Geeks Needing Makeovers?
24 Mar 2004
One of my new tasks at work is to find news articles that would be of interest to our clients and do a little link, description write up for our corporate homepage. Most of these are pretty straightforward marketing and businessy press release type things that I get at Australian IT News. Today I was taking a brief browse in between other frantic tasks to try and pick out something newsworthy-ish when I came across this article and stopped up short.
The headline confused me into thinking it was another of those "single geek guy can't find a girlfriend" type of articles, so I was expecting a certain degree of lameness. Apparently, though, the article is actually even lamer-- it's about how IT work is so unglamorous that girls don't want to study technology and move into the field.
They fall back on the same tired arguments that IT is too technical for most girls. It needs to be made to seem more creative and enticing for those non-technical female types so they won't feel too nerdy studying engineering or information technology.
I think one of the reasons why I like the Fatshadow blog so much (despite the fact that it's not at all technical) is that I can relate to Tish Parmeley's battle with the cultural perception of fat bodies. Even after the development of geek chic and the reclaiming geekiness movement, I really get tired of hearing about the cultural perception of technically inclined people.
I believe that a female person's interests are not defined by gender, but are culturally influenced. I believe that women learn from society what they are supposed to be good at and are interested in. Yes, there are gender-based differences. I'm not saying we're all exactly the same. I just think it's BS that because I have 2 x chromosomes, I'm somehow statistically more likely to do something. I don't buy it. Sorry. So why cater to cultural influence? Why not change it?
I don't understand why all the implications of the word "geek" (intelligence and technical interest and like of computers being primary in this context) also go hand in hand with uncool or boring or bad.
And also, why is the solution to glam up IT? Why isn't it OK to be unglamorous? Isn't there a bigger cultural issue at stake here? Like wtf is the big deal with glamor in choosing a career? Are we all such television-soaked zombies that we can only imagine doing something with our lives that's featured in a prime time drama? I don't think there's much material in my professional life for a popular television show-- but my work satisfies me and I'm happy with what I do. In fact, I'm glad it's not glamorous. I don't have time for that.
The only thing I think the article really hit on that was important was:
Students also have difficulty naming male and female role models working in, or associated with, IT.
Well, yeah, duh. Maybe because as a culture we don't a) value technical skill and prowess as much as athletics or sex appeal b) value women? And maybe because, historically, women were discouraged from technological fields because it was a boy's club, and it wasn't OK for women to do something not perceived as girly?
I don't disagree with some of the points in the article-- that IT classes can be boring and don't tap into the full potential of what you can do with computers (I was bored with some of my CS classes at uni. I was also incredibly bored in English 101.)-- that there aren't enough female mentors and role models in IT. I'm just frustrated that the article comes up with a dumb bandaid for a deeper problem that just perpetuates negative stereotypes and underlying cultural issues. Let's get to the meat, here, people!