Last week, a Google Doodle honored Alice Paul, who led the fight securing women’s right to vote in 1920.
If Paul were alive, she would be less flattered by the recognition and more appalled that the Equal Rights Amendment, which she authored in 1923, has still not been ratified.
But Paul would like Annie Rose, an 8-year-old who took on a big corporation over sexism this month and won.
Annie Rose was upset that Rey, heroine of “The Force Awakens,” was absent in the new “Star Wars” Monopoly board game, so she wrote a letter to Hasbro.
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“How can you leave out Rey?!,” she asked. “Without her there is no Force Awakens! It awakens in her! … Boys and girls need to see women can be as strong as men.”
Annie Rose’s mom, Carrie Goldman, @CarrieMGoldman, posted a photo of the letter on Twitter with the hashtag #WheresRey.
Hasbro’s initial response was a dog-ate-homework excuse that Rey was left out so as not to reveal a key plot development.
Scorn ensued and a day later, the company played its Get Out of Jail Free card by announcing Rey will be included in a new version of the game later this year.
Cue the weak applause and a head shake: If Rey had been male, this would not have happened, you can bet your Millennium Falcon on that.
Why make a tempest over a toy?
Because this is what sexism looks like in 2016: pervasive and ingrained in the culture to the point of invisibility.
In December, IBM, which has been praised for doing a better job than most at hiring women for STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, math), was forced to apologize and pull the plug on a Twitter video encouraging women to re-engineer “what matters”: a hairdryer.
The hashtag accompanying the video, #HackAHairDryer, was immediately hijacked by women blasting it as patronizing and sexist. Rocket scientist Stephanie Evans, @StephEVZ43, tweeted: “That’s OK @IBM, I’d rather build satellites instead, but good luck with that #HackaHairDryer thing.”
Eliminating deep-rooted gender stereotypes takes diligence and patience.
My mother, a stewardess for TWA in the late 1950s when women were forced to give up that job when they got married, understood the importance of breaking down accepted gender barriers and encouraging us to consider all options.
Whenever my sister or I said, “I want to be a stewardess when I grow up,” her answer was casual and swift: “Be the pilot.”
If one of us said, “I want to be a nurse,” we heard, “Be the doctor.”
“I want to be a secretary.” “Be the boss.”
My father, a Navy officer, used to tell me if I joined the Navy, I could become the first female chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (At age 10 or 11, I rejected that career path, certain another woman would beat me to it. I’m still waiting.)
Those empowering messages from my parents were echoed by Mark Zuckerberg a couple of weeks ago.
On Facebook, a woman responded to Zuckerberg’s post about New Year’s goals by saying she encourages her granddaughters to “date the nerd” because he might turn out to be a Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg’s response was kind and perfect: “Even better would be to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!”
Messages matter, and when 8-year-olds like Annie Rose understand that and speak up, the future of our galaxy looks brighter.