In an episode of “Spaced”, a British comedy series from television yore, Daisy Steiner, a freelance journalist played by Jessica Hynes, interviews for a position at a stylish magazine. The interview is a nightmare and her parting words clinch her fate: “Girl power!” she exclaims, before making her exit. Sobbing on her flatmate’s shoulder–Shaun of the Dead’s Tim Bisley–she confesses to her bold statement.
“Did you do this?” he asks, holding up the peace sign. She nods and looks down at the floor. He turns to the camera, grimacing and biting his knuckles.
Now I am all for egalitarian work spaces and “feminine pride” so to speak, but shouldn’t one choose their “war cry” more carefully in today’s (thank God) post-Spice Girls world? Let’s look at Hannah Seligson’s NY Times Article “Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office“, an article with an intelligent point, yet worthy of question given the title’s mantra, a mantra that can hardly be disconnected from the image of five English pop stars, jumping around in glittering mini skirts and Kiss Army platform shoes.
Reading on, Seligson discusses American academia as a sanctuary for women. This may be true to some extent and having enjoyed some wonderful internships and leadership positions during my academic career, I concur to some degree; yet, looking back on all of my Humanities courses, I can hear Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” playing in my head as I reminisce. Surely Math and Science courses are still heavily male oriented–being a reader I wouldn’t quite know from first hand experience. I think Harvard University president Lawrence Summers would be chortling with glee if I were to concede to masculine superiority in math, science and engineering education, but I shall not. I borrowed The Origin of Species in my own free time.
Even in America’s most prestigious institutions such as Harvard, the battle for equality has not been won.
“Will it ever?” I ponder while striking a pose analogous to Rodin’s “The Thinker”.
Society is changing. We have evolved from the “I Love Lucy” era and the mentality that when women pursue a career, they obviously have something to prove (“Speed it up a little!” shouts the candy factory supervisor). We all have bills to pay, loans to pay back (Are there any benefactors out there?), and for some, transatlantic lives to live on a student’s shoestring budget.
The “old-boys’ club” as Seligson notes is also different from the past. For example, I would probably be the first in a group of colleagues to suggest a trip to the pub. Having lived in Germany and Scotland, I am not joking. Whiskey anyone?
Today, women can be bread earners, members of the intelligentsia, pint drinkers, and above all feminine creatures. The same goes for men and if a gent chooses to be a reader, that is fine. That is sexy. We must recognize the signs of the changing times and for god sakes, do not say “Girl Power”. I just grimaced and covered my face in horror when writing that.