Female Physicists
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Female Physicists

If you thought that sounded weird, you need to read this.

Female Physicists
Youtube video by Sish Advexon

While I was growing up, I assumed the battle for equality between men and women had already been won. I was raised by a wonderful mother who taught me that I could accomplish anything if I worked hard enough. I had no idea that there were people who genuinely thought that a person’s capability depended on gender or that a gender was more suited to a certain field, until I became a female physics major.

The first day of my freshman year of college, I walked into my first ever college level physics class and was surrounded by men. To be completely honest, it was a little intimidating, not because I was scared of how many men there were, but because I felt like I had walked into a fraternity meeting or something I wasn’t meant to be a part of. Fortunately, that initial feeling didn’t last because the guys in my class are extremely nice and welcoming, but I can definitely see how, if I went to a school with less community between students, I would not have stayed in physics for long.

Not long after second semester began, I decided to apply for an REU that was for inexperienced undergraduates to do summer research. To my surprise, I actually got it! Very few others in my class had applied to do summer research and I had absolutely no experience whatsoever. The day that I told my professors, everyone in my class found out. Many of them came up to me to ask me about the application, from whom I had asked for recommendations, and if I knew what I would be researching. Amidst all the conversation someone said, “You know you only got it because you’re a girl.” He said it in passing, and I’m not completely sure if he realized what he said, but from that point on, it was all I could think about in relation to my REU. I had worked so hard in my classes. I had put so much time into my application. I did not want an REU handed to me on account of my gender. A part of me worried about that until I finally began my REU. Of course, I quickly found that I was on the same level as the other freshmen in my REU, and those doubts faded over the rest of the summer. Now, I think it’s ridiculous that I had entertained what that guy had said, but I did, and it was horrible.

Another incident that comes to mind on the topic of driving women away from the sciences happened in a clothing store. I was looking at a display of t-shirts for women, all of which had little cute quotes and were covered in different floral patterns. On my way out of the store, I happened to notice the men’s t-shirt display, which had one of the periodic table, a map of constellations, and one with physics equations scrawled all over it. Irritated, I promptly purchased the last of these. I recognize that the sizing of unfitted t-shirts being labeled “man” or “woman” doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of equality. I also recognize that the different t-shirts was not the store or society saying that men are more capable scientists, but if people learn to associate cute quotes with girls and math with boys, there will always be problems.

This fight has been going on for so long, but it still isn’t over. There are still so many preconceived ideas out there of what a woman should do, or where a woman should be. The number of women in science will grow as soon as more women feel welcomed into the field. This means that they can’t grow up thinking that math and science are more masculine. They can’t be told that their gender negates their work. Let’s encourage women in science, and take another step towards gender equality as a whole.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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