Re 5: Empowering the girl-child

From: Cary Brown (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2000 - 12:43:43 EST

As a preface, I'd like to comment that I can't stand these
arguments that pit girls against boys - who's got it worse? This
society is rotten in many ways for both girls and boys. It is so
insistent on forcing people into roles that it is no wonder that so
many girls develop eating disorders and so many boys turn to

It really doesn't matter who's got it worse, and saying that girls
suffer from 'X' doesn't negate that fact that boys suffer from 'Y'. I've
spent a lot of time around a lot of people who are working to
improve education for girls, and I haven't met a single one who
thinks that boys have it great and we have to tear things down for
them to make it better for girls. People who believe that may be out
there, but they are a small minority.

I have to speak up, though, in response to the implication that
there is no good reason to try to improve things for girls. So I
accept the challenge and offer four ways in which I see that society
is stacked against girls.

> not asking for a laundry list like I provided above, only, say, four
concrete examples of how "society is stacked against girls."

1. A couple of Sundays ago I pulled out a full page ad from the
coupon section of my newspaper for two different specially
designed personal computers - one for boys and one for girls. The
one for girls was pink and flowered and labeled "Barbie" and the
one for boys was yellow and blue and labeled "Hot Wheels."
Aesthetics aside, the pre-loaded software on the boys' computer
had at least twice as many educational programs (2 math
programs to the girls' one, among other things) as the girls', which
was very heavy on things like "Barbie Tattoos" and "Barbie Fashion

2. While I acknowledge the growing number of reports of violence
by women against men, and men against men, there is no
disputing the fact that girls and women are much, much, much,
much, much more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and
domestice violence than are men and boys.

3. The vast majority of computer games are designed with boys in
mind, which means that girls are not spending as much time
playing with computers, an important activity for long-term ease
and facility with computers and technology. Leaving aside the value
of the content of all the games (violence for boys, fashion design for
girls), we are still left with the fact that girls are not provided with
the same encouragement and opportunity for computer play as

4. And finally, I simply cannot fail to mention the effect that living
in a society in which most of the positions of power are held by
men has on girls growing up in that society. Call it insufficiently
concrete if you will, but there is no escaping the messages all
children receive by looking at an adult world in which every
President has been male, as has every vice-President, not to
mention all the people visibly running for that office right now (as
well as most politicians at every level); in which, even considering
the nice blip on the radar screen recently from women's soccer,
almost all sports teams and consequently heroes are male; in
which men are still making more money than women, even as
women's career opportunities rapidly increase; in which husbands
still "help" their wives with housework and child care; in which the
captains of industry such as Bill Gates who are held up as heroes
are almost all male; in which guidance counselors will tell a girl
who wants to take a technically oriented class that she will have to
first be cleared by the teacher of that class, simply because she is
a girl (and I'm not making that one up); and in which, from all
directions, she is told that how she looks is more important than
what she does.

Cary Brown
Women in Technology Project 802/728-1510
Vermont Technical College
Randolph Center VT 05061-0500

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