This is a guest post by Elizabeth Gregory, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University.
Have you ever been watching a movie/TV show or reading a book/magazine article and all of a sudden been confronted with a reminder that you (a lady) are not the target audience?
I had no television for a few years so, although I watched The Big Bang Theory when it first aired, I haven’t watched it in a long time. A few weeks ago I caught an episode and I was struck by this scene. HA HA! Women never go to comic book stores! Because they are girls! Hilarious! I always enjoyed the show because it reveled in geek culture, but this is what I hear from this scene:
Me: I like your show.
Them: That’s cool and everything, but it isn’t for you.
Me: It’s on TV, isn’t it for everyone? It’s not even on Cable.
Them: Well yeah, but it is for geeks.
Me: I’m a geek.
Them: We mean guy geeks. You know, real geeks.
About a year ago, I was reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk. The narrator of the story is a woman. In one part, she describes having a catheter as something plastic stuck in your vagina. Here is the thing. I don’t pee from my vagina and I haven’t ever heard of a women that does and I certainly don’t consider my urethra as part of my vagina. Here is my imaginary conversation with Chuck Palahniuk.
Me: Do you really think women pee from their vaginas?
Him: Eeew. I don’t know what happens down there.
Me: This is basic human anatomy.
Him: No, it is women’s anatomy, not regular anatomy. I’m close, right? The pee definitely comes from that general location, right?
Me: What I don’t understand is how you didn’t have one editor read this and point out that this is anatomically wrong. Especially since, throughout the book, you describe in great detail other parts of the human body and their function. This seems be a fact checking error.
Him: I feel like most people are confused by lady parts. As previously stated, Eeew!
When I was a senior in Aerospace Engineering, we all took senior seminar. It was a 1 credit class (compared to a regular 3 credit class) in which the head of the department talked to us about interviews, jobs, life insurance, firing people, mortgages, and ethics. I remember he brought in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) code of ethics. Here is item 2.3 (emphasis mine):
The member will inform his employer or client if he is financially interested in any vendor or contractor, or in any invention, machines, or apparatus, which is involved in a project or work of his employer or client. The member will not allow such interest to affect his decision regarding services which he may be called upon to perform.
This document was approved in 1978, so it is old; but it hasn’t been changed. Here is an imaginary conversation with people who do not see that this is exclusionary.
Them: But HE is the generic pronoun, it includes women.
Me: Yeah, I know, that is why when the line for the ladies room is long, I use the men’s room. You know, because the word men really means both men and women.
The message is that I am not in the club. You know “the club” Silly me for thinking that liking geeky things makes me a geek, or being a women who enjoys Chuck Palahniuk novels means that he would consider that women actually read them, or that earning 2 degrees in Engineering and paying my membership dues to AIAA means that I am a member and the code of ethics should apply to me too. I am just a girl and I see now that the sloppily painted sign on the tree house does in fact say “No Girls Allowed”
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