Let’s be honest: when we think of cheerleaders, we usually think of something like the movie Bring It On. Something like a bunch of bubblehead blonds in skimpy outfits, whose goal in life is to win competitions and capture the perfect boyfriend.
Blasting that stereotype away are the Science Cheerleaders. They’re a group of former professional cheerleaders who all went on to have science and engineering careers. These women now get together and perform cheers aimed at getting girls interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Some people have criticized the Science Cheerleaders for sexing up science, but I disagree. I think it’s important for girls to see that any type of women, no matter what their interests are and how they perform their gender, can be smart and successful in a STEM career.
I come at this issue from the perspective of a former science nerd. When I started college I was a physics major and one of the very few women in my department. I also happened to be (and still am) a woman who likes dresses, shoes and getting my nails done Sometimes it felt like I had to struggle every day against the notion that in order to appear smart, I had to tone down these characteristics of my personality and act more “like a man.” And it wasn’t just other people who displayed this attitude – I had to fight to keep from projecting these notions on myself.
Although I ultimately decided to switch to another major and a different career field, the memories of my days in science – of earning one of only 3 As in my Physics 301 class, of being the only women out of eighteen men selected for a summer research program – still inform how I tackle the world.
As I learned at the Reimagining Girlhood conference earlier this fall, by the age of twelve many girls are reluctant to take science classes because they fear that having a STEM career will doom their social and romantic life. This is a sad fact of girlhood, so I applaud any effort to show girls that they can be and do whatever they choose.
- Miriam Musco
Girl Museum Inc.