When I first heard about the missing Nigerian girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School, I didn’t give it much attention. At Gangly Sister we emphasize the positive. We do that as a matter of philosophy, and of fear, to be perfectly honest. Our philosophy is to emphasize what is good and right. We believe that the more we shine light on positive things, the more they show up in the world. Our fear is that if we say something against how women are treated, we may be perceived as aggressive and lose some support from the people in power.
But there it is, staring us in the face
“If you’re not at the table, you’re the meal,” said a good friend’s Facebook status. Only a white man could post that status. Everyone else knows they are the meal. I’ve have a very successful career, and yet, I know many of my career choices were made by default, because there are only certain places where women are welcome. Even when we get to the table, everyone knows we’re usually the meal. Let’s be honest. If you are in power, you have no personal incentive to want to share it. Everyone knows that having diversity is better for the Greater Good, whether that is a company or industry’s success, or for our happiness as a society. But at the moment when you are sitting at the table, that’s abstract. You are at the table. They aren’t.
Girls are scary
Have you seen Burqa Avenger? The funny part about Burqa Avenger is that there’s a cartoon with that name. In the 20-minute cartoon, a couple of bad guys try to put a girls school out of business but their plot is foiled by Burqa Avenger, who is basically a female ninja fighter. I thought to myself, “how silly and simplistic.” I was wrong. The kidnappings Chibok Government Girls Secondary School almost went by unnoticed, a matter of routine. In the developing world, keeping girls out of school is a matter of course. Government denial of problems is business as usual. I’m heartened by the international outcry about this. People are no longer willing to stand by silently. Women are no longer willing to stand by silently. All of us know it. Whether we complain about injustice or constantly emphasize the positive, we know it. The reality demands we respond.
What is the right measure?
How much should we point out what’s wrong with how girls are treated? We don’t know. Gangly Sister was founded to create positive role models for girls. We set out to present positive ways for kids to relate to problems in their lives in the world. We set out to present technology as fun and exciting. We see no need to include evil villains in our stories, but if we were in Nigeria or India, Burqa Avenger would fit our life experience better. Our life experience is that most behavior is insensitive rather than malicious, and cultural biases are based on fear rather than hatred. We’d like to have compassion. Sometimes compassion is not enough. We join Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in saying “let’s stick it to them and fund more girls schooling”. If you’d like to stick it to them, too, making a contribution to Camfed is one way to show that we won’t put up with anything less than equal education for girls worldwide.
Is there a balance?
What’s the right balance? How much should we be pointing out what’s wrong and how much should we be just pushing positive change? How do we reflect that in our language What’s your take? Do you talk about what’s wrong or push what’s right, or a combination?
So glad you brought this up. I also want to shine a light on the positive. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Merton – “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are. I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.” That being said, I don’t want girls to be blind-sided by some of the darker realities that show up when we shine our lights. My approach so far is to acknowledge them and then point to actions that can be taken and organizations/people to support that make the space for women and girls in tech and everywhere safer, more respectful and joyous.
Keep on keeping on!
Thanks! You’ll love this week’s series on what the world would be like if women ran business.