Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hidden Figures

Minnesota son and his wife brought what they insisted was a must-see movie with them to show us over Easter. Fio protested that she isn't much for movies anymore, but Son persisted, and Fio's glad he did because she was glued to the screen for every minute of Hidden Figures.

Yes, it was the story of discrimination against black women, in this case, mathematicians in the NASA space program, but, as the story unfolded, Fio began to realize that it was also about the taken-for-granted societal pigeon-holing of all women. Girls are not supposed to be as smart as boys, not as ambitious, not as venturesome. A girl who speaks up is unattractive, as Fio herself learned when she was taken aside by her eighth grade social studies teacher and gently told that the boys would not like her if she knew the answers to all the questions. And when she scored highest in her school on the DAR American history exam and was part of a scripted radio presentation with the boys who had won the medal in the other schools, she had to read a silly line about Betsy Ross while the guys covered Revolutionary war heroes.

These are minor irritants compared to racial discrimination, of course, but representative of the way females of all races are automatically marginalized in our society, as happened during out presidential election. A woman doesn't have the "right stuff" to be president, but a stuffed shirt with testicles does. Women are too emotional or too dramatic or too shrill, but a man is excused his childish outbursts, outright lies, and limited vocabulary.

The horrible part of all this is our complicity. Yes, just as the black women in the NASA program took it for granted that they could only use the  "colored" restroom, a "colored" coffeepot, and "colored" educational facilities, women of every color have, through the ages, gone along with the expected female stereotype--attractive, conciliatory, and non-threatening.

What other model did we have?

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