on 2009-11-03 07:59 pm (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I also, unsurprisingly, took the intelligence route out of the popularity game. I don't remember race or sex being particular areas of torment for me personally (and yes, despite my being white as can be, in my middle school that was a disrespected minority; that was only for the kids, though, not the adults); what hurt most was watching the black gifted and talented students start failing after being told by peers and sometimes parents that academic success was "white", ugh.

The more I think back on school, though, the more I realize that the vast majority of the racism and sexism that I experienced or saw was self-enforced: the black bullies making it clear that no *real* black kid would succeed in academics or have goals other than street smarts; that same black street culture saying that going to college was the "white" thing to do, and that self-respecting black and hispanic kids would succeed big through sports or drugs; the girls who *knew* that math and science was hard, so of course they should concentrate on the humanities because that was how to be successful; and worse, the girls who thought that the only reason one might want to go to a tech school was for the male-to-female student ratio. And the rest of it was the unfortunate result of soft expectations: "s/he is doing their best, we can't ask them to do more, we all know this is hard" doesn't challenge kids, and doesn't teach them that they *can* do it. And most of the people doing that did it to the same minority groups that they thought they were trying to help.

That said, I do think I've experienced way more sexism since I graduated from school than I ever did in school. There's subtle pressure that of course girls should go into management, because the company wants women to succeed and management (not technical skill) is the Path to Success. (Which has feedback effects; managers are not respected for their technical skill, and managers are female...) And there's the more explicit sexism that occasionally shows up in conferences: when there are five women in a room of eighty people, and three of those are grad students, what's the harm in making jokes about how obviously wives can't handle technical matters and so you need to take things into your own hands when the router's flaky? Ugh. (And at that, you've probably got it worse than I do. At least I'm in software, and occaisionally go to the much more equal-opportunity theory conferences.)

....I'm not sure this adds up to much. But it's interesting to me. And I do wonder how much of my being more willing to see the totally ignored sexism around me in school is because I have been hit with the much more explicit pressure in the workplace. I guess academia, imperfect as it is, is still ahead of the Old Boy's Clubs.
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womanwarrior

November 2009

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