Women's Studies 30


Since I just recently changed my schedule, many friends have asked me about the new course I am taking, Women and Technology. Usually the first question that they ask is, what about a course called Men and Technology? Hearing that question makes me cringe. Whenever we learn about technology or science in high school everything we learn is geared toward males. Even in my liberal high school, all of the science and computer teachers were male. Hopefully, in the years to come, when people my age are the teachers, there will be women incorporated into the science curriculum.

In high school, I was one of the few girls who was extremely interested in both math and science. When we entered eigth grade, our grade was split into two different tracks. There was the advanced math/science track and the average track. At first, the distribution of people were basically equivalent. I don't believe that boys are inherently better at science than girls. However, I have read numerous books that dealt with the psychological factors which discourage girls from continuing with the sciences. Each year in my advanced math and science classes, the ratio of boys to girls changed. By senior year, the number of boys to girls was significantly larger. Meanwhile, there were only about five boys in an AP English class of thirty. In some subconscious way, girls are encouraged to study humanities while boys are encouraged to study the sciences. I distinctly remember trying to hide my scores on math tests from other students because I would consistently get 100%. Deep down I was happy about doing well, but at the same time I didn't want to show off the way that the loud boys in my class would. Many times I would get the highest score on a test but someone else would claim that they had and I would just silently watch.

It seems to me that throughout history, many things stay the same. Men are not born with better brains than women. Men have just had more opportunites and have therefore had the opportunity to make more technological advancements. Years ago, women were not allowed to attend school with men and were taught demenaing tasks useful for staying at home. It was not until recently that women were even educated in the same schools. Obviously, women are not famous for technological advancements since they never had the opportunity to make any. I also would not be surprised if a woman made a technological advancement and a man claimed credit for it.

I don't think that men or women are superior. I also don't think that men are specifically evil and continually cause women to be less fortunate. The gender difference probably originally started because of the early beliefs of the Europeans that the white men were the best. It continued because of habit and esteem issues. Only recently has it begun to be challenged. Now, women are encouraged to enter into scientific fields. There are many women who work in laboratories of all kinds. I think it is still difficult for them to feel completely accepted into a typically male field, but hopefully soon the gender difference will be erased. Even at Swarthmore, there are many women majoring in biology, chemistry, and engineering, which were typically majors dominated by males.

As a high school student, I always thought that my favorite subjects were math and science. However, at Swarthmore I took two math classes, one computer class, and no lab sciences. I'm not quite sure why that is. At some point, I decided that even though I was good at science, I did not really enjoy it, or at least did not enjoy it enough to select it as a major. I don't think that something at Swarthmore discouraged me from being a science major. I think I just recognized what I really enjoyed studying. If every female student is encouraged to study science, some females will really enjoy it and could invent something years before a male.

I don't look at Women and Technology as a sexist course. History courses about early technology could theoretically be called Men and Technology. By studying women and the contribution that they have made, we can see the entire picture. Pieces of the puzzle may have been missing, but by studying the technological advancements of both men and women, the puzzle will be complete.

Andrea Kussack

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last updated 9/8/98