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My daughter deserves better

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I'll be honest–I don't want to write this post, and for a multitude of reasons. Namely, I don't want to write this post because writing this post crystallizes the fact that this post needs to be written. I also feel just so wholly inadequate to put text on a screen regarding such an important topic… that my words won't do it justice, or won't hit the mark quite right. You know what, though? That's bullshit. Inaction in this case is guaranteed to be a demonstrably worse decision. My daughter deserves better.

My daughter deserves better not because she is my daughter, but because she is a person. Being a humanitarian, it is my firm belief that the only thing which can make this world a better place is the people in it.

She is 4 years old (soon to be 5) and she is absolutely the epicenter of my anything and everything. I care about her more than I care about you. That being said, a switch flipped inside me when she was born that cranked the femininism my mother raised me with into overdrive. They say, "everyone is someone else's daughter/sister/mother", and of course that's factually accurate, but (to my shame) it took me being personally affected by it to really feel it on a visceral level that I just wasn't capable of before. That last sentence was painful for me to type, but working through those feelings of shame and sitting with them is part of this. My daughter deserves better.

The hard sciences–"STEM", in the parlance of our time–are not kind nor encouraging to women. In fact, they are actively discouraging and alienating. This is rooted in our society at a level that is honestly difficult to fathom (though that difficulty does not make it any less so). Just recently, my mind was bent clean in half when I had noticed that my daughter's cousin and boys in her peer group suggested that Kinect games, where you jump around and move your body, seemed more suited to girls, while games that used a controller were more suited to boys. I'm paraphrasing, of course, as these are small children, but the point they were making was clear. As they elaborated, they tried to explain that boys are better at games with controllers because it is like using tools, whereas the Kinect games are more like dancing. To them, the gender-specific association of each was elementary. Never mind the nauseating irony of their claim, as dancing is an incredibly technical skill set, and very physically demanding. (There are many examples from my youth that sort of hit me here and there as I remember them, but this one was recent and very personal.) Girls deserve better.

This same behavior continues throughout women's lives, where they are discouraged from participating in math and science subjects and nudged in the direction of something less rigorous or prestigious. I work at a mid-sized university with campuses nationwide. I have seen–multiple times, even–a wave of very talented, very driven, very capable, and very prolific women join the IT department… only to walk back out that revolving door a year or two later. I have spoken with most of them that left, and the reasons they gave me became less and less surprising with each new discussion. They were being overworked, underpaid, unrecognized, and held to a different standard of behavior from their male colleagues, myself included. Myself primarily, in some cases, as I have no issue with speaking my mind if I feel that a decision is unwise. I am rewarded for being "bold" and "forward-thinking", whereas a female colleague presenting the same idea will be seen as "confrontational" and "irritable". In freely sharing my own salary with anyone who was curious (because the taboo around doing so is horse shit, and a topic for another day), I discovered that each and every one of them was making drastically less than they should have been, given their work ethic and history of contribution to the college and its projects. Women deserve better.

It has taken me years to shake off the apprehension about loudly and repeatedly calling this kind of thing out and trying to turn a mirror on other men who have yet to make any of these realizations themselves. For that, I am ashamed. I should be. We all should be. That it's been this bad for this long; that it continues in spite of this most recent generation repeatedly turning a spotlight on the issue; that it is paid lip service but not given true consideration… is appalling, to put it lightly. Men, we all need to do better.

(After all, computers hate us all equally.)

A huge thank-you to whitep4nth3r for her unbreak.tech initiative, which gave me the kick in the pants I needed to post this.

PS. There is so much more that I want to write, and no matter what I write, it won't feel like enough. I mean, it's not enough, which is kind of the point of the post… I just want to reiterate that it doesn't matter. If anyone who reads this is given pause to take an inward look at their own behavior and an outward look at the behavior of those they associate with, then it is more than worth it.

Posted: 2021-05-22