as I guess most girls from a Middle European background in the 1990ies I grew up believing that it wouldn’t matter, when it came to careers, whether I was a boy or a girl. I grew up in the spirit of equality that had just been claimed by our mothers, aunts, sometimes grandmothers too. And for all I experienced while coming of age it looked exactly like what I had been told. Girls were finally allowed to join the Austrian military – so did a good friend of mine and for most of our friend it was no really big deal. There seemed to be female engineers, female scientists, female doctors and lawyers everywhere. There were female head of states being elected in Europe and it seemed to be only a matter of time until Austria, too, would have a female chancellor or president. In short: Gender Equality seemed to have reached far into the very midst of society. And I, growing up into that society, would only learn about the struggle for women’s rights from history class.
I don’t think I ever relized how soon after the formal equality of women and men, how soon after western countries – like Switzerland in 1971 – had allowed woman to vote I was growing up. And of course I never realized what it meant for all those woman engineers, scientists and doctors to work amongst men and nothing but men. For me being a girl was no big deal and so I thought it was for everybody. In fact I could never be made to understand the whole fuzz about equality and positive discrimination support for women. I always had a great laugh about gender neutral language and those fancying for it. In fact so I have until today. Why the heck do we have to call it “herstory” these days when “history” has absolutely no historic (herstoric?)-scientific relation to the word “his” and even if so why should men be discriminated instead of women? I mean that’s exactly what’s happening in post-Apartheid South Africa these days: The black people (what’d be PC for it these days? Changing so often …) paying back white people that are born South Africans just as they are by discriminating them. But well … that’s going offtopic here; hope I’ll find some time to write about South Africa soon anyway.
Only recently however have I started to realize how much gender discrimination there’s still arround in Austria. And I think not gender aware language or guys not taking care of babies isn’t much of a part of the problem at all. The problem lies much more underneath. It’s small things you don’t even think about. Things like people still assuming girls would naturally not be good at maths. And even if an effort is made at schools to get girls into natural sciences the pure existance of the effort makes every girl feel “this is something that has to be forced; it can’t be natural.” Those who already fancy for natural sciences for one reason or another will happily take all the support they get and it will serve a big deal for them. But what about the rest? Those that might be “natural scientists on inside” without knowing? Are they left behind?
When I chose my track at university nobody ever said as much as “have you had a look into natural sciences too?” though I used to be a computer geek a couple of years earlier and one of those disassembling stuff just for the fun of seeing how it worked in elementary school. It was as clear as glass that I was to do arts. In fact it was as clear as glass to me too and I didn’t busy a single neuron considering a technical career. These days I often wonder whether things would have gone a different way if I had had an Y instead of that second X chromosome … or if we lived in a truely eqal world.
And then there’s another of those tiny things that made me wonder. It still feels as if a young woman, once she found a wealthy husband is expected to be happy with being a wealthy (house-)wife what ever comes for her own career. It’s astonishing and worrying how many such women are told sentences I supposed would belong to gone-by centuries; things like: “So why the hell do you want to work if your husband can afford you staying home? Why don’t you just enjoy it and become a good mother?” or “Why do you worry about your career? You needn’t work anymore!” As if working women in wealthy families ‘d be no more no less then having an exotic hobby. Would anybody ask the same question to a man having a wealthy wife? I can’t possibly picture it. Can you?
There’s still so much work left until men and women are really equal – equal, not the same – and that’s not building kindergartens, though I suppose it often helps, and it’s neither pushing girls into technical careers by force but rather getting people – men and women alike – to really inhale the idea that one can have a career, can love that career even if she happens to have that extra X chromosome. And that doing sciences is just as normal for girls as it is for boys. Nothing that needs to be pushed and forced …