chinese · geeky · personal · rants

Women and Science

“Did you know if you push the button on one of the barbie dolls, she will say ‘Math is hard! Let’s go shopping!’ That’s why we don’t have many women in the field of computer science.” – Ted Neward said at the nofluff open discussion and the crowd bursted into laughter. I looked around and noticed there were about 10% women in the audience.

But how true is that? Yesterday I discussed this topic with a female coworker. Even in today’s age, another guy in the field of computer science openly discussed how he will raise his daughters to be stay at home moms because he believes men in general are genetically built with stronger logical thinking skills. Seriously?

The only thing that’s preventing more women to be successful in the field of science is the mindset of that belief. And this belief is so deep rooted in all cultures.

I recently finished a historical fiction Peony in Love. The most amazing fact I learned from this book is there was a period during seventeenth-century China, women published books and those books were popular. Although after the policitical chaos, the reprint of those books were banned. But it’s wonderful to know such historical moments existed as early as seventeenth-century.

Why is this significant? Before Mao’s revolution in China, women were oppressed. Women were taught to strictly follow the three obedience four virtues (三从四德) from Confucianism. Emperors throughout Chinese history gave men absolute power to enforce these. Basically they were allowed to execute any women in their household for disobeying these rules. From Baidu:

The three obediences are “obey her father before marriage, her husband when married, and her sons in widowhood” and the four virtues are morality, proper speech, modest manner and diligent work. These are spiritual fetters of wifely submission and virtue imposed on women in feudal society.

In ancient China, women were caught to read and write so they may appear educated as a part of an elite family. However, they were not allowed to THINK. At least they had to keep their thoughts to themselves or behind the closed doors of their bed chambers. Even under these conditions, the fact women were still able to leave their writings behind was a great historical moment. Even though most of these publications were later banned from reprints once the emperors found out. It proves just because women were traditionally oppressed does not mean they had inferior logical thinking skills than men.

For the most parts, I’m not a Maoist and I think he brought much sufferings to China and led the country into great poverty and turmoil. But I have to give him credit for women’s liberation in China.

The Marriage Law passed by the People’s Republic in 1950 prohibited forced marriage and marriage of young girls, bride prices, domestic abuse, and gave women the right of divorce.

Women were given more power than they ever had in China during Mao’s era and this revolution was a huge step of bringing China into the modern times. When I grew up in China, I still heard stories about how in the coutry side boys were cherished more than girls and later I heard plenty of talk on the abortions of female babies in China. That is probably still true in China because the industrial revolution never happened for farming and it still has not happened. Plenty of farmers in China still farm by hand using the most inefficient/ancient farming practices. And the Chinese government has no established crop insurance programs like the US to help them out. When your family business is so heavily relied on physical labor, I can understand why you’d cherish males over females. In addition, the Chinese are still heavily influenced by their history to believe sons are meant to remain as a part of the family while daughters are married OUT. This belief however is much heavier in the rural areas than the cities. To tell you the truth, growing up in the biggest city in China, Shanghai, I never felt discrimination against me because I am female. My mom did not have to change her last name because she married my father. I think women’s place in the Chinese society at least in the cities is equal to men.

So why exactly in the US, a country that is supposedly THE LEADER of the world, still exist people who have such — hmm I can use the nice word “traditional” or “backwards” for not nice — beliefs? This makes me ponder…

Some things to consider:

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