Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Getting Schooled by the IJB

It isn’t always easy living with a teen genius, you know.

I don’t call her that to brag, incidentally, but it has become increasingly clear to me that when it comes to the IQ factor in our house there is someone who comes out on top and it isn’t me or the pets. The Intrepid Junior Blogger is quickly outstripping us all in the smarts department, often leaving the rest of us staring after her with gaping mouths (well, at least me, the cats seem more nonplussed about it all).
This weekend the IJB and I were discussing the recent controversy surrounding the landing of a robot on a comet. Now, this doesn’t seem like much of a topic of debate, but while the some of the focus was on the remarkable achievement in space exploration a great deal of it also centred on a scientist who chose to speak to media about the accomplishment while wearing a decidedly tacky shirt featuring scantily clad women. The debate swirled around the “sexism” of that shirt and its potential impact on women in the sciences – a topic in which the IJB has keen interest, as she plans a future in engineering physics and hopes to one day do things like, you know, land robots on comets.

After she explained to me the details of the landing at length (while my eyes glazed over slightly as the depth of her explanation quickly left me in the dust – if you would like to learn more I can lend her to you for a couple of hours and I can guarantee you will be able to intelligently discuss comet landings like nobody’s business) I broached the shirt topic with her as some of those deeming it offensive were commenting that it might deter young women like the IJB from entering the sciences. So, having a teen genius and future scientist of the female gender in my kitchen I decided to take the radical step of asking her what she thought.
I admit she learned to snort from me, not a polite habit perhaps but a useful expression. Her snort was loud and long as she expressed what she thought of this offensive-shirt theory.

“Mom,” she said, “I see worse than that on the internet every day. That anyone thinks that would keep me from studying the sciences is the offensive part,” she pronounced. “I’m not some weak little thing who can’t handle the sight of almost- naked women on a shirt.”
“Besides, we landed a robot on a comet, does nobody get what that means for the future?” – and she meandered off into a glowing description about what this meant in terms of the future of space exploration. “Does anybody really think this shirt thing is that big a deal in comparison?” she said, shaking her head at the nonsensical nature of it all.

And then the kicker, right before she trotted downstairs to play online video games with hordes of young men probably wearing t-shirts with scantily clad women on them: “As for it stopping girls like me from entering the sciences – any chance your generation could stop dragging us into your over-dramatic neurotic shit and stop telling us what we think?”
And off she went to battle dragons and demons and boys who will likely one day be her peers and colleagues and who she sees as no different from herself in any regard. You see I have known for some time that the IJB is fundamentally blind – blind to colour, gender, religion, race and sexual orientation, seeing no real difference between individuals. She doesn’t view the world as female or male, straight or gay or bisexual, or Christian or Muslim or atheist – she sees every person as a person and no more or no less deserving of respect and dignity. And if she views the world this way perhaps it means she isn’t alone and that much of her generation sees it this way, too, with those distinctions many of us adults still see withering away as the lines have blurred and the divisions that have kept us apart become smaller and smaller in light of our global community. I don’t know the explanation, to be honest – all I know is the firmness of her sentiment and her insistence that she is far from the only young adult to think this way.

I admit she left me in the kitchen open-mouthed and a bit dumbfounded – but hopeful, too. She sees so many of the things we “adults” (likely meaning anyone over the age of 20) argue about to be so beside the point, so utterly absurd and time wasting that she cannot believe the effort we expend. Perhaps in the hands – and minds – of young adults like her we will one day truly be able to see a shirt as simply tacky and a bad fashion choice rather than sexist or any other sort of "ist" and not worry that it will influence anyone in any regard other than vowing to never wear one to preserve their fashion dignity.
It isn’t always easy living with a teen genius, you see. But most days I learn something I didn’t know the day before and somehow the roles of teacher and student have reversed as instead of me introducing her into my world she slowly reveals more of hers to me. I am a slow learner, to be certain, but this weekend she brought me up to speed. I got schooled by the IJB – and it was quite the educational experience, too.

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