On Gender and Collective Action

I take my responsibilities as a role model very seriously. I know on a deep personal level the impact that one adult can have. In seventh grade I had a science teacher, he was male, and not that it matters for the purpose of our relationship but also Mormon. He was like a father to me. I spent every day after school in his room until I had to go home. He is probably the reason I stayed out of trouble. In every science class after his, except for high school physics, I never felt as comfortable again. This teacher was very adamant about the participation of women and girls in science and constantly encouraged me to be as strong as possible. He told me that women were just as smart but that they used language to undermine themselves, he banned the word thingy from my vocabulary and I have not said a statement as a question since. He was teaching me to Lean In way before Silicon Valley acted like that was a revolutionary concept.

I entered Stanford with a very aggressive personality and with a lot less concern about my femininity than most of my peers. This does not mean that I did not struggle, I struggled privately. I selected men who would silence me. It is hard to avoid doing this as a woman in this world. All of the messaging and all of the training, whole structures built to encourage us to sit on the sidelines in silence. This gets played out in classrooms everyday, where the boys (especially my white boys!) have free reign to talk and the girls only timidly (most of this also applies to other marginalized groups). My female students have watched female teachers back down when challenged by their own students. I’ve seen female teachers commit all of the verbal ticks that undermine women when we speak. I’ve resorted to explicitly telling my female students what those ticks are and how to avoid them. I make an active effort to teach them not to do that because someone made that effort.

At the end of my lecture about speaking I said this: “I’ve been called names. All of the names. But you know what, when there is a group of men smoking cigars and making decisions, I am at that meeting.” Here’s the deal, we’ve been dealing with this system for so long that we sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees. Are there consequences for challenging the status quo? Sure. I’ve experienced all of them, but those consequences are less damaging than the consequences for not doing that. Especially when we talk about women.

Here’s the deal, ladies. If we all get up one morning and decide we aren’t going to be silenced, that we aren’t going to put up with anymore crap, that we are going to challenge or ignore the barriers that hold us back, and that we are going to hold men to high expectations, they will just have to suck it up. If we all get together and decide that we are no longer going to starve ourselves for a silly ideal, they will still date us, because they don’t have a choice. If we all get up in the morning and refuse to put up with their commitment-phobia, with them getting upset about being upstaged, with them being rape apologists, then they will just have to deal with it. They don’t have a choice in the matter. What are they going to do at this point? Cry? Tell us that we are making them feel bad? Refuse to date us? Complain about it Reddit? That is really all they have left, so there really is no reason to allow this nonsense to continue.


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