Do You Help Your Daughter or Your Son?

Last night at dinner Jane regaled us with a story where a male classmate told her to get out of the computer lab, “It’s for boys.” And she went on to other things at warp speeds (as 15 year old girls often do) when I had to give her a, “Whoa, whoa, back up! What did you say to this kid?”

“Nothing. I just finished my program first and asked him if needed any help.” And then she rolled her eyes and went back to talking about whatever it was that she had moved on to.

She’s aware that she’s the only girl in the room at times and one of only a few girls most other times but she’s never felt unwelcome (and still doesn’t). Top down there doesn’t seem to be any difference between boys and girls.

So when a teacher creates a lovely environment and a school gives every child every opportunity and then a little boy tells a girl she doesn’t belong in a computer lab what are we to do?

To be clear my daughter was not bothered by this. She just mentioned it as an example of why she doesn’t like this boy, not as an example of his empowerment or a trend at the school.

This isn’t a women’s issue. This is a kid’s issue. What are we telling our boys? How are we teaching them? When they see memes like Make Me a Sammich do we tell them that those are the young men with short careers ahead of them?


Via Know Your Meme

There seem to be two prominent boy cultures right now. One being the Nerd/Gamer/Geek culture which is emerging from deep roots in misogony and the other is sports which has it’s own issues. I have a lot of hope for tech (no clue about gaming because I’m simply not immersed). When you look at the leaders in technology and see men around my age with great early success know that there’s a good chance that they began in porn. I’m not saying this to out anyone or cause trouble but rather to explain that 20 years ago when people were building networks and sites the most profitable ones revolved around women showering in front of webcams. It was a boy’s club because how many women wanted to be the only one in the room with her clothes on? And the women that did work in porn production were a special hybrid of smart and tough.

As the older guys phase out I have no explanation for how a child could believe that computers are for boys. I certainly hope that no one tells my son that history is for girls. He happens to love it.

My daughter doesn’t seem to need any help feeling like STEM is for her. All parents talk about anymore is the importance of STEM, almost to the point of completely ignoring the humanities. Mercifully this talk is limited to parents who are school shopping (or hopping as the case may be) and not the sort of talk I hear from teachers and academics.

Having both a daughter and a son I’m finding that there really are no girls issues or boys issues.

Meanwhile the US Department of Labor put out this webinar for women and STEM (where women hold just 25% of the jobs).

I don’t really have any answers but I have a lot of questions.

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8 Comments

  1. Tom Wacker

    Sorry Jessica, I’m not buying.

    Several of the top people in my little corner are women. My website guy is a girl, as is my designer.

    I get your daughter’s frustration with a bone head, guess what? They exist all over. Fight ’em or forget ’em are the two choices.

    And I’m not buying the porn theory, either. I know quite a few successful IM business men that absolutely did not start that way. That it’s mainly a boy’s club has other roots, to my way of thinking…

    But you made me think, and made me comment. That’s your job, right? You did it well

    • Jill

      I’m exasperated by this comment. It’s so typical. Because you know a top woman designer, this problem doesn’t exist? That is a classic reaction from a man who has never had to deal with oppression or bigotry. “Fight ’em or forget ’em” basically means either you spend your ENTIRE life striving to overcome this type of bullshit or you just accept that you’re going to be oppressed and ignored. Both options are lame and not acceptable.

      The fact that children are still parroting sexist comments should alarm and offend you and make you think that maybe we’re not doing enough to address sexism and misogyny. Dismissing it by “oh, that’s always going to happen” is not helpful. It’s a twelve year old for pete’s sake! A twelve year old is not making an independent decision to be a misogynist, he’s being taught that behavior.

      The virtual pat on the head at the end is really condescending, dude. Oh, Jessica, you’re totally wrong and I’m totally right about the experiences of people completely different from me, but you got me to express my very important opinion so I guess you’re a smart girl after all! ugh.

      • Tom Wacker

        Since you already know my story, and what forces and factors have shaped me (typical) I’ll not go to that. I will however, go back to the original post. 1 child made an incredibly stupid remark. One. What are Jessica’s daughter’s choices? I gave mine, you forgot yours. I’d be interested because I only know the two.

        I don’t understand my condescension in the final comment. I read to be challenged, to think. Jessica’s original post did that and well. Where did you get the rest??

  2. My kid has had moments where she is the only girl and she is like your daughter, takes care of her business and then goes back to help the young man who insults her. But working with the public there have been times when I have heard girls or boys declare that something is only for girls or boys. I step in and voluntell them how it will be done: whichever way *I* deem correct.

  3. As geeks? Technology is terribly important in our household and in our desire for our daughter’s education. As well-rounded people? The liberal arts education is equally important.
    I love that I’m raising a daughter who loves science & language, math & theater, reading & gaming, inventing & creating art equally.
    I find it sadly predictable that there is still that chauvinistic boy-child archetype who thinks that anything is gender-specific. I’d lay money on the fact that he gets it from his parents. No, not necessarily his father alone — I’ve met more than one mother who has told me she would be horrified if her son were “girly” and was just as dialed-into the me-Tarzan-you-Jane version of gender roles.
    I love *your* Jane’s response though. I think it just goes to show you that you & Mr. G have done an awesome job when it comes to this.

  4. angryjuliemonday

    My son is a huge math and science geek. Last year he had a girl in his class (2nd grade) that he completely connected with. She was his geek match. They are in the same class. The competition between the two of them is pretty amazing. I can recall him coming home one day saying, “Katie finished the Harry Potter book”. I said “wow, that is amazing”. He replied, “well she reads better and faster than me”….I told him that it was time to up his game. HAHA! Her mom loves the friendship between the two because Katie has severe food allergies and is sometimes that “girl in the bubble.” Her parents were afraid that she would get picked on etc. My son knows all about her allergies and even embraces them since my husband has celiac. We are trying to get both of the kids into a special program for 4th grade. I think we have aligned ourselves as parents and have taught them that there is no difference between boys and girls academically. And by the way, Katie’s mom went to Harvard…which is amazing!

  5. I can assure you I’m raising two boys who will never say anything like that to a fellow classmate, male or female @JessicaGottlieb:disqus. I think overall you captured the current “temperature” pretty accurately too.

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