The other day, as I was sifting through my Facebook timeline, I came across a video that was centered around a trick question that was asked by an interviewer to presumably random people on the street.
The scenario was that there was a father and a son who were unfortunately in a car accident. The father perished immediately, and the son was rushed to the hospital. When the boy got to the ER, the surgeon refused to operate. The surgeon’s reasoning was that the boy was “my” son. The question of this scenario was, who was the surgeon?
To the passerby on the street, conclusions such as the surgeon was the biological father and the man who died in the car crash was the adoptive father, or that the surgeon was the boy’s uncle, but thought of the boy as his own. I will be the first to admit that I, too, was dumbfounded. All the solutions, albeit some were highly unlikely, were possible. The solution that was absent from the passerby, and myself, however, was the possibility that the surgeon could be the boy’s mother. Once this scenario was revealed, the people were dumbfounded, they could not believe that they had missed such an “obvious” solution. The message of the video was to pronounce that there are gender stereotypes that exist in our society, even though we hold ourselves (especially as Americans) to be gender-neutral. The reality of the matter is, however, is that the solution was not obvious, as there are gender stereotypes that exist in career fields that are associated with STEM and the Medical Field.
This scenario is not an isolated occurrence. Gender stereotypes occur throughout many different majors in the college setting. A colleague of mine is a mechanical engineer, and, after viewing this video, I was curious to know the gender distribution of his major, as STEM careers are typically “known” to be male-dominated. When questioned, he revealed that he never noticed the male-to-female ratio of his classes. After attending his classes the next day, he approached me and revealed that his classes consisted of mainly males. STEM careers actively seek to improve human nature, and utilize past experiences to improve upon the present. Per Scott in his journal about Authoritarian High Modernism, “The past is an impediment, a history that must be transcended; the present is the platform for launching plans for a better future” (Scott). Even the job titles of these careers express the gender stereotypes that are associated with them. Grammatically speaking, think of suffixes in multiple languages, French is an excellent example of this. Words that are referred to as “feminine” have suffixes that end with the letter “e”. In the English language, gender descriptions often differentiate career positions. Take for example the existence of policemen, businessmen, and nurses. Each career can be associated with a specific gender, but when the opposite gender is present in the career field, only women must change the title to fit their gender. A woman in the police force is a policewoman, whereas a man who is a nurse is still a nurse. While each position requires a specific set of skills, there is no regard for the social context surrounding the career field, gender differentiation must be present.
In the high-authoritarian modernist society that we live in, it is common for us to place strong reliance on the expertise of scientists, engineers, and other intellectuals, most of which originate from a STEM career. In a high-authoritarian modernist society, there is an attempt to master nature (even human nature) to meet human needs. Historically, women have been viewed as the main developers of human nature, and men as the means to provide for human nature. The way to master nature, in this context, is to rely on the expertise provided from those listed above, all of which are male-dominated. Social context in this scenario does not apply, as we (collectively) are seeking to master the nature that confines us.
What I wonder is, is if we want to continue to move towards this high-authoritarian modernist society. Are we willing to accept the intentional disregard for social context in terms of our development, and are we, more specifically as Americans, going to continue to allow for this gender cliché to be present in our society?