Skepchick Quickies, 1.30


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. In my just-woken-up state I read the last piece as “Alarm bells, dirt and other girl power-tools.” I thought, what’s wrong with drills and bandsaws?

    1. I just checked the Grizzly Tools catalog and they don’t seem to make any pink drills or bandsaws. Just green and white. Couldn’t find them anywhere else either. So I guess girls are just out of luck. :-(

      Oh, wait! There’s always this.

  2. On the article ‘Alarm bells, dirt and other girl-power tools’, there was much I disagree with, but it was largely personal philosophy. Like her personal philosophy about TV, but books are good. Books I am sure never enforce stereotypes. Can TV be used as an educational tool too? That section called ‘The Basics’ and the once again teaching our girls to use their intuition I disagree with. I can live with someone’s personal philosophy as I have to at every children’s activity that my child participates in. But where is the education? How about empowerment through knowledge? I don’t believe that the section ‘Find the One Thing’ counts. The ‘Find the One Thing’ section sounded too much like your child developing a hobby.

    1. I was surprised to see there was actually more there that I agreed with than I expected.

      There were five point in the Basics… I pretty much agree with 3 of them. The first one is ambiguous: “Praise her achievements more often than her appearance. Pay attention to how you praise girls vs. boys.” The first part is okay, if you limit “praising her appearance” to things like taking baths, combing hair, putting on nice clothes for special occasions and putting her mud-stained salamander-hunting clothes into the laundry rather than leaving them scattered about the room. The second part, is she saying you should should praise girls differently than boys, or that you shouldn’t, or that you should be mindful of when you do this and understand why you might be treating them differently? Personally, I think that praise should be tailored to the individual, encouraging their particular strengths and particularly when the overcome their individual weaknesses.

      The 5th point, about encouraging emotions, is also pretty dicey. Suppressing emotions, which many boys are taught to do, is pretty clearly bad. But giving into them often isn’t much better. People should be taught how to analyze their emotions, to understand why they feel the way they do, to recognize when they are being manipulated, and so forth.

      She seems to be using intuition and gut feeling synonymously. This reflects an ancient and inaccurate view of how the human mind works. I don’t think brain scientists fully understand how it works yet (the human brain being one of the most complex systems in the universe), but it’s clear, in humans at least, “gut” feelings, emotions (often attributed to the “heart”) and “soul” all originate in the brain. (Earthworms and other organisms with multiple ganglia might be quite different.) One of the comments on her blog calls her out about this, the commenter saying she would much prefer empowerment through knowledge and education rather than intuition. Marti (the blogger) acknowledges this, but still seems to be hooked on the intuition aspect.

      BTW, your gut isn’t telling you anything (except maybe via feedback.) Some part of your brain is pattern-matching your current situation to (learned or innate or both?) conditions that might require a “fight or flight” response, and are releasing (or causing your adrenal gland or other glands to release) hormones that do things including reducing blood flow to your digestive system, which causes the funny feeling in your gut that your brain then interprets as “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, to quote Han Solo. Neuroscience is just beginning to scratch the surface of this; maybe someone’s daughter’s “one thing” will be an obsession with it, and she’ll eventually win a Nobel. :-)

      The “one thing” bit is also questionable. I know some kids with a singular obsession (be it music or dinosaurs or baseball), but it is probably (a sheer matter of opinion on my part) better to have a broad range of interests. But it is much better to have “one thing” than “no things”, which is the contrast I think she was drawing. When she went to the new school and hated it, she had no things at that school (no friends, no teachers or subjects she liked, not activities or clubs, etc.) until she found the school chorus and discovered she loved singing and had the “one thing.” But having more “one things” would have been fine.

      I don’t think you should dismiss the “one thing” as a mere hobby. Many people have jobs, careers, schools or families that provide all the fulfillment they desire, but many don’t. It is very difficult to find employment in the fields of Shakespearean drama or astronomy or exploring the natural world or not collecting stamps or the millions of other more specialized interests people develop[*], yet these things are central to many people’s lives and I think we are all the richer for it.

      BTW, since I am completely deficient in any parenting experience myself, you can dismiss all this as argument from lack of authority. But I do claim to be fairly good at uncle-ing, having had a fair amount of practice.

      [*] or writing really long, rambling comments on skeptical blogs. I must be in serious work avoidance mode…

      1. In my opinion, since kids don’t come with manuals, I don’t think that you have to *experience* parenting to look at it logically. :) I agree with much of what you had said and thank you for giving it some meaning that I couldn’t seem to put together! Your words about intuition were helpful. I had to look it all back up again yesterday so I could put my figure on exactly what was bothering me about it.

        I have to agree that there was some in there I also agreed with and that my post yesterday was a bit dismissive. :) My problem with ‘The Basics’ section is that my ‘The Basics’ is food (healthy meals), shelter (beyond housing, clean clothing that fits, are they sleeping well at night) and security (is there a good parent or adult they can relate with, are there safety concerns and such). This seems like a given, but is it? I think these things cut into children’s self-esteem well before how we praise them does.

        I think ‘The One Thing’ could get a post all its own. I agree that having a passion in something can be very important. For my husband and I, this has meant going back to school later in life (our thirties) to pursue careers in the fields that we love and are passionate about. (BTW this has really worked out for us!) But these paths were not clear to us as children or even young adults. So *I think* that exposing children to a variety of different experiences and a focus on education is important.

  3. “a culture in which girls don’t have to struggle in order to become strong, confident women.”

    No such culture is possible. Strength and confidence come from facing adversity and overcoming it. We learn how to struggle, and we learn that we can win. Encouragement helps, but it’s not a substitute. I’ve seen too many young women and men make a thorough mess of their lives when the first adversity they faced was as young adults, full of ‘confidence’ they hadn’t earned.

    1. The thing is, there is plenty of adversity in the world without having to artificially create more.

  4. I thought when blue stuff falls from the sky it’s usually an airplane leaking it’s lavatory waste storage.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if what he had found was instead of UFO debris, was little balls of human pee? I mean, he did say he saw a “dark yellow colour” before the balls came crashing down….

  5. The blue spheres are almost certainly hydration jelly. I used to work in a garden centre and we sold them all of the time to people who had hanging baskets or potted plants that were liable to dry out. Sometimes they come in crystal form which then expand when wet (and slowly leech water out when the soil grows.)

    I think some may have been accidentally dropped on the lawn of this house and either expanded due to the hail, or had expanded some time before and the homeowner had only noticed when looking at the hail stones.

    If it had genuinely fallen from the sky, surely those jelly spheres would be everywhere, not just in his garden?

  6. Thanks for the intelligent comments and feedback about the Girl, Empowered article. I’m a long-time writer, but I’m new at blogging, and even newer at blogging about empowerment, and I truly appreciate the points people have made here. There are places where I might have been clearer. I truly do understand that education is important, and that not everything you can view on your tv is evil (nor is everything you can read in a book inherently “good”). And I understand that a world without struggle is impossible, and that our struggles help build confidence. This article just scratches the surface, and I plan to write (and learn!) lots, lots more as I work on this project.

    Thanks so much to Skepchick for including us and bringing us such thoughtful, intelligent readers, and thanks again to those of you who read and commented here and on GE. I hope you’ll be back.

    1. Thank you for your comment here and best wishes on your blog. I think that it is noble to take on issues with empowering girls. I understand that your approach to the situation maybe different than mine, but I think that it is to the same end that we meet.

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