Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where do I even begin?

The past few days have been, well…it’s something that can’t be summed up in a single word, a single phrase, a single sentence, a single paragraph.

It’s making it rounds through the interwebs, but in case you haven’t heard, nerdgirls is joining with some people to make a reality TV show about STEM women, “normal” college aged (how I have begun to really loathe the word “normal”). Now, this sounds quite awesome on the surface. There is going to be a TV show. Featuring women. Being intelligent. Doing math and science. Featuring women.

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about it, I frantically went searching for information on the application process, not because I want to be on TV (but holy crap it’d be awesome. and terrifying. but awesome) but because this is something that I care about. I’m frustrated that society, even in my STEM classes, loves to shove it down my throat that I can only pick one: looks, brains, or personality. I’m tired of being one of maybe 5 girls in a class of 60. I’m infuriated when I go to job fairs and the people letting you sign in ask if you know what the job fair is for and if you’re lost.

Hi. I am a female. I think I’m gorgeous. I think I’m intelligent. I think I’m a decent human being. I am not lost. I often know more about the subject that you do, Mr. Human Resources person. I know my math. I know my science. I know my electrical engineering. I know my motors and generators. I know this isn’t a “stereotypical female” area. I know you think most girls think math and science and technology are “gross” and “icky” unless it’s for facebook or texting or talking like the stereotypical valley girls you think all the “pretty” girls are or whatever you think it is that we do all day while you frolic (ha!) off to do your “macho manly-man” stuff. GET OVER IT ALREADY SOCIETY! ROAR!

So, umm…yeah. The idea of the show sounds great. Breaking down barriers and all that great stuff. That is, until you start thinking about it.

The application asks for pictures and videos and stuff. Maybe I’m jaded by watching TV, but they most certainly aren’t going to pick the most representative women of the field. Just from pictures, they more than likely will eliminate women who don’t qualify as conventionally “pretty”. They aren’t going to pick the women who have blemishes, or who don’t have perfect hair, or who aren’t skinny enough, or who don’t have perfect teeth, or who maybe look like they care more about being an engineer than being a model.
And to some extent, I can understand that. I can understand that you want the ratings, and part of getting the ratings is to have people on the show that your audience is going to want to look at.

But here’s where I waffle about it: the target audience is young women. The target audience is young women who need role models telling them that it’s okay to be smart. We already have enough of society telling girls and women that they need to be pretty. We have the “need to be pretty to supposedly be successful” idea sledge hammered into our minds, thank you.

Now, I’m not saying don’t not pick someone simply because they are conventionally beautiful, but rather I wish the whole picture and video part was in a later part of the application process, like a job interview. I wish that they made it perfectly clear that you don’t have to be a fashion guru or practically a model to even be considered. I wish that they exclaimed that the show was about the beauty of being intelligent.

I also think it is important to show that women can be intelligent and beautiful (conventionally and not) and decent human beings (or even…nice!). It’s just…I have like a Gibb’s gut feeling that they’re only going to emphasize how sexy they look in their geek getup and completely ignore the fact that there’s any STEM stuff going on or that these women are human beings with wants and needs and whatnot.

Another thing TV has jaded me on: reality shows seem to have a lot of infighting. Like “OhMyGosh! Betty Sue is like totally being mean because she drank coffee in front of me!” “Well Jim Bob is a total jerk because he coughed while I was talking 3 weeks ago!” and blah blah blah. They really play up the petty things that people do.

And again, I can understand to an extent. Conflict creates ratings.

But if all your show focuses on is the pathetic bickering of participants, especially if this is in a show that’s meant to stomp out some stereotypes, I think I may hate TV forever. Sure, they show is supposed to focus on solving engineering problems, but there’s naturally going to be disagreement in how to solve problems, especially STEM problems. (One thing about STEM fields: there is never a single correct solution. It’s all about the assumptions made. Twenty different designs can all be equally valid to solve a problem.)

On that same note, I’ve noticed that people in STEM fields tend to not be total jerks to each other, which means the show will more than likely be low on petty conflict. Personally, my theory is that STEM people, and especially women, have generally come to the conclusion that the rest of the world gives us enough crap, so why should we dish out more to people who know how much is sucks?

If there is petty conflict shown in the show, my theory is that it’s going to be from 5 second sound bites from really random questions where the audience isn’t even going to hear the question. I can see it going something like this:

*video clip of Janice eating a cookie*

Interviewer person that you will never hear: Do you think it’s mean to eat a cookie in front of a starving person who really wants a cookie but can’t have cookies?

Mandy: Yeah. It’s mean to eat a cookie in front of someone who is starving and can’t have cookies.

And then the entire world will think that Mandy thinks that Janice is a total . (TV, I have figured you out! hahaha!)

TV people, don’t ruin TV for me; don’t ruin being a nerd for me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010