Hello blogiverse. I am going to re-direct my book-reviewing soapbox for just a moment here and share some thoughts on a topic that only tangentially aligns with books. Firstly, a hat-tip to Alyssa at Think Progress for finally catalyzing me to share my spock-aspirations with y’all, in Action Princesses and Making the Hero’s Journey Available to Everyone | ThinkProgress.
Why so much emphasis on “girls need female role-models”?
Don’t get me wrong: as a female reader I’ve always enjoyed encountering a female character who carries out her/my goals with larger-than-life success. No question, that’s excellent.
But, seriously: is there a species-wide gender-restriction on aspirations? I must not have gotten the memo. “Despite” the dearth of female characters, when I was ten years old I loved watching re-runs of the original Star Trek say 1979. Gender ratios not unlike undergraduate Computer Science at MIT, come to think of it. But anyhow, I looked at all the characters there and decided that… I wanted to be Spock. Why not Uhura – she’s female, right? Well, kudos for getting a spot on the bridge, but simply reporting what others say… boooo-ring. Being a nurse? Meh, not my thing. I grabbed onto the idea of being able to lay the facts and logic out there, raise an eyebrow, and ‘poof’ the indisputable truth of one’s statements just kicks ass. (Yah, no, I know logic doesn’t win that way IRL all the time. That doesn’t stop me from trying 🙂 )
Be Scotty, Be Janeway
So, perhaps what parents, teachers, and mentors should be doing is: ditch the gender-categories in the lists and promote all the role models for everyone. Encourage your little boy to be a starship captain: just like Kathryn Janeway. Cheer for your little girl to be an engineer like Scotty. Of course it’s possible.
[update] – I forgot to hat-tip the following blog article that I read during my multi-month think-period leading to this post. In “I never wanted to be a boy” Culturally Disoriented pays tribute to many (female) writers who provide strong (female) role models. I agree, there is lots to enjoy in those books – I love those authors. But still, don’t limit your aspirations to what others have already accomplished. Practice your “warrior” fighting!