By Erika Davidoff
After studying together for our upcoming physics final, my group of engineering-student friends decided to take a break and peruse a collection of engineering memes. Though some of them were clever, and many of them simply rehashed the standard “lol engineering is hard” trope, I was dismayed that so many of them joked about the fact that engineering is a male-heavy field. There was nothing disparaging to women in particular, thankfully, but there were a lot of “where are all the women?” and “no girls allowed” posts. The four guys in my group found this commentary fairly hilarious. The three girls giggled awkwardly. Ha ha, guys. We’re right here.
Many universities, including mine, are trying to attract more STEM-oriented girls, and seek to have roughly gender-balanced entering classes. This is a problem, then, that many people are paying attention to and many people are trying to fix. So why are we still joking about it? It would be like joking about sexual assault—oh wait, that happened during our study hall, too, when one guy told another about his chances on the final, “You’re not just f*cked. You’re raped.” Cue more nervous laughter.
I wish I would have spoken up then and told him that wasn’t okay, but I didn’t, and I regret that. As long as jokes like these persist, it’ll be hard to convince people that problems like sexual assault and a gender imbalance in STEM fields are worthy of serious attention. These issues are no joke, and I hope I’ll be able to convince my friends of that.