As long as I can remember, I’ve been a girl. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing and very supportive family that has always believed in me and in my dreams. When I wanted to be a scientist, they bought me a “scientist kit” (which consisted of a cheap microscope and several things to observe such as a leaf, grass, blood, and even a small piece of human brain); when I wanted to be a mathematician, they bought me children’s math books (“El Diablo de los Números” was a huge influence in my life and I learned binary since I was 10. Not two, ten); when I wanted to be a chemist, my grandfather sat with me and taught me how to “make” polyurethane and taught me how to create safe chemical reactions, he was also the one that taught me how to use a computer. I’ve always been an empowered woman, to be quite honest.
Despite my family’s best efforts, I was never exempt from sexism. When I was a kid, I was often teased for “not being pretty enough” or for having a “weird nose” while my male classmates got none of that. I heard mock-comments like “you run like a girl” or “don’t be a girl” (this is a common saying in my country that means not being a coward ) and I always questioned it “Why is being a girl a bad thing? Am I wrong? Am I weak?”. When I started developing as a woman is when it started to get real. To this day, every time I walk by myself or ride my bike I get catcalled at least once (I wish this meant people thinking I’m an actual cat and being freaked out about it, it’d be waaaay better). I have been groped in public transport several times and at first I was too shocked to be able to say or do anything, the first time this happened I was eleven years old. I’ve been called a tease for not wanting to date someone. I’ve been called a whore for talking openly about my sexuality. I’ve also been called a tomboy and have heard people complaining about me not being feminine enough for not wearing makeup everyday and not liking dresses (“You’d look so beautiful if you cared a bit more about yourself” What does that even mean?). I’ve been diminished and not taken into account just because “I’m a girl”. And of course, if I’m in a bad mood it must be because I’m on my period. All of this along with the things people have said behind my back and I haven’t noticed and the things I’m not comfortable discussing here.
It sounds like a lot, I know. But this is not even a fraction of what other girls go through on a daily basis. In Mexico 1 in every 5 girls has been sexually assaulted by a family member or a family friend. According to the UNICEF, 31 million girls don’t attend to school because their purpose is supposed to just be becoming a wife and a mother. There are girls kidnapped every day and sold to be raped, mutilated and/or killed. In over 30 countries female genital mutilation is still a common thing, many girls don’t survive this process because it’s often done without anesthesia and with shards of glass, oxidized metal or stones. In some countries girls are not allowed to leave their house while on their period because it’s considered to be disgraceful. Girls are still forced to be married as young as eight years old and those girls start having babies at thirteen. Girls aren’t educated about sexuality because they are to remain pure until marriage and when they get pregnant they become the official family let down. In some cultures having a baby girl is still considered a failure and some are even left to die. Considering all of this, I’ve been very lucky.
I want to take this opportunity to empower girls and women to follow their dreams and not depend on anyone other than themselves. Below is one of my favourite feminists quotes said by none other than my role model and personal hero, Wendy Corduroy from Gravity Falls. (I made the gif and I feel so proud of myself).
Today, as well as being the International Day of the Girl, it’s Ada Lovelace’s Day. She was a wonderful lady who happened to be the first computer programmer. Two other fantastic women that worked in this area are Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton. Grace was a navy rear admiral and a computer programmer, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language and was one of the first high-level programmers. She was better known by her nickname “Amazing Grace”. Margaret, on the other hand, worked for NASA on developing in-flight software for Apolo 11. Here she is standing next to the code she helped create.
Nowadays, girls are too afraid to enter a “man’s world” and choose other majors due to the fear of being judged or feeling uncomfortable. I can completely understand that. When I switched majors many believed I did so because I wanted to have classes with my boyfriend (who’s also studying computer systems engineering). And as soon as I entered, I found out why many girls dropped out. 90% of the students were men and “men talk” could be heard all the time. By men talk, I mean entering a classroom and watch a bunch of guys in front of a computer stalking a freshman girl and talking about how hot she is. I also mean all sorts of penis jokes and an immeasurable amount of curse words said by the minute. I’m used to this already and can counter everything they try telling me. I know most times it’s a joke, but the fact that some of us know it’s a joke and are able to take it as such, does not mean that other girls will understand this or won’t get offended by it. And you know what? They have a right to be offended. Because they deal with sexist comments and prejudice on a daily basis. Their major should not be another place to feel threatened or annoyed.
So, to my fellow male colleagues, stop being sexist. Not only in the classroom, but in life. Let’s make this major a great major in every way possible. And, to my fellow female colleagues and to any girl interested in computer science, be brave and dare to try! You learn not only about computers and algorithms (which are fascinating), but you also learn about people, there is room to be artistic (I believe every code is a piece of art, unmatched and original) and you can code literally anything you set your mind to. Exploit your intelligence and your ideas. Don’t be afraid of being in a “men’s world”, make it a woman’s world too, make it an everybody’s world.
And finally a small piece of advice to you, dear reader. Be inclusive, be respectful and follow your dreams. Also, thank you for reading my super long feminist rant, I had a lot to say.