My friend Bonnie shared this article the other day about “Science Cheerleaders,” a group of former and current professional NFL and NBA cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers. They recently performed at the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival to encourage people, specifically young women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math:
Although I understand where so much of the stereotypes and criticism of cheerleaders comes from, I still think this is an awesome concept. Jezebel.com covered the topic, saying, “Science shouldn’t have to be sexed-up to make it an acceptable career choice for women, but hopefully the message girls take from the Science Cheerleaders is that your attractiveness is not a reflection on your intelligence.” I agree with them, but as a girl who has always been good at math and science, I think there’s another important part to this message, which is that you can excel in “nerdy” subjects and still be girly. You don’t have to be, obviously, but sometimes, as female nerds, we don’t realize we have a choice. Sometimes in middle school and high school we feel pigeonholed. Everyone is given a label (nerd, football player, cheerleader, druggie, hippie) and then expected to play their part. It took me a long time to figure out that I could pick and choose from various stereotypes, INCLUDING the “girly” one without accepting the whole package. There were a few years in college when I had acrylic nails and got them “done” regularly, not because I was a super girly-girl overly-concerned with my appearance, but because I wasn’t really girly and having fancy nails made me feel good and a little rebellious. I liked that I could rock my naturally curly hair and hooded sweatshirts every day but still have some feminine touches like manicures and matching accessories that made me feel good. To this day, I sort of like the way people react when I tell them I majored in math. I like defying their stereotypes. And I really wish someone had told me when I was thirteen that I could spend time on my hair and dance and do neurology research, without having to choose.
Now I’m just hoping they start some sort of program for science professionals who want to be BlazerDancers.