Monday, March 19, 2007

And now, a moment for some tangential ranting

When I began culinary school I got a great gig writing recipes and articles about cooking for people enrolled in grocery store loyalty programs around the country. I still do food writing and recently, my friend S. put me on to a daily news digest specifically covering the grocery industry. That's where I found this post:
A while back you had an article about female bosses and sexism in the workplace. You mentioned a party invitation from your daughter’s middle school, where the girls’ (pink) invitation was for a Sweet Dreams Pajama Party and the boys’ (brown) invitation was for a Poker Party. Obvious gender stereotyping.

My daughter is a high school junior. The other day she received a brochure from the School of Engineering at a major Midwestern university. They are offering separate engineering-oriented summer camps for high school "guys" and "girls." The male version (green block print) was called was called "SURVIVOR: ENGINEERING OUTBACK (Guys-only Engineering Camp)." The female version (pink with curlicues) was called "Project Discovery (it’s a Girl thing)."

The Guys "complete an intensive engineering project including field work led by our professors". The Girls "attend hands-on lab sessions."

The Guys "explore engineering specialties hands-on" while the Girls "gain an understanding of what engineers do."

The Guys "see engineering in action on a mid-week field trip" while the Girls "tour engineering facilities with our faculty."

The Guys go "GPS geocaching, rock climbing, and other fun stuff" while the girls "develop problem-solving skills through team-building exercises."

The contact for the Guys’ Camp was the Director of Recruitment, while the contact for the Girls’ Camp was the Director of Diversity.

Guess which college my daughter crossed off her list!
OK, now here's where things get tangential, but this is a blog about creative endeavors written by a MidWestern girl (who can see 40 looming on the horizon but who actually just rejected the word 'woman' because it sounded uptight, maybe even discreditingly so), after all; please bear with me.

One of my nieces is also a high school junior. Until recently, she's wanted to be an engineer. Now she's not so sure. Likewise, a younger cousin showed tremendous capacity for engineering--her senior project was awarded a U.S. patent and she solved a thorny design problem on one of her first days at a German automotive company by very intuitively correcting a drawing so that a brake part 'looked right'--but quit and became a math teacher, in part because she didn't feel comfortable in a dominantly masculine work environment.

As for me, I've just spent a weekend visiting with a friend who I realized has played a very important role as a model for me over the years. She's half a generation ahead of me and is a teacher, as I was until 2003. She's also a sojourner, a risk-taker, a mother, an entrepreneur, and a tremendous believer in human potential.

My grandmother had to quit school at 14 to help out on the farm. My mother was the first in her family to attend college, and felt she could choose between being a nurse and a teacher. Me, I'm overeducated and underengaged. I taught for 12 years partly out of love and commitment to social justice, but partly because I didn't know what else I could do, and was afraid to find out. Now, four years into that discovery process, I am still my own biggest enemy. It's too easy for me to write off (or more critically, to not write of) my interests and talents as being inconsequential.

As a teacher, I hope that I helped some of my young students to appreciate their worth. I hope that whatever my nieces decide to pursue, they will know the pleasure of being crazily in love with their creative process. I am grateful for friends--and now my husband, too--who keep showing me how it's done and insisting that I do it, too. And to you, if you're still reading this. La la la.

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