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Women & science

(This post jumps off from a continuing discussion PBS NewsHour is having about Women in Science.)

I'm not worried about my daughter. Women have gotten the message. Men have gotten the message. By and large, what we're dealing with sexism-wise are the stragglers. It's the same for racism. It's the same for homophobia. It's not to say the conversation about these things is over. Or that they no longer exist. 

Where we're at now, however, is a place where we've all agreed pretty much that discrimination is a bad thing. So the question then--when talking about something like gender & education--is why things aren't balanced. And sometimes the answer is just "it is." 

If there's not currently a lot of women in, say, computer science...it may not be because they lack the opportunity, the ability, or the knowing it's an option. Sometimes these days it's just "they don't wanna." 

My daughter will certainly know that engineering, biotech, computers, or astrophysics is open to her if that's her desire. The rest is up to her though. We can't force our young women into those fields. We can't even really encourage our young women into those fields. Because to try to artificially achieve gender balance in those fields smacks of, well, falsehood. It's keeping women in the kitchen in reverse. 

What worries me isn't my daughter, it's my son. While we've been busy making sure our girls can be anything they want, we've left our boys on the side of the road assuming they're going to be ok. 

They're not. 

Women now outnumber men on college campuses. But that actually worries me less than the fact that the recent economic downturn hit men harder. Jobs are harder to find for men. Partly because of education. Partly because of the nature of today's jobs. 

Even that worries me less than other cultural issues though. Our schools are losing valuable "boy" time...less physical activity, less hands-on learning in favor of a more academic approach at an earlier age. We're requiring our kids to be, in short, less independent and we're asking them to behave. Less like boys. More like girls. 

I'm in a non-traditional caregiving role as a Stay At Home Dad, so I certainly don't think men are somehow being left behind per se. We're adaptable and resourceful and know we're capable of doing whatever we'd like. Of course, the question is whether we have the opportunity...but I won't address that here. 

My argument with women in science runs more along the lines of..."so what?" There aren't a lot of men staying home with their kids either but that isn't stopping those of us who really want to. If a woman wants to be an engineer, she will be. 

Let's talk instead about ways we can make BOTH genders feel welcome in the classroom, the workplace, the home. 

Talking about the lack of women in science is like saying "why are there so few cowboys anymore?" It's not about women. Or science. It's about individuals making choices in our modern society and the consequences of trying so hard to open doors for people that we've forgotten some of the ones we've closed along the way. 

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