I was standing in line, waiting for my usual bus on an ordinary evening. Like many other people on the street, I scrolled through endless articles on the internet in order to ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world after long hours at office. The Verge, Brit+Co, The New Yorker, and The Rolling Stones have been my usual go-to website (other than playing Clash of Clans of course). Couple of links later, I found an article breaking down several awesome videos of girl empowerment. I held my tears for the entire journey as I cannot stop myself watching all the videos and hope that many other young girl got to see these also. I lost the article but the most memorable one was the video called Always’ Like A Girl. Always is a P&G’s feminine product brand, the video itself is encouraging the word ‘like a girl’ as self-empowerment not as an insult. I tweeted the video right after and has mentioned the videos many times in many conversations.
Weeks later, I found out about Amy Wibowo, an angel, a superhero. Amy launched her Kickstarter campaign called Bubblesort on March 2015. Having drawing cartoon to explain math and science for herself since early age, Amy wanted to make a series zine about computer science intended for high school students. Her playful bubbly drawing shows a lot of her personality. On one of the cover of her zine about Cryptography, she draws two cats whisper to each other with caption Secret Messages alongside a bubble and a heart (ouch, we seriously need couple of heart emojis here). Having the same name with Ami Mizuno (my favorite sailor!), she is a computer scientist armed with bubble gun. She even uses Sailor Mercury avatar on her Twitter FTW. Amy graduated from MIT, did a learning research for ASIMO, and had been working at Airbnb as a software engineer. As I said before, Amy is a superhero.
In an article on Medium called Coding Like A Girl, Amy told the stories about gender biased in the tech industry. Previously, she also delivered the same talk at AlterConf. Amy shared stories towards working in the tech industry. On how she got a lot of gendered feedback towards many encounters or how people appreciate more when a female engineer dressed in a t-shirt and jeans instead of a dress. Couple of links later, I also found out how this Stanford’s Computer Science major forced to lower her voices and left her dress in an interview.
(image from here)
Other time, I remember watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about Caitlyn Jenner’s Transformation. Stewart explained towards many news feed across countries, about how the news, the media, and the society treat a woman. About how her look is the only thing we care about, about how people need to compare it with other, and how mean their comments are. Stewarts ended the segment by a bold statement,
“So Caitlyn Jenner, congratulations. Welcome, to being a woman in America.”
Maybe, it is not only in America and the tech industry, maybe it happens on every corners of the world.
As I read more and thought about it more, I was sad for something greater. I was sad for being the Regina George of real life. I was them. I was one of the people who degrades other by their looks. Despite of what I do right now, I am still working as an engineer. I’m not the girly girl type and my favorite clothing is T-shirt and sweater. Sure, I occasionally wear dress to certain events, I like ModCloth’s dresses and madly in love with Emma & Harriett’s office clothes. But yes, I shouldn’t be mean when it comes to people’s choices. If I am comfortable with myself, why can’t they?
When I first started working, I used to question my female engineers colleagues who has flawless hair, wear make-up, and use high heels to office. I, sometimes, asked myself what time they get up in the morning, how they manage to wear heels on crowded bus station, maybe their home is close to office so they have more time to relax, etc. The meaner me also questioned why they play dress up in a working environment where 90% of them is male. Do they seek some attention? Do they dress to impress others? I know there are several jobs who demands women (or man) to dress in a certain attire to impress their consumer or ‘to look the part’. But in most of the time, maybe they just wanted to impress themselves. Maybe they do like wearing dresses and heels. I suddenly feel bad for even questioned it, I feel bad for being intolerant bastard.
There are times that I hate working here and wanted to get safer choices, working on media or social organizations. I hate going to Vendor’s meeting because they don’t want to know my opinion. Mostly they just see me as an intern employee working on extracurricular research. I also hate the way my boss mocks me when I get home at the exact time at the evening. He respects more of other fellow workers who come late and stays at the office longer at the evening. I started talking in my head, maybe I shouldn’t try to get up early and get to office early to make up for my quick check out, maybe I shouldn’t complete my works earlier than others, in order to be seen ‘working hard’. But I stop being miserable and doing things my way, for almost all my working years. But no matter how I proof my way to be as effective, changing habits and traditions are in a way different level. I know I shouldn’t feel bad about it, I know I should channel my inner Peggy Carter and keep on living. But sadly, I’m not that capable to handle that kind of pressure. Most of the times, I just gave up and feel sad about it, terribly. I just told myself, maybe I get my karma for being mean to my colleagues in the past (even if it’s just in my head, it always counts).
Amy is right after all. When we are ready to accept diversity on our workplace or even society, we also need to be ready to avoid the stereotypes.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
When you want to be taken seriously, you need to take other people seriously. Their looks don’t tell them who they are as a whole. Karlie Kloss struts in Victoria’s Secret lingerie every year, but she learns coding to fly drones and launched summer program scholarship with Flatiron school (she also accepted on NYU this year).
There are many reasons to be content. For me, maybe it is when I do things my way, to see and understand things in many perspectives. For others, maybe it is when they wear adorable dresses and code for humanity. When I started to realize how easy seeing things on the positive way without being judgmental, then I realized there is nothing wrong with the dress. There is nothing wrong about being yourself.
Amy Wibowo is not the only one who works toward empowering young girls how to code. Linda Liukas is also successfully launched her Hello Ruby campaign at Kickstarter on early 2015. Hello Ruby takes its name from Ruby programming language. Hello Ruby is a kids book about Ruby’s adventure to find hidden gems with the help of some of her friends; the Green Robots, Penguin, Fox, Phyton, etc. It is fun to see how all her friends resembles many iconic brands in technology like Android and Linux logo. The book carefully explains the basic principles of programming and coding. How awesome~ Linda gave some amazing enthusiastically talks about Hello Ruby in many conferences, but my favorite is when she talks at the RedDot Ruby Conferences about the Principles of Play.