Tuesday, March 08, 2011

For International Women's Day

And now for something a little more serious.

I think these may be separate days, but around this time last year there was a call for people on the internet to make a blog post about an inspirational woman. It may have been in the STEM (Science Technology Math Engineering) fields specifically, but I don't remember. Last year I missed the date and felt kind of bad, so this year I'm going to do it (probably) early, and no less on International Women's Day.

I thought about this for a little while. Ada Lovelace is a strong suggestion, being arguably the first computer programmer in human history...but I've only recently become aware of her and her contributions to math and computer science. No, I have selected a figure far more ingrained in my memory, one Roberta Bondar. Take a look at that article. The woman has, like, six university degrees. I couldn't even manage a lousy one! She's also a celebrated landscape photographer. On top of that, she has visited the Final Frontier.

Roberta Bondar became something of a childhood hero to me when I first read (and then re-read something like a million times) her book eight days in space. I still remember at least one fact from that book: she found out that in microgravity, she no longer required glasses or contact lenses as her eyeballs had assumed the 'correct' shape, and could see normally. Along with Star Wars, Star Trek, and this one film that I think was called "Space Camp" (which, like her book, I revisited an innumerable number of times as a child), I think it is safe to say that her book fuelled my desire to become an Engineer or Astronaut. Unfortunately...

I would like to raise a rhetorical toast to Ms. Bondar on today, International Women's Day, in the hopes that many fine women will follow her example.

Hear, hear!


Daydream Believer said...

Drawing extra-special attention to women in the math/science type fields has the unfortunate (and undoubtedly unintended) side effect of serving to devalue those in all the rest of the fields.

The same way drawing extra-special attention to working women serves to devalue supermoms.

Daydream Believer said...

Although Roberta Bondar was definitely one of my childhood icons as well.

Etarran said...

It's worse than that, I think. The message we're sending by doing that is something like "Oh, look at that! It's a woman! Doing SCIENCE! How precious! Isn't that just the cutest thing?"

Loud said...

That's correct if you assume that the point of highlighting someone's contributions to a field is always going to include a subtext of "how cute!" or "how unlikely" or "how strange", and I don't think that's true in the slightest.

The reason that I think it's important to point these people out (which is a little disingenuous, as Ms. Bondar is, in this case, already famous among Canadians) is that she - and people like her - are shining beacons of achievement to be emulated. Roberta Bondar is a sublime role model for any theoretical daughters I have, and sons as well; was she not a childhood hero of mine?

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.