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  • Writer's pictureAlastar Connor

When Gender Matters

My letter to the Editor of The Marblehead Current.

Dear Editor,

My child participated in the recent STEAM fair at the Brown School. She loves science and is quite the foodie. While it would mean a tight timeline and my assistance as an already overloaded parent, I was wholeheartedly in support when she exclaimed, “I want to participate!”

We went onto the website that very night. “Objective for your project and title?”

“I want to create a healthier energy drink that has less sugar and no caffeine. My title is Energy Drink 2.0.”

How she came up with the idea, I have no idea. I got out every ingredient I could find for her to consider. She began, “Coconut water and spinach to start.” “Too green…kids will never drink that! Let’s add strawberries to make it pink!” “Oh no, it turned brown. Let’s add blueberries and make it purple!” “It’s not sweet enough, I’m going to add a little honey. Now, it’s too thick and coconut flavored, I’m going to add water.”

When she finished, I used a recipe app to check her work. She had indeed created a drink that was healthier, had less sugar, no caffeine, and more calories (energy) than Gatorade. She was so proud.

Every night she worked on the project, never complaining. The night before the event, she was still finishing up, glueing her poster together and mixing up another batch to serve as samples. She conquered her anxiety to present her project in a packed auditorium, even convincing some reticent kids to try it.

She saw a reporter interviewing a boy and taking his photo. “Why am I not getting interviewed?” “There are a lot of projects here and only so much space in the newspaper.” As I looked around, I was proud of these kids who chose to do this extra work, outside of school. The breadth of projects was admirable. I felt the palpable excitement and the reverence of the attendees. I rejoiced seeing an even mix of all genders participating.

In your recent article covering the event, I was shocked and disappointed to see my child’s efforts reduced to the reference, “with projects ranging from a girl who concocted a sports drink to another who studied the osmosis of gummy bears”. Never in the article, was anyone referred to as “a boy” but rather by their grade level and their given name. Why would my child’s gender be more important than her name, displayed proudly on her poster board right below the title? While eight traditionally male names were mentioned, included in four photos, and their projects detailed, only one traditionally female name was mentioned and the child photographed.

Journalists need to be cognizant of gender bias. Female efforts in the areas of science, engineering, and mathematics should be celebrated. Seeing my child’s effort reduced and discounted and gender disproportionately represented struck me at my core. I appeal to you, as well as your readers, to leave gender bias in the past and do better in the future.

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