I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and the more I see articles and blogs online talking about the importance of girls and women taking on Science subjects and technical jobs, I fear for the ones who choose to go non-technical.
For far too long, the world has thrust the Arts on women because it’s easy. (Or so they think it is) A degree in any of the many Arts subjects is a safe choice for a girl — and a cheaper choice for her father — because a few years down the line, the girl would get married and settle to doing dishes anyway. It’s hard to believe that that was the reasoning in my mother’s generation. And, although it makes me sick, I can accept that even the narrow minds that make our society have a right to their own beliefs.
All of that said and done, things are changing faster than ever now. Well, the reason for this rapid change is perhaps the long-standing narrow-mindedness. Now anywhere I go, any web page I open, and any Twitter account I come across has a supportive declaration to women in technology. I’m happy that it’s so. As someone whose salary stems from the tech industry, I’m happy to see that people are becoming more broad in their minds.
But I’m also afraid.
I’m afraid for girls and women like me. Girls and women who preferred to major in an Arts subject because that is their true passion. When all the world (and his scientist wife) encourages more womenfolk to take up technical subjects, it seems that without a direct reference, the world is discouraging women from taking up Arts. Ironical, if you think about it. There was a time when people frowned upon women in science, a practice that’s now flipped: it’s the women in Arts who’re now frowned upon.
Women in Arts — women who chose the Arts because they wanted to — are now the weaklings in society. People look at a literature major and wonder if she’s too foolish to major in mathematics. Of course, I know literature and history demand as much as number-crunching and memory building as mathematics and physics. Regardless, our colleagues looking down on us, because we’re not as tech-savvy as they expect us to be, is a little worrying.
Some of this mentality flows from the ideology of empowering women. In recent years, so many influencers have presented TED talks and YouTube interviews about the great women in scientific and challenging industries that as a result, they’ve underplayed the Arts a little too much. I realise this isn’t often intentional, it’s a consequence nevertheless. While our society empowers (read: permits) women to take on male-dominant areas of work and study, it penalises those who don’t.
Perhaps penalise is too strong of a word to describe it. However, it is the reality that we, Arts majors, now face. In a mad rush to offer equal employment opportunities and social status for women, our society has concluded that the only way to do that is to subjugate women to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I may be overthinking, but we as a community don’t understand women empowerment as well as we thought we did. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have fathers who believe that the best way to empower a potential-painter is to persuade her to finish her engineering degree, land a job in a corporate, and paint during her leisure — as a measure to de-stress.