– reblogged from Journey&C


Little girl, your name is Wednesday, and you can do ANYTHING

One day soon, Journeys, &c. will record the many adventures Yon and I plan to have with our newly arrived daughter. It turns out, though, that even in 2015, it’s just a cultural adventure taking her out of the house. And not, as you’d think for foreign parents living in China, because of some cliched East-West cultural collision. No. The jungle I refer to is nothing less than good old-fashioned western patriarchy.

For a recent outing, I dressed little Wednesday in a cool blue and white top with the word ROBOT’S printed across the chest (yes, I know. Mis’use of apo’strophes drives’ me nut’s to’o).

Six of six people who asked a question about the child – age, name, etc – said “he”. How old is he? What’s his name? Five of those six were westerners, the sixth a Chinese person married to a westerner. The one person who actually asked “boy or girl”? She was a lovely Chinese nanny, from her accent not a Beijing resident, but from the provinces.

Dr. Ahn In-young

Precisely because it’s hard to tell if a three month old baby is a boy or girl just from the face, I’m always careful not to leap in. Like the provincial nanny, I’d rather ask “is it a boy or a girl?” And not because I think it’s offensive to choose the wrong one – I wasn’t offended people thought my girl was a boy – but because it’s presumptuous. Believe it or not, girls can wear blue. Boys can wear pink. Especially babies, or so one would have thought in 2015.

What annoyed me more, though, than these casual and ultimately not very consequential assumptions, was the follow-up statement.

Two of the two who made one said, “oh, I’m sorry, I saw “robot” and assumed she was a boy”. Both were women.

I know sexism still exists but I guess I didn’t realize that in 2015, it’s still inconceivable to a westerner that a woman might be interested in robots. Or science. Or flying a plane. Or doing anything once, supposedly, the preserve of men.

I dressed Wednesday in a blue “ROBOT’S” shirt not because I want her to be a boy (I’m very happy with our baby girl). Not because I wanted to teach her about apostrophes in a conspicuously (non)ironic manner (hey, hipsters, irony is so 1994…and while I’m at it, collecting vinyl isn’t new, retro or hip. Even a mainstream geek like me was listening to vinyl before you were born. You know, before they invented CDs. Wow, you bought a record. Get over it).

No, I dressed her in “ROBOT’S” because it’s a cool shirt with a robot on it and she might grow up to share her Dad’s fascination with funny robots from fifties movies. Something we can have in common. That’s it.

But because I don’t want our kid to be restricted by the phenomenally limited imaginations of those around her, I am now going to find examples of fantastic scientists, pilots, explorers, doctors, engineers, and whatever other professions or occupations that some might think Wednesday won’t pursue because she’s a girl.

These will be people at the peak of their profession, or their expertise, or their contribution to human knowledge. It will just so happen that they are also women.

Let’s start with Dr Ahn In-young. She’s the head of South Korea’s Antarctic Research Station. Apart from being a respected and accomplished biologist, she’s also the capable leader of a 17 person team on the icy, windswept continent. She’s the first Asian woman to lead an Antarctic station, too.

Because, believe it or not, girls can like biology too. And exploring the South Pole. They’re not just in it for the cute penguins.


(Dr Ahn In-young at right. Image taken from Malaysia’s Sultan Mizan Antarctic Research Foundation website).

Watch her receive a courtesy call from the President of the Republic of Korea.

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