Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it….

Since listening to Audrey Watter’s guest chat I have been thinking more about the issues of gender and power in the tech world. This morning I also watched the archived chat that Mardelle organized to further explore gender issues. Thank you so much Mardelle! At my school many of teachers involved in tech are female, so while I was aware of gender issues affecting science and math I hadn’t given it much thought in regards to tech. Then I realized that there is a divide. The programmers, tech support and developers at my school are all male and the innovators and creative forward thinking techies are mostly female. Hmm… As I listened to my tie grad cohort give personal examples of gender bias that they are exposed to and the gender/ cultural issues that they experience with their students I found myself relating more and more and realized that gender inequality is a big issue in all aspects of our lives. I remember being a teenager and having an older man tell me “don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” I was furious but didn’t do or say anything because I felt that he was well meaning and that he would be shocked by my response. It was easier to take it and do nothing. I was very interested to read how Audrey’s talk inspired other cohort members. Tanya’s blog on Bending Gender had me nodding in agreement and appalled when I followed her link and viewed the Global News segment on the bullying of  pregnant meteorologist Kristi Gordon. I have also been following the media reports on Monica Lewinsky and her Ted talk on public shaming. How easy it is to use our new media tools to propagate stereotypes and shame those that refuse to comply. But public shaming and gender stereotyping have been around long before technology appeared.  Power and control are issues that have plagued humankind since life began. Most ancient religions are based on strict ideologies surrounding the roles of men and women. While I think North American society has made good inroads into at least acknowledging the issue, I am continually horrified by reports from around the world about the brutal treatment of women that is cloaked in religious or cultural dogma. Reading Harprit’s reflection, about the horrific rape case in New Delhi, I too was struck by Harprit’s observation that “what is especially disturbing is the lack of remorse felt by the guilty parties and their justification for their actions.” It is hard to believe that in the 21st century we are still trying to convince people that women are just as important as men. It is tempting, when surrounded by so many horrific examples of gender discrimination, to stick one’s head in the sand, to pretend everything is ok, because the alternative of standing up and challenging these ideas puts you at risk. At risk of being shamed, or judged, or in many parts of the world physically injured. But, technology has also shown us another side. The side that sticks up for what is wrong. The 14,000 people who supported Kristi Gordon on Facebook. The 2,503,938 people who have watched Monica Lewinsky’s Ted talk. The global social media outrage that resulted in rape convictions for the Delhi rapists. Audrey Watters helped me to realize that we shouldn’t let the little things slip, because awareness of inequity means doing our part to stop those little things from growing and multiplying into something very dangerous. She made a very important point that in the tech world it matters who builds computers because people solve problems that matter to them. So the next time someone tells me not to worry my pretty little head about it, I will tell them exactly how I feel and why it is important for them to listen.


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