Have you ever had an adult tell you that you couldn’t do something because you were a girl? Have you ever been treated like a fragile piece of beauty that could shatter without a moment’s notice? Have you ever been excluded from more “masculine” activities that you wanted to participate in?
The girl in this video would answer yes to all of the above questions.
We are now in the year 2016 and it still surprises me that little boys and little girls are not treated equally. The old ideas of patriarchy and chivalry still linger even in the good parts of today’s society. The slightest change in word choice shared between adults and their male or female children could go on to make a larger impact on their children’s development.
After watching this video and hearing the slight absurdity in the parent’s voices, I was transported back in time to when I was growing up back home in Texas. Even though the Latinx culture cherishes the female and strives to protect women from all harm within a family, I never felt the pressure of fragility upon my shoulders. It was not until now, as I think back and reflect on my upbringing, that I can pick out small, almost insignificant, instances where the perception of the “flowering little girl” became an obstacle.
I think back to when my father bought his first big truck for his new company and how, to this day, I have not had the chance to ride in it. However, every chance he got, my father would take my two younger brothers along to look under the hood and occupy the passenger seat. “Don’t worry about it mijita, you don’t want to get your dress full of grease anyway. I’ll take you shopping later!” I never really minded, especially because mechanics were not my thing and I had no desire to become an engineer, but I can imagine how the same treatment of a different little girl who was fascinated by how the gears fit perfectly within each other and simultaneously revolved in opposite directions to bring life to machinery could bring her spirits down.
Maybe this is because I am becoming the first scientist in my entire family, but I am fortunate enough to never have felt the pull-back that I know some of my peers have felt throughout their lives when showing an interest in STEM. Many of my friends’ parents suggested “easier to get” or “more realistic” degree possibilities when we all, at one point or another, wanted to be astrophysicists and marine biologists. I remember my best friend from high school having the same dream as I did of becoming a world-renowned surgeon with accolades that would compete with those mentioned on Grey’s Anatomy. Our roads diverged when her parents sat her down and convinced her to stay at home for college and get a quick degree before she had the chance to explore her options and her far-reaching dreams soon crumbled. Here at Harvard, because of its long standing history and deep seeded roots of a liberal arts college, the desire to throw in the towel on all the psets in exchange for engaging in a good book is constantly pulling on the minds of the dwindling pre-med population, especially the female portion. The silver lining appears whenever I notice that my section for Chem 17 is 90% female.
Call them misogynist remarks or a slap of reality, the language that we use towards the children in our lives needs to be altered to keep up with the changing dynamics of society. If we keep telling little girls that “they can’t,” they never will close the wage gap or run for president. We may advocate for gender equality in a world still run by (mostly) white males but our words and our tones may contradict our beliefs. Little girls’ and little boys’ bodies start off relatively the same in strength and fragility, so why do we as a society caress the girls while allowing the boys to roll in mud and jump off of high rocks? This small restraint that is felt by most little girls has the ability to carry on throughout their lives and affect the dreams they choose to pursue.
I was lucky enough to receive my first science experiment kit at the age of 7 and my first small-science-textbook-to-read-for-fun at around age 11. I was fortunate enough to have the educational doors blown wide open for me once I began to show an earnest interest in the things that fascinated me and this intrigue is what led me to Harvard. Not every little girl is this lucky.
Instead of scolding our girls for using a power tool on their latest invention, let’s commend them on their effort. Instead of teaching our girls to balance books on their heads, let’s teach them to balance equations. And instead of snatching a copy of National Geographic from our girls’ hands, let’s ask them about what they’re reading and why they find it so fascinating. There are mountains of possibilities out there for all little girls to explore; let’s stop limiting their perceptions of the world.
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