Tag Archive for gender

Happy Ada Day!

Today’s the second Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in science and technology.  I wanted to take this opportunity to write about a woman who mentored and inspired me: Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg.

Read more

GDC 2010 Report: Women in Games Edition

I’m involved in the Games2Girls project, which introduces middle school girls to careers in game development.  It’s a great project, with implications for STEM learning and identity transformation and all that good stuff!  But the most immediate implication is that I spent much of GDC at Women in Games activities.

Read more

Reading List 2010 (6/34)

This week’s reading:

  • The Believers, Zoe Heller
  • Losing Your Parents, Finding Yourself, Victoria Secunda
  • The Poet, Michael Connelly
  • The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly
  • Our Story Begins, Tobias Wolff
  • Self-Made Man, Norah Vincent

Read more

Women Scientists and Housework

As part of my research on gender, I often find myself reading pieces like this one, and the Academe article it cites, on the impact of housework on women scientists’ careers. Admittedly, the articles I read aren’t always quite so relevant to my life! But they’re often eye-opening, and this one was no exception.

The thrust of the piece is that women scientists do a lot more housework than their spouses and their male peers, and this is a Bad Idea. Not only is it unjust, it’s also an incredible waste of time for highly trained individuals. I’ve invested a whole lot of time and money in my career; my training is in doing research and designing games, not in cleaning the kitchen. This isn’t to say that cleaning the kitchen is somehow not worthwhile – and I hate a dirty kitchen as much as anyone! But it’s basic economics that I should spend my time doing the things that I can do better than anyone else, not on tasks that someone else can do as well as (or better than!) I can.

I really liked Lorraine Tracey’s take on cumulative disadvantage, too:

Ms. Tracey, who is also a postdoctoral research associate at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, said additional personal responsibilities could add up over time for younger female scientists.

“If you have five hours a week less than your male counterparts available for your research over the five- to 10-year period of your graduate and postdoctoral training, this certainly adds up to a significant amount of time that I imagine could impact your competitiveness in the marketplace,” she said.

To me, this ties to work showing it takes time to become an expert – about ten thousand hours, according to most estimates. Five hours a week you’re spending doing the laundry or cooking? That’s just over 250 hours a year, more than 2% of the total time investment required. Unless you’re more talented than everyone around you, you’re either going to fall behind your colleagues or you’ll have to find five hours per week somewhere else.

So why can’t women just find that time elsewhere? Sadly, it’s not so easy. People need leisure! But leisure, for people who are passionate about their work, isn’t always purely fun. When I look at my own life, I spend a vast amount of my “free” time doing things that are actually related to my professional career. I read, I think, I play and design games, I invent new projects and more! Five hours is a big chunk of that time, and would have a huge impact on the imaginativeness and breath of my work.

After reading this article, I recognize how very lucky I am to have a partner who cooks, does the laundry, and is devastatingly witty and handsome to boot. But I shouldn’t have to feel lucky! As a highly trained professional with something significant to contribute to the world, I already have more demands on my time than I can handle. I just don’t have time for extra hours of housework. Neither do my less lucky peers, but they end up doing the extra work anyways.

I don’t think there’s an easy solution, but all this has reminded me why I’m working to change people’s ideas about gender. This is work that matters.

Walking Party

There’s something really delighful about the premise of The Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands game, namely that one is trying to manipulate the composition of a party of people in order to be alone with the woman of one’s dreams. But the author’s take on gender makes me fairly uncomfortable. Making Lady Ashley and the other women voiceless, agency-less characters is somehow subversive, because of a highly fragmented backstory written entirely by male characters and authors? No, actually, it isn’t.

I’ve got no problem with the game’s basic premise; I’m quite aware of the rules of propriety (though admittedly I think they’re referencing a slightly earlier period) and I love the notion that these rules constrain the characters’ behavior. It’s true that these rules were far more constraining of women than of men, although both genders subverted the rules at times and they certainly only applied to a certain class of people. So why not just admit that the game replicates a sexist power structure and conception of the world? I’ve got no problem with looking at historical elements and playing with them! Or, if that’s too close to the “YOU ARE A BAD BAD SEXIST” line, why not allow the players to decide at the beginning of the game whether they will play gentlemen courteously pursuing ladies, ladies courteously pursuing gentlemen, gentlemen pursuing gentlemen or ladies pursuing ladies?

I see where the designer is going with this, and I like the extensive fictional world he’s created around the gameplay. I definitely want to play the game, read the booklet and participate in the larger fiction of the game. But I don’t buy his argument that his creation of unreliable narrator-designers somehow undermines the basic structure of gender relations the game puts forward. Maybe every player is going to read the character booklet and think carefully about it – but I’d guess a lot of people are just going to play the game, and his argument about gender doesn’t really account for that.