Today my eldest daughter learned about gender stereotypes – using toys as an example – during her school’s morning assembly.
I would like to think that this email (that I sent to her teacher last week) had some influence on that content. I highly doubt it – but I’m proud that I stood up for my principles so that, hopefully, some members of the world’s latest generation might benefit…
“Dear Mrs S,
I’m sure you already know that March is Women’s History Month and that March 8th is International Women’s Day.
I would love to know what special events you have planned for the day and month. After all, with the levels of diversity in gender and race in fields like STEM falling, girls and young women need to see examples of female success more than ever.
Last year Child 1 – rest assured that I did use her given name during the correspondence that ensued – learnt about space. She sang TIm Peake’s praises. He is not the first British astronaut. The first had a Phd in chemistry, worked as a research scientist and even developed new flavours for chocolate.
Helen Sharman was infinitely better qualified for the job but she was dismissed by public opinion. She now has 6 honorary doctorates and is considered an icon in the world of science. You might even call her ‘a megastar’ in the world of science – and the universe of space travel. Tim Peake is just a glorified chauffeur.
Ignoring her contribution to this field was a ridiculous oversight.
If you need study materials, I suggest you have a look at Amy Poehler’s A Mighty Girl. If the school really is committed to change, it should look at the concept of overcoming the deafening lack of intersectionality.
And that is my punt for International Women’s Day this year. If you would like, I would be happy to speak about this in the school. I write about intersectional feminism and women’s rights and I do the social media for a project that is designed to get girls into STEM – and will be speaking about that at an event on the day.
I can also be quite warm and friendly when required. Honestly.
Have a lovely week.
After all my efforts, Child 1 told me what her career plan is on the way home from school. She told me that she would only tell me – ‘because you won’t laugh, Mummy’. Apparently, she wants to grow her hair long and become Rapunzel.
Defeated and deflated, I said “um, great?”.
Amazingly, she had remembered an old version of the story that I told her when she was at nursery.
In it, Rapunzel breaks out of her prison helped by the archer, Valencia. Both women are equally capable but need to work together to overcome their adversary. They also successfully rescue a lost – and clearly quite gormless – ‘handsome prince’.
After their success, our hero chops off all her hair. And sets up shop with the lovely Valencia.
It’s a little win – but I’ll take it nonetheless.
Footnote: while you’re learning all about women in space, you may want to check out Valentina Tereshkova – whose life must count among the most fascinating in recent history.
She qualified for the female cosmonaut program after she was spotted skydiving competitively. She has orbited the earth 48 times – more than any other astronaut. Eventually her space exploration earned her the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.
Now, aged 82, she’s still actively involved in Russian politics – having travelled the world between 1966 and 1990 as the Russian representative for women’s rights to the UN and numerous other international bodies. She’s quite something.
For years publishers have been trying to seduce her into allowing them to publish the mythical correspondence between her and feminist icon, Angela Davis. It’s a no – if you want to read Davis’ work, click here. I recommend it – both women are ferociously inspiring.