By Srishti Singh:
I recently happened to read ‘The Dark Side of Girls’ Success in School’ by Tara Sophia Mohr. The article focusses mainly on the academic success of girls at school and the effect it has on their careers and decision making later on. The writer says that we as a society raise our girls to be ‘good’. And though there is nothing wrong with being good, this very teaching of ‘goodness’ has a long term impact on them when they enter the workforce. As I read the article, I felt I could relate with almost everything mentioned in the article.
While at school, I was the quintessential ‘good girl’. I listened in class, did my homework in a good handwriting and submitted it on time. I ‘learnt’ up my lessons and did well in tests. Somehow, the focus was always on being good and learning (mugging) things up. The art of questioning was discouraged as that’s not what ‘good girls’ do. They take down notes, learn them up and do well in tests (that don’t really matter later in life).
The worst part was I didn’t even realize I was doing it wrong in the first place. I saw all the girls around me doing the same, my parents or teachers never pointed it out. So, I figured I was right. And I continued my ‘hard work’. Learning up dates in History, solving the same problems over and over again, practicing diagrams. Of course, it helped me in my Board exams, but the use?
Sometimes I wonder if the society has been engineered in a way so as to discourage thinking amongst women. Is the whole ‘reward the good girl’, a faux created in schools so as to prevent young women from thinking and making themselves capable of taking up leadership positions later in life?
What else can possibly explain the problems we, as girls face in our academic life? While preparing for the prestigious IITJEE entrance exams, at times I would be be the only girl in the coaching class. That ‘goodness’ failed me in those classrooms. After nearly ten years not questioning and thinking, I was lost. And being a minority in those classes didn’t help either. Regardless to say, I failed to get a seat in those ‘prestigious’ colleges.
And its not an isolated story that I’m ranting out of frustration of any sort. There are many other girls out there who have wrongfully suffered. While I was lucky enough to get admission into a fairly decent engineering college (currently pursuing EEE), many other girls like me were forced to settle for courses that aren’t as promising in terms of career prospects as STEM subjects. What was then the use of being ‘good’? Mugging up things uselessly when the time spent could have been spent in doing better things like trying new ways to solve a math problem or learning how to code?
Well I guess, Laura Vanderkam had similar questions in mind when she wrote the ‘The Princess Problem’. In the article she mentions how girls are raised in a manner that they end up lacking the internal locus of control-or the belief that they can make their own way in the world. Is this also the centre of the ‘good girl’ problem? Yes, indeed. For most women, the focus is on- being good, not questioning or being aggressive in classrooms, being disinterested in technology, taking up traditional ‘women’ careers, or (if into male-dominated professions) being content with low salaries cause after all they are just ‘contributing’ to the family. Yes, years of toil and training so that we could contribute. All this for being a princess?