Why should any woman get any degree in a STEM discipline? Especially if she has to wade through tons of bullshit courses to get there, and part of the learning, it appears, has to do with learning how to be someone you aren’t? Some other gender, some other race – or some other social class?
skeptifem challenges the female STEM universe thus:
I am not working in some kind of grueling coursework, so I am not “most of us”, I guess. What happened to me was that I never imagined I could be a college graduate or learn the sciences/maths (mostly because of being a woman in this culture), and I ended up doing some college courses because it was financially possible for once. I learned how much bs you have to go through to get the lowest of college achievement: an associates degree. I was helped a lot by my chemistry and math courses (though I did self teach most of that shit). A good example of how intolerable everything became is my first english class. I had to learn about all the various forms of citation, and that bullshit took up the majority of the course work for the semester. This wasn’t about english or writing- it was instruction to show that you had been to college, period. It was even more snobbish in that learning the preferred citation method for your major was something that would be important from that point on. Footnoting accomplishes absolutely everything meant to be contained in the different (and completely ARBITRARY) citation styles. I can’t deal with it. I don’t know how much college I can realistically take as a result. Noam Chomsky wrote about how there were social programs available for new ivy league college professors that teach things like what wines to drink and how to taste em. The shit just builds up thicker from this point on, and I am not sure that it is really for me anymore. I am not going to quit learning- I learn about math and science in my free time, without the credit. The awarding of certificates for doing so is so much more about conformity than learning that I am unwilling to do much more of it. I am happy learning without a GPA or deadline for understanding the material.
I am attempting to unionize my work place. I don’t know if moving up the latter is worth a damn. This is the kind of thing that matters to me now.
I kinda wanted to vent because I am commenting and conversing with all these women with extraordinary training in their fields and I am pretty out of place when it comes down to it. That kind of work used to be my ambition but I don’t think it is realistic or worthwhile anymore. Convince me otherwise lady scientists/engineers/students, I am open to listening.
Personally, I don’t think skeptifem is out of place AT ALL, but I see the point she is making. Okay, female science blogosphere: are there any good reasons for skeptifem to hang on to an ambition for a STEM degree and/or career in a STEM field?
A thousand years ago, when my parents really sacrificed to send me off to college, it was absolutely clear to me that I was not going to “waste” any time mucking about in majors like English or history, as I might have chosen to do if I’d come from a well-to-do family. I needed to pick something that had a high probability of landing in me in reasonably well-paid employment upon graduation, and engineering was it. Any other interests had to be tucked in around the sides – a one-credit course in the piano one summer to bring my roster up to 10 credits, a full-time load (my only brush with piano lessons); an African literature course used to complete a required “sequence” of liberal arts courses in one subject area; a theater course, fulfilling another liberal arts requirement, giving me an excuse to get away from homework and go to some plays (and develop a lifelong love of theater).
But, even as a child, I can remember feeling that school was training me to be a subordinate in a culture — nearly a caste system — where the people who have money and power were different from us in personal style, language, and values. The suited professionals in their BMWs looked like members of some kind of alien occupation army; there was no possibility of communicating with them on equal terms. And they seemed to wield almost absolute power — over rent, jobs, health care, schools, prices — from inaccessible conference rooms in downtown office buildings. We never met their children because they lived in faraway suburbs.
Becoming a scientist worked out well for me in many ways, personally, despite all the hardships entailed (by me and family), and despite having to put up with a lot of extraneous bullshit to prove I was a member of the tribe (such membership, of course, always subject to review at a moment’s notice, without warning, by any REAL member who so chooses). But there are other values, too. During a lot of the time I was becoming, and being, a STEM-ladee, I was a clueless douchewad about sexism and racism and heterosexism and ableism and every other -ism you can think of. I totally support the goal of diversifying the scientific workforce, as a worthy end in its own right, without giving a crap about the politics of that diversified workforce. But of course, I also care a great deal about the politics of the scientific workforce. So I support agitating the current scientific workforce, in all its ghostly pallor and wankish glory, to take a long critical look at our reigning values. (For example.) We must constantly be reminded to consistently ask difficult questions of ourselves – because history shows we generally aren’t going to remind ourselves. Otherwise,scientific praxis becomes as self-satisfying as a circle-jerk, and just as fruitful, too.
skeptifem has done a great job of posing a difficult question here. So how do we answer? This is a really important question, and a good example of why I don’t think skeptifem is out of place, and why I get so tired of reading yet all those pieces about how increasing the number of women in STEM hinges on our ability to market better, because those crazee ladeez just don’t understand what a great fit STEM careers are for the caretaking and nurturing social relevance interests so dear to their hearts. What are good reasons for a woman with an interest – a love, even – of STEMmy things, to pursue a degree or career in a STEM field? What are good reasons for her to pursue her interests in STEMmy things in other ways?
N.B.: skeptifem, if I have mis-translated what you were getting at in your comment, please feel free to amplify in the comments here.
Very Special N.B. to thegoodman: it would be most helpful and appreciated if you would keep quiet and listen a great deal on this thread. You may even learn some things if you do.