Florida School Creates STEM Night Geared Towards Boys, Offers Dance for Girls
A public elementary school in Florida had apparently created a “STEM Night” at the Orlando Science Museum that was offered specifically to the boys in the school and their mothers. The equivalent event–for daughters and their fathers–was a traditional father/daughter dance.
According to a statement from the school board, they had never intended to prohibit girls from attending, but that doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t do much to share that information with students or parents until the Change.org petition made news. An excerpt statement from the school specifically reads:
Girls were not excluded from this event. This is a social event intended to fulfill the request from our school community for a mother figure/son event. Girls would not be prohibited from attending the event if so desired.
You can see at the bottom of the invitation that there’s a disclaimer: “No student will be prohibited from purchasing a ticket to this event, if so desired.” Of course, that’s great except for the fact that nearly the rest of the entire form is geared towards mothers and their sons. At the top, in the large typeface, underlined, it says “Mother & Son.” It’s emphasized in the description (see: script typeface once again), and the instructions say to return the form to “your son’s teacher.”
To suggest that events like these need to be gendered at all is pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? According to the Orlando Sentinel, the PTA council was trying to come up with an event that would parallel the annual father/daughter dance offered at the school. When asked, Daniel Plumey, president of the Orange County Council of PTAs, commented on the matter, saying, “Boys don’t want to dance.” I’m not so sure about that.
To be completely fair, the school did mention that it offers quarterly STEM days and hosts a student-run STEM club after school every other week. Cheers to that, really.
But the problem lies in the PTA’s misunderstanding of what kind of impact an event like this can have on children. Prohibiting girls from attending this event is one thing–and yeah, I know, that’s not what happened. But advertising an event like this as something “for the boys,” as the statement suggests, can be pretty harmful as well. It makes girls wanting attending STEM-oriented events an exception instead of the rule. It turns their interests into an anomaly, something that requires a disclaimer instead of something that’s welcome from the get-go.
The world in which we live is still sorely lacking in female representation within STEM fields. It’s not that women in these fields don’t exist, it’s that they often don’t get the credit they deserve or they’re swept under the rug in favor of their male counterparts. I’m not entirely suggesting that events like these are why those things are happening, but consider the impact. If you’re saying girls wanting to attend a STEM event are an exception–that they require a disclaimer or special consideration–before they’re allowed to attend, what are you actually suggesting?
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