Dave Freer has an excellent article over at the Mad Genius Club today, and I wanted to share a bit of it – I encourage you to go over there and read the rest, if you like, but like him, I raise an eyebrow (maybe both) at someone who states numbers with no data to back them up. Makes you wonder where those numbers came from, and why they smell like that.
Justina Robson has put up an appeal in The Independent (UK) for more women to give sf a chance. Now, that’s an idea I don’t have any problem with. Me, I want all nice girls and boys, and nasty girls and boys, and all furry green aliens from Alpha Centauri, to give it a chance. What I disagree with her about is that women can’t deal with science and math in it, and somehow ‘the patriarchy’ is making it seem unattractive. Maybe there are physics or math or engineering students or lecturers who really don’t want pesky girls in their treehouse. Most of them that I’ve met, if you showed genuine understanding and interest in their subject, couldn’t care less if you were green and had three heads. They love their subject and if you’re one of them, other characteristics are secondary, and mostly irrelevant, except you might be the girl of their dreams because you are female and intelligent and able to share their passion – making you rare and wonderful.
This made me think of something that happened last week. While at school, I was talking about my writing, and someone handed me a flyer on a contest for women writers. I politely declined it. Not only would it be unfair for me, a professional, to compete against students, but I don’t think of myself as a woman writer.
I am a woman. I am a writer. I do not want to be called a woman writer. I find it highly insulting. My work should not be judged for the body I occupy, but on its own merits. Can I not compete with men based solely on my work? Or must I be patted on the head and given a stepstool labeled ‘woman’ so that I can rise to their level? I refuse it.
I love being a woman. I have borne children, a truly miraculous feeling, and I pity men, for they will never know that sensation of a heart beating inside them. I understand on a molecular level that there are differences between men and women, from the process of meiosis, to the hormones that wash a developing embryo’s brain, to the way we are raised in a culture. I understand that being a woman causes me, with my experiences. to write a little differently than a man. Less well, though? No!
And finally, because I am a STEM student, and I have homework to take care of (and thus need to wrap this up). do I see discrimination? Sure. I’ve been discriminated against in a class, within the last two years. By a literature professor (female), who dismissed my viewpoints in front of an entire class because “she’s old and experienced, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to her.’ In my science classes? My genetics professor – quite male, and himself the father of a son – spent a significant chunk of class time ranting over the mistreatment of Rosalind Franklin at the hands of Watson and Crick.
So I don’t see it. I’m not denying that it’s happened in the past. But now? It’s gone quite the other way, from what I’m seeing, and I’m actually in the belly of the beast, as it were.
But I will not accept special favors simply because I’m female. Either I earn them, or I do not. To take handouts would not only destroy my soul, my honor, but would damage my daughters. Of my three girls, two want to become scientists. I want them to earn that, not to wind up feeling that they got positions to fill someone’s quota. That’s a corrosive sensation, and one that will do far more damage in the long run than struggling to get what you’ve earned with hard work and sacrifice.