January 06, 2016
Rebecca used to teach at a wonderful school in Washington, DC. The oldest daughter of the science teacher at said wonderful school wrote an essay for her AP English class about math and science and girls and Princess Awesome. We were completely surprised and honored. We asked if we could share the essay with you, here on this blog. Thank you, Adina, for allowing us to share this fantastic essay, and thank you for being awesome!
The Danger of a Single Story
by Adina Schwartz
When I was little I played with Barbies and Polly Pockets, I had long hair, and I wore nothing but dresses until the first grade. I was the quintessential “girl.” I also had science as a large part of my childhood. My mom is a science teacher and my dad is a doctor so our conversations often turn to math and science. It never occurred to me that those two things couldn't go together. And yet, when my aunt got my siblings and me presents, my sister and I got fairy dolls or bracelets and my brother got logic games and puzzles. When my brother and I both participated in a math competition, people seemed surprised that I wanted to compete. My brother attends a math and science magnet program at school and while he was telling a friend about it they said that there must be a large gender gap. When I walk down the aisle of a clothing store all the girls clothing is pink and purple with heart designs that say “love,” while the boys clothing is blue and grey with dinosaurs and trucks. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to my friend about an essay she had to write about the problems that exist in Bethesda and one of my many suggestions was gender inequality. She looked at me confused and said, “What do you mean? There isn’t gender inequality in this area.” If this is true then why were there were still only 10 girls in my physics class?
When we send the message that girls can’t do math and science or shouldn’t want to do math and science, we are telling the girls that enjoy it that there is something wrong with them. Not only that, we are taking opportunities away from them. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project women make up 47% of the total U.S. workforce but only 27.9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists are women and only 7.2% of mechanical engineers are women. The story that girls should play with pink baby dolls while boys play with Junior chemistry sets shuts girls down at an early age. They are not given the opportunities to enjoy science because that’s not what girls do. The girls that do like math and science and trucks are tomboys. They are tomboys because to like those types of things is considered masculine. Any girl who wants to be girly can’t like science for fear that their femininity will be questioned and this turns little girls off to the idea of science. Rosalyn Yalow, a biophysicist and the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in medicine, said, “In the past, few women have tried and even fewer have succeeded.” Without the opportunity for girls to try science it is impossible for women to enjoy and succeed in it.
When I was little my favorite color was orange, not pink. My friend is one of the four girls in her AP physics class and she wears a skirt at least once a week. My doctor is a women. She is married with three kids and is incredibly smart. Being “girly,” whether that is a little girl liking pink and wearing dresses or a grown women having kids and wearing makeup, is not mutually exclusive to liking math and science. Little girls can play with barbies and trucks.
When we make it clear to girls that they can and should show interest in science it opens a world of opportunities. Not only that but society must make science available to girls. A close family friend of mine started a company called Princess Awesome. It sells dresses for girls with pi symbols, dinosaurs, atoms, trucks, and other designs that are said to be for boys. There are girls who like purple dresses and math and by creating clothing that says girls can do both, it encourages girls to follow their passions.
Adina rocking her dinosaurs headband!