When I was a teenager, I was very critical of feminism too. I was a white girl, about to grow up into a world of white privilege, and I didn’t see the point. Then, the workplace discrimination started happening, then the sexual harassment, then the assaults, then the catcalls, then the condescension from men who weren’t as smart or accomplished as me, the sports coach who was too friendly, the male mentor with other intentions, the drunk male friend who won’t leave the room after the party so you can sleep, the car horns blaring, the groping: it all started happening at about the age of fifteen. I started realising that there was a large portion of the population to whom I was as good as chattel: I was an object to be acted upon.
I also started realising that I’ve been a female misogynist my whole life, and had a lot of unlearning to do too. Change starts with eliminating the noxious parts of yourself you have internalised during socialisation in a misogynistic culture. Feminism isn’t just about stopping the abuse of women by men, it’s about stopping the abuse we do to ourselves and others by genuinely beginning to believe we deserve to be treated as less than human.
I’m often asked by parents what advice can I give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice. Get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period. I don’t care about your economic background. I don’t care what town you’re born in, what city, what country. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.
And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.
So you get out of their way. And you know what you do? You put things in their midst that help them explore. Help ‘em explore. Why don’t you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch ‘em pick it up. And watch ‘em look around. They’ll do all kinds of things with it.