Saturday, March 27, 2004

Girl Scouts and Other Female Organizations

Tiny Princess went to a Girl Scout event today. It was entitled "Engineering Day", but after looking through the packet of papers she brought home, it looks like it probably should have been entitled "Environment Day". It was all about pollution and recycling and stuff. My fault for not getting more info beforehand. We had missed the previous meeting where they had explained what was going on because Tiny Princess was sick that day, so I just signed her permission slip.

The environmental content didn't bother me so much-- after all, I am a little on the "green" side-- although I am wary of any program that blindly encourages tons of recycling, just because recycling is one of the most conspicuous ways "green" types can make themselves look holier-than-thou, and recycling is not always economically viable or even environmentally sound. No, what bothered me the most is that I discovered the event had been put on by the Society of Women Engineers.

Now I have absolutely nothing against engineers, even women engineers. I just think there's something incredibly tacky about pointing out publicly that one is a "woman engineer". If you want to be an engineer, more power to you; and you will succeed or fail as an engineer on your merits alone. But I find the idea of a society for women engineers (or women mathematicians, or women pilots, etc.) to be as offensive as a society just for men engineers. I cannot begin to fathom what possible difference there would be between women engineers and men engineers, that the women engineers would feel the need to organize separately from the men. If they are all engineers, they should join engineering societies together. And I have no objection to women joining social clubs (or organizations like Girl Scouts) that address their special needs as women. I just can't understand what they might possibly need as "women engineers" that they couldn't get as "engineers" out of an engineering society, or as "women" out of a women's society.

I've never been the slightest bit interested in the fact that I'm a woman in mathematics. I like being a woman, and I like being in mathematics, but I've never felt like the combination of the two was any more or less than the sum of its parts. Once I went for a job interview, and the lady interviewing me started off the interview by praising me for being a woman in the male-dominated field of mathematics. I think I just blinked at her. I think she wanted to start off with a feeling of female camaraderie, but I didn't choose mathematics because I was a woman and I wanted to do something for womankind. I'm a member of the Mathematical Association of America because I like what I do. I would never join a Women's Mathematical Association of America.

Or maybe I'm just very heavily influenced by some serious female betrayal issues from Junior High, and I just don't like the company of women.