I recently found out that a volunteer who has given hundreds of hours to events promoting science for K-12 girls has been criticized by other volunteers. Now, it's no surprise that sometimes in this big world, people don't see eye-to-eye. The surprise here is that the volunteer in question is being criticized for being male.
It blows my mind that someone would fret over the gender of volunteers. Isn't the reason why we organize events for girls to show them that gender isn't a barrier? We shouldn't criticize men for their gender when they want to help us with our goals.
A year ago, my husband and I volunteered for a similar event to encourage middle school girls to pursue STEM interests and careers. He was a team leader and kept track of 10 high energy girls for the day. I emphasize that he was never alone with the girls, and there were many women around to serve as gender-specific role models. His job was to keep track of them, make sure no one got lost and shuttle them from one activity to the next. At the end of the day, I noticed a parent questioning why her daughter's team lead was male.
As the frustrated voice in my head screamed, because we don't have enough female engineers who can volunteer because not many exist, I took a breath and decided to use the opportunity to show that male volunteers for feminism causes can serve as great role models.
I approached the parent and explained that the gentleman in question was my husband of exactly one month. As newlyweds, we decided to volunteer for causes we both stand behind. Although he couldn't be a gender-specific role model, he was showing that good, strong men support their partners and that women don't have to do things like "play dumb" to find a good, strong man.
I watched her aggressive mama-bear expression melt into that half smile where one knows they have been proven wrong. I felt like she was about to leap out and hug me for giving her daughter a role model that is often overlooked in the media.
In the feminist movement, men are not the enemy. Attitudes and actions that limit people based on gender is what we rally against.
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