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Women’s Work

October 27, 2013

"Stop taking pictures, Ms. RB, and get back to work.  We're vexed with you!"

Yesterday my young soil scientists broke ground on our ‘farm.’  It’s just eight plots allotted to our section, but I love calling it the farm and telling people that’s where I’m going.  I made groups of three and, following my usual procedure; I made six groups of boys and two groups of girls.  I have heard too much nonsense, from both men and women, about gender roles and I’ve made it my mission to get my girls out of the box.

I knew they’d be pissed, but I thought when I joined them they’d forgive me and we’d get along.  Nope.  Just pissed.  Even the boys were pissed.  “Ms. RB, you don’t understand the system.  It should be two boys in each group and one girl.  We can’t really expect the girls to do much.  …they’re girls!”  These are the same kind of guys who a few weeks ago vehemently argued with a member of the Rutgers’ gender team.  “I can clear the field faster so it belongs to me!”  “The Bible says God made me first so it’s my duty to dominate her.”

I wish those weren’t real quotes from my colleagues.

I thought if we had two plots we could point to as “women’s work” the girls would feel proud and the men would feel subtlety put in their place.  I held my ground, literally chasing the boys out of the plot when they insisted we needed help.  I know everyone will eventually forgive me, but only time will tell if they learn more than that I’m a jerk.

This morning the second wave of students came to work and my favorite girl, Leekplay, showed up.  She has really started to spark the past few weeks and I’m so proud of her.  Last weekend she asked to meet me on Saturday to research in the library and I was like “Are you serious?  What time??”  She was supposed to work with two other girls today, but neither of them showed up.  I just smiled and picked up my shovel.  “Let’s go girl.  “

Oh god, I assigned us the worst plot.  (If I was a real soil scientist maybe I would have realized that sooner.)  Before she came I had been working with several of the boys and their soil was soft and easy to dig.  Ours, just fifty feet away, was rocky and full of gnarly roots.  We were both struggling but she never once complained.  She never once said, “Ms. RB, go bring a boy over here.”  She never once said, “This is gender inequality.”  In fact, I heard her yell across the field at some smart ass, “Shut up!  I told you I’m an independent woman!”

In Wednesday’s kickball game she dove face first into third base and scored multiple times.  She’s an animal.  I just want her to realize she can also be a real leader and role model for the other young women around her.  For now I’m just excited she’s started raising her hand in class.

While we were working today another boy from our class came over and insisted we needed his help.  “Really, Ms. RB.  It’s ok if they want a woman president, but men will always dominate.  It’s God’s will.”  And he was serious!  Not even pretending it was a joke!  I looked at him and I said with as much self control as I could find (because I like him), “Emmanuel, I am a woman and I am your teacher and I’m telling you that you’re wrong.  Stop it or go from here.”  He just shrugged and I’m sure he didn’t care, but I wanted Leekplay to see that, yes, we can stand up to ignorance.

UN Women launched an ad campaign recently that reminds us how much ignorance really remains out there.  If you haven’t seen it please check it out here.  Then do something for a girl, any girl anywhere, to help her find her voice and her strength.

Women’s work can (and should) be anything.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. blondie permalink
    October 28, 2013 12:12 am

    Go Leekplay!!

  2. October 29, 2013 12:35 pm

    You inspire me in so many ways!

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