Sometimes, when surrounded by more open-minded and modern-thinking young adults, it’s easy to forget that sexism is still very rampant. Women majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) fields particularly face a lot of prejudice. Sometimes it comes from outsiders — older people who aren’t used to a changing world. Sometimes, however, it can come from friends and family in ways that they probably don’t think. But more commonly it can come from fellow students in the field and sometimes professors, too.
“You’re too pretty to be an engineer.”This one is deceiving because to the person saying it, it sounds like a compliment. Everyone wants to be called pretty, right? But to the girl listening to that statement, there are a lot of sexist undertones. First of all, it carries the heavy implication that people smart enough to be engineers aren’t pretty, which consequently implies that the receiver of this statement looks stupid. If you flip it around, it’s also offensive to engineers by implying they’re not attractive. There’s no point in this statement — no one’s “too pretty” to be anything that they want to be.
“I bet you’ll find a rich engineer for a husband.”First of all, there’s the assumption that the girl being addressed is heterosexual. But most importantly, there’s that all-too-common belief that the main goal of women is to land a husband. While there maybe are some individuals out there motivated to find a rich husband, most people choose their majors because they simply like them, not because they want to find a certain type of spouse.
“Girls can’t do physics. Their brains are wired differently.”This one is just nonsense. I’ve actually heard this from a professor, who said that technology majors would be more accessible to girls if physics was not a requirement because, he claimed, “girls can’t do physics.” Not only is saying this extremely sexist, but it’s also extremely discouraging and very rude to say it to one’s students. This is also a common mentality among male students, who assume they have done better in a class, and it stems from their own insecurity. A good way to deal with this is to casually walk up and claim that 10/10 quiz in discussion and saunter off.
“You don’t really like [insert STEM major]. You’re just doing it for attention.”This makes total sense, of course, because why would someone spend hours and hours studying for their science and math classes if they didn’t like it? Saying this to someone immediately invalidates their dedication. It’s just a rude thing to say to someone who has probably spent more time deciding their schedule for the next four years than you have.
Most women in STEM fields have sadly heard these phrases more than a couple of times. Ignoring them and putting on a smile does nothing usually, and it’s about time that we stand up and tell people who disrespect women in STEM fields that it’s not okay. Don’t dull your sparkle for anyone else, collegiettes! If you’re a STEM major, embrace it and be proud of that.
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