Hey everybody! Here’s a thought: When I was growing up and had an obvious ardent love of math and circuits, I learned this meme from people around me: “Technical women are incredibly rare”.
So I thought that meant that I was going to have to go it entirely alone all the time and would never have friends who weren’t male – so at some young age I battened down and prepared to take on the world.
After let’s say 20 years of intensive fact-finding, I’m back to report: It’s not true! It’s totally not true!
I work in engineering and I hang out with technical women all the time. My friends, my housemates, my coworkers. Less so the people who run the companies I’ve worked for, and maybe I’m getting some foreshadowing for the impending leaky-pipeline where women start to leave engineering, which I hear about today — but it’s worth noting that this is WAY more than life led me to expect!
We build ridiculous things (See the Laser-Powered Hot Tub post from last summer, which I built with MIT MechE cohort Jenny Hu) and talk about neat circuits and mechanisms and how things work. Here’s the part where I’m grateful and feel lucky!
Unfortunately, I just can’t watch movies anymore.
If you don’t know me personally, I’m Jamaican and German, I build things, and I’m female. There are literally never characters like me in movies or on tv shows.
It took me a long time to figure out that people would watch television and find something in common with characters there — and that I wasn’t finding that. (This is probably equivalent to what reading books and papers was like before nonsexist writing standards existed and people stopped thinking that the word “he” meant the same thing as “everyone” in language.)
And even the characters who aren’t like me, don’t live through the situations I do. For example, just getting up, going to work, and hanging out with creative engineer women. That’s plenty enough to disappoint, without foreknowledge of the Bechdel test, the disappointingly low hurdle for inclusion of women in pop culture that so many movies smack clumsily into.
What does this mean? It means we have a culture where our art is failing to keep up with reality. Art and engineering needs to spend more time holding hands. In the meantime, zero sympathy for a sagging movie industry. I’ve never been written in, so why not write it off?