is a toy company that is trying to show the world that “girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses. Their founder, Debbie Sterling, is a Stanford engineer who decided last year that girls need more choices than the pink aisle has to offer. She developed GoldieBlox, an interactive book series + construction set starring Goldie, the kid inventor who loves to build.”

OK. So what happens after these little girls grow up, and despite all the playtime with dolls and make-up, they still decide to enter the masculine world of science? In her video, Emily Graslie, the “Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago, former volunteer of the University of Montana Zoological Museum”, who has a channel a YouTube, gives the audience an honest (and funny) recount on some of her daily struggles…

It’s Your Fault

We have all heard the gruesome stories of rape that came out of India in the past months, starting with the “bus” case of last December which became so well-known that it even has its own Wikipedia entry. All India Bakchod (AIB), an Indian (all men!) comedy collective had enough of that “every sexual assault case in India inspires a string of stupid and hateful remarks against women.” They decided to do something about this which resulted in a satirical response video that discusses victim blaming from a non-PC perspective. Food for thought.