For the last few days up to 14 members of my family have been living under my roof. Blogging, obviously, took a back burner to other things. Like the back burner where the gravy simmered.
I have not been completely out-of-touch with the internet, and I listened to our local NPR station Friday morning while I got dressed. Allison Keyes interviewed the science cheerleaders, a group receiving considerable attention among the science bloggeratti.
I came of age with Title IX, when girls could play sports, not merely wave pom poms. Teen magazines had moved beyond articles asking if you should beat your boyfriend at tennis; if you could, you should!
Of course, I am not exactly an athlete. My prowess would not have helped any team at my school. I was a cheerleader, though.
Flexible enough to do the splits, athletic enough to turn a cartwheel, and rhythmic enough to clap in time. Oh, add an extroverted streak that made standing in front of a crowd, trying to organize their frenzied shouts into a coherent message of school spirit, a dream-come-true.
I guess I should also add other experiences to my list now. I did some modelling in my teen years for local stores and photography studios. My decidedly average height and short legs precluded a career on the catwalk, but I loved fashion and the discount that came with these efforts. I also entered teen queen contests. No bathing suits, but I sang and danced and wore evening gowns and proclaimed my desire for World Peace in hopes of winning scholarships for my higher education.
A lot of my classmates doubted I would become a scientist or physician simply because I was interested in fashion and shoes and looking pretty. The 4.0 average and other scholarly awards meant little if my mind could be distracted by a sparkly dress. You had to choose sides back then: beauty queen or scholar, housewife or career.
To me, the ultimate goal of feminism should be the freedom to be who we are. Should women have to shave their legs? NO- but they can if they want. Should female participation be limited to the sidelines of athletic fields? NO- but we can still have cheerleaders.
Ultimately, the goal of the science cheerleaders is to break down stereotypes:
And the beauty of this campaign, which, you know, is surprising to me, is the level of complexity. So while it seems so simple and fluffy, oh, isn't that neat, there's a bunch of cheerleaders cheering for science. Then you start to find out that they are scientists and engineers cheering for science and that becomes the first layer where people start to dig deeper.
And some people feel that this is a campaign that strives to change the stereotypes of cheerleaders, and that's fine - or change the stereotypes of scientists, and that's a different perspective.
All in all, though, it is about empowering young women to realize that they can follow both of these dreams and the fact that there are 1.5 million little cheerleaders out there, this has the potential to be a very effective campaign in enlightening them and opening up doors that they may not have seen as viable to them.
I have a niece who is one of those little cheerleaders. If the science cheerleaders get her to consider a career option in STEM (or something besides Disney Princess), I'm all for it.
We need science cheerleaders AND geeky scientists. We need role models for every girl and boy out there.
We should all be free to be who we are, contradictions and all. We should all be free to move beyond stereotypes that limit our potential in life.
Now that is something to cheer about.