Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This is where it starts

I've been reading with interest several posts about the lack of women pursuing Computer Science degrees. As you all may or may not know, Mr. Geeky teaches CS at Bryn Mawr, an all women's college. Part of why he wanted to come to Bryn Mawr was because he is very interested in increasing the numbers of women in CS. And then there's my own geekiness. I very well might have become a CS major if it hadn't been so hardware and serious code-oriented in the late 80s/early 90s. Also, I was the only woman in the one CS class I took. I nearly failed, both because I found the material simultaneously boring and incomprehensible and because it was an 8 a.m. class. What can I say? I'm not a morning person.

Mr. Geeky and I went Christmas shopping today. Though we have indulged Geeky Girl's propensity for pink and purple, we generally try to interest her in things that are not gender specific. Two days ago, Geeky Girl and I were home alone and I was making cookies. I asked if she wanted to help (Geeky Boy would have helped too if he'd been there). She said yes, but then she never showed up. I cut out all the cookies and baked them and had a pile of cookies to decorate. I harched upstairs to ask her if she wanted to decorate. This time she came down immediately. I asked her what had kept her occupied for the last hour.

"Barbies," she said.
"Oh really," I said. "What were you doing with them?"
"Playing Star Wars."
"I see." Geeky Girl has a slight obsession with Star Wars.
"Only, I don't have enough boy Barbies to play right."
"Oh really?"
"Yeah, I just have one and that's not enough."

So naturally, I decide she must have Star Wars action figures for Christmas. Mr. Geeky agrees. Now, the way presents work at our house is that there are presents from us, wrapped and then presents from Santa, unwrapped, that mysteriously appear after they go to bed on Christmas Eve. Mr. Geeky and I had already decided to get them each some kind of portable game unit from Santa since that's what they both asked for. (We settled on the Nintendo DS, btw.) For presents from us, we settled on the action figures for Geeky Girl and a microscope set for Geeky Boy.

After scouring the land for everything today, we wrapped what we needed to and hid the rest. Then we decided to open the boxes from Mr. Geeky's parents. They way overdo Christmas and I have big issues about it that I should probably have investigated at some point, but let's just say that every year, I have a conniption over the presents they send. At least this year, they wrapped the presents and in each box, they put a list of what what included and for whom. For Geeky Boy, they got a PSP (thanks for telling us; good thing we didn't get that and yes, that's part of my conniption). Geeky Girl's stuff is, well, girl stuff: dolls n shittm.

And that's why I say, this is where it starts. Geeky Girl is 6 and she's already gotten the idea based on what her grandparents and other relatives and friends give her that video games are for boys and dolls n shittm are for girls. I nearly had another conniption over that. I was lucky in that my dad never really thought of us as girls and my mom didn't really force us into girl stuff until we hit puberty, so we got pong and then intellivision and I spent lots of money at the arcade and I was the only person I knew who had their own computer at college (no hard drive, mind you). I want Geeky Girl to decide for herself, not to feel like something is a "girl thing" or a "boy thing." She already thinks that. She tells me what things are for girls and what things are for boys. Oh, and you can bet that Geeky Boy has been trained--by us, that is. He's great with her. He teaches her how to play his video games. He doesn't tell her that it's for boys.

This kind of shit drives me batty because it happens so early without you really realizing it. The world is quickly divided into pink and blue aisles and FSM forgive you if you walk down the wrong one. (Actually, the FSM probably wouldn't care, but whatever.) For what it's worth, Star Wars figures are in the blue aisle and the Padme figure is pregnant (because that's what women are for), but we got it anyway. *This* is what makes parenting hard, because you're not just fighting against your inlaws or a couple of backwards people, you're fighting and entire industry.