Growing up, I don't remember a whole lot of role models for Gen X girls. In terms of the world of "just for pretend," as my daughter refers to it, the landscape of superheroes offered only Wonder Woman. She was what was available to us. Part mystery when among the world of men (literally, men) and part magic whenever she chose to transform (unclothe) herself, Wonder Woman first entered the culture as a comic book character in late 1941. The changes both World wars brought to womens’ roles in society was tremendous, but even 3 decades later we still weren’t passing the superhero baton to anyone female, save for Wonder Woman.
I had to check myself on that perception/fact that there was nothing else. I found this interesting page of superheroes over the decades. Check it out. Did Barberella, Electra Woman, Cat Woman (as a hero, mind you) or Dyna Girl register as “in the zeitgeist” for you during the 1970s? I rest my case. Very interesting collection though.
As a mother almost 5 years now on the job, I’m watching, overhearing and reflecting on who and what is getting presented to my child. Who are her superheroes? What role models is she getting exposure to? Instead of a comic book or television, the culture is now delivered via iPad. Sid the Science Kid. Wyatt the Super Reader. Boys, boys and more boys.
But of late there has been a new voice, “Hi, I’m Deysi from Design Squad” says the female voice of Deysi Melgar. Melgar is one of the hosts of the show, Design Squad.
PBS Kids' Design Squad is very popular with my daughter because she gets to see ideas come to life- from conception to implementation. She then re-creates what she’s learned or uses the ideas for her own projects and experiments with materials around our house. “Mission accomplished,” is probably what the producers reading are thinking.
Put the Life “Menu” Down
At the recent Women in Publishing Conference, awardee and notable journalist Kara Swisher was honored as an Exceptional Woman in Publishing for 2014. Swisher challenged listeners at the event to “avoid treating life like a menu.” She encouraged us to "look around you and see who you see." If you don't want to be any of those people...that's a sign you may need to make a radical change. She encouraged listeners to "stop seeing what you believe and start believing what you see” as the first step to finding your true path.
At what age do children lose their inherent ability to see things as they are and instead frame their world by what they’ve been told to believe? Are programs like Design Squad helping to further my daughter’s ability to “believe what she sees” for longer? Certainly there is a rich and nutritious movement of toys and media out there seeking to alter the learning and subsequent career choices young women make. There is a lot more out there that encourages them to choose STEM careers. Yes, I’m talking about projects like GoldieBlox and Hello Ruby.
The learning media menu offered to my daughter in this era is far more nutrient rich than 30+ years ago. And for me on this International Women’s Day eve (2014), I am particularly thankful for Melgar. Since getting cast as a host of Design Squad she has (likely) now graduated with a degree in physics. I believe you are a role model for my daughter, Deysi. Thank you for that.
A closing quote from another notable young woman I hope to introduce to my daughter soon (we’ve been focusing on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King): “Education is a lamp which makes humans human. Without it we are nothing.” – Malala Yousafzai
I tend to write annually in honor of International Women's Day on my personal blog. To read what I’ve shared in past years, click here.
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