When I read Zuska’s comments about Science Cheerleader, I thought Science Cheerleader had to be a parody. Apparently it’s not–but it is in fact a total joke, because (for example) it suggests that “What Everyone Needs To Know To Be A (sic) Science Literate” is the cheerleaders from the Philadelphia 76ers in spangly bras and short-shorts reading the words of an actual physicist. The actual physicist does not don a bra-top and short-shorts and read the science concepts himself. I wonder why not? Maybe because he understands that it’s never a mark of status to appear publicly in a state of undress? (In my period and field, for example, the only people portrayed as unclothed are enslaved people–and they’re almost never represented as wearing clothing at all, whereas 17th and 18th century portraits of white people are more portraits of clothing than of individuals. Clothes make the man, indeed!)
Anyway, back to science. Zuska writes:
Okay, let’s play what if. What if the Science Cheerleaders are responsible for making just one girl stick with her science & math classes – isn’t it all worthwhile then?
Let’s say the Science Cheerleaders do keep one girl in advanced science or math classes, but make three other girls feel like they have to pornulate themselves in order to be 21st Century Fembot Compliant While Doing Science, and make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab and harass some colleague because hawt science women WANT to be appreciated for being sexay and smart! – is it still worth it?
She then goes on to describe an effective outreach program she worked with to get more girls, especially girls who would be first-generation college students, into STEM fields. GROW–Girls Researching Our World–sounds like a fantastic program, involving a summer camp program and other events scheduled through the school year. Zuska explains that it’s not looking like a cheerleader that’s important to these girls–it’s whether or not women can be scientists and have a dog, have a house, wear jeans to work, work with cool gear, and be normal and fun and self-sufficient. As one of them explained to a clueless Football camper, “GROW, as in grow up, get a good job, and make a lot of money!”
I did a presentation and Q and A session for some third- and fourth-graders a few years’ back about being a historian, and the kind of questions Zuska’s GROW students asked the women scientists sounded a lot like the questions I got asked, which were more about how being a historian fit into my whole life, and how my whole life was enabled by my work. (They were particuluarly jazzed about the idea of travelling for work. Believe it or not, research trips are what sounded super-cool to them!)
Aside: I wonder if the key is getting to some of these kids before the pressures of adolescence and before girls in particular fall into worries about their looks and body image? Middle school may be too late for some girls.
There is, indeed, no reason why a woman can’t be both cute and smart. But that was hardly the issue facing the young girls I saw in Kansas. It was lack of knowledge, lack of access, teachers and guidance counselors who didn’t know what was necessary for sci/eng careers and didn’t think it was all that important anyway to steer young girls towards them, parents who were overwhelmed and didn’t know about these careers or how to take the first step to get their kids on the college prep pathway let alone to a sci/eng career, young girls who were just dying for adults to invest some time and energy in caring for them and their bright minds and what they were capable of doing.
Science Cheerleaders is, at the very best, an outreach program for already-privileged girls who are already interested in science/engineering but who are afraid it will make them look like fat lesbians.
Right on. And, one might ask, what is a super-smart and talented fat lesbian kid supposed to do with a program like Science Cheerleader, anyway? Is she not deserving of encouragement and support?
Thanks for the shout-out to Fembots, Zuska! For those of you dames d’un certain age, you might appreciate this. (Just in time for the Christmas shopping season!)