Thursday, July 10, 2014

What if we Erased History?

I remember the first time I realized that I'm a girl and there is another gender who are "boys"; it was when my cousin who is 10 months younger than me chanted to us, girls: "boys are lions, they are like swords; girls are mice, they are like bunnies". It wasn't the words that made me pause, there was no shame or pride in being an animal, be it a lion or a bunny. But to my preschooler brain his tone was rather condescending and offensive, or really defensive as there were five of us girl cousins and two of them boy cousins at the scene.  That was just the beginning.  Later I heard that women couldn't judge, or they were not as smart as boys, or that boys are more powerful than girls. None made sense to my little being but people insisted. All the childhood movies were filled with weak girls and ladies and women and powerful heroes. I subconsciously started searching for heroines and I was thrilled the first time I saw Mary Curie's movie, or read the biography of Helen Clair, or heard about an 11th century poet, Rabiah.  I saw that there was Margaret Thatcher as the British Prime Minister but I realized that she was the only one in the regular foreign news.
Middle school was an interesting time when we got accepted to the National Organization for Developing Exceptional Talents school. There we were.  So called talented girls. And just on the other side of the city was a mirroring middle school with so called talented boys. We were sometimes evaluated with a similar test and there came another interesting pattern. Most if not all the times there was a boy with the highest score yet the average score of the girls was higher than that of the boys. We were studying logic at the time. So I though "there is a boy who is smarter than all girls".  Yet I thought it couldn't be absolute. There must be a girl somewhere in this world who is smarter than all boys and girls. Who could prove me wrong? And with the same logic I thought most men are stronger than most women but there is a woman somewhere in the world who is stronger than all men.  Who could prove me wrong?
So I pursued maths and physics in high school and I proved I could do great even though I didn't study much at all and when I set my goal to get accepted to an engineering program in the best university I could, I did.  I earned acceptance to even better programs too but my dad didn't allow me go because they were in another city, which is beside the point here.  University was another challenge of its own with 50+ boys and only 2 girls in my major.  I continued studying as little as possible and did fine.  I knew I needed to win the battle of boys and girls and I did so by differentiating myself through knowing a foreign language very well and excelling in computational mechanics. And so I did. Then I pursued my master's degree in a foreign university in computational dynamics and I felt happy and accomplished.
Years passed and I became a mother of a sweet smart mischievous little boy.  Life was fair and square until the day my son started public school. Little by little phrases such as "this movie is for girls" or "this color is girly" entered his communication.  I was happy to see that most children books, at least the ones I read with my son, were unbiased about boys and girls and men and women until Annie and Jack, the main characters of the chapter book series xxx he was reading, went back in time to Athene to watch the Olympics and Annie was forbidden from entering the stadium on the account that she was a girl.  And I thought "it began". For him too.
I haven't stopped but wonder, what if the history was never recited to this generation, would there still be gender biases?

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