Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 107th birthday of computer pioneer Grace Hopper (1906-1992) just in time for the “Hour of Code” kicking off Computer Science Education Week.
Hopper created COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language,) the program that allows computer to communicate through language as well as numbers. She joined the Navy Reserve in 1943, when she was teaching mathematics at Vassar, and finally reached the rank of rear admiral in 1985. Hopper, who repeatedly un-retired, became the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 76.
Hopper is credited with coining the term “bug in the system” because of the time she actually found a bug in a computer. As TIME described it in 1984:
She gets credit for coining the name of a ubiquitous computer phenomenon: the bug. In August 1945, while she and some associates were working at Harvard on an experimental machine called the Mark I, a circuit malfunctioned. A researcher using tweezers located and removed the problem: a 2-in. long moth. Hopper taped the offending insect into her logbook. Says she: “From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”
(The moth is still under tape along with records of the experiment at the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Va.)
She was also famous for her incredible work ethic and unique way of interpreting time. When teaching her students about nanoseconds, she would show them a length of wire that represented the distance electricity could travel in a nanosecond:
In her commencement speech to the Trinity College class of 1987, which was excerpted in TIME, she said:
There’s always been change, there always will be change . . . It’s to our young people that I look for the new ideas. No computer is ever going to ask a new, reasonable question. It takes trained people to do that. And if we’re going to move toward those things we’d like to have, we must have the young people to ask the new, reasonable questions. A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. And I want every one of you to be good ships and sail out and do the new things and move us toward the future.
Confession: I am a reformed sexist.
For a long time I held the view that on average, women are not as capable as men. This view was based on my experience; it was what I saw around me. So many vapid women with as much substance as the reality TV stars they watched each night. But a relatively recent realization brought this view crashing to the ground: possession of two X chromosomes does not render a person less capable, but our culture does an excellent job of it.
Last year I was conversing with a gender issues expert who opened my eyes to the world from a woman’s perspective. She explained what is was like to be constantly objectified, to be treated differently because you are a woman, and what is was like to grow up with different expectations and values thanks to cultural conditioning.
This realization led me down the rabbit hole of gender (in)equality. Suddenly evidence of the ‘oversexification’ and devaluing of women was everywhere. It became no wonder so many of my female peers acted this way. What was ‘normal’ became nauseating.
As a man, I know that I can never fully comprehend this reality, but I wish to share as much as I can grasp to you, here and now.
A False Sense of Gender Equality
I’ll start off by letting Google do the talking about the cultural consensus on men and women:
Shocked? I wasn’t.
The first thing that needs to be understood is the importance of role models in a young person’s life. The most primary role models are, of course, immediate family, but beyond that lie popular culture icons. Books, TV and movies provide bigger-than-life characters whom we consciously and unconsciously mirror.
Men need not look very far to find an abundance of strong role models. Female role models of the same caliber, however, are few and far between. Most prominent female figures are worshiped for their looks, not their character or accomplishments. Even those women revered for their achievements have a strange knack for being very easy on the eyes.
Consider the plot of the vast majority of Hollywood films produced today. The male protagonist is the superhero, the brilliant writer, the CEO, the President, the secret agent. Meanwhile the female protagonist more often that not serves as eye-candy for the audience and the prize needing to be rescued for the male hero.
What This Means
The implications of this divide are ubiquitous.
Women have equally few leadership roles in the real world. As of 2011, women made up only 9 of 190 heads of state, 13% of parliamentary positions and 15% of top-level business positions internationally.
To make matters worse, we subconsciously harbor antagonism towards strong women. A recent Stanford study presented students with the biography of a successful Silicon valley investor. 50% of students were told the investor’s name was Heidi, and 50% were told it was Howard.
The results showed that students were much harsher on Heidi than on Howard across the board. Although they think she’s just as competent and effective as Howard, they don’t like her, they wouldn’t hire her, and they wouldn’t want to work with her. As gender researchers would predict, this seems to be driven by how much they disliked Heidi’s aggressive personality. The more assertive they thought Heidi was, the more harshly they judged her (but the same was not true for those who rated Howard).
Women are even lacking a voice in the media. The following infographic shows how little major news channels value the opinion of women, even concerning women’s issues:
But Things Are Changing…
Women’s rights and empowerment have certainly come a long way in the past century. The evidence is everywhere, even in the plots of Disney movies…
If you want to see this big jump firsthand, watch the trailer for Snow White (For Christ’s sake, the entire plot hinges on the line, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the fairest one of all?’) followed by the trailer for Brave.
To the Women of the World…
You are doing a fantastic job of living out your potential in spite of this bullshit. Our culture has told you that you are ‘equal’ while slamming you from every direction with reason to believe that you are not.
But the world needs more from you now than ever. Centuries of patriarchal domination has left this world on the brink of destruction. At the very least we need a balance between the masculine and the feminine.
To my (and Layar’s) opinion, modern leadership has a lot of feminine elements. It is not so much about power, control, top-down thinking and ego, but much more about inclusiveness, intuition, the will to move ahead, looking for win-win (for both parties) rather than ‘I win, you lose’.
So my message to you is, KEEP GOING!!! Men don’t like to admit they need directions, let alone a surge in feminine leadership, so don’t look to us for to call for change. Be that change.
If we have the courage to accept that our current crises afford us the opportunity to do things differently, if we recognize the value of women’s leadership power and enlist women as partners in the redesign and reconstruction of broken systems, we can activate a global reset that accrues to the benefit of our shared global community.
I’m not a woman, so I feel somewhat strange handing out advice here. However I do feel these steps would be helpful in overcoming the social conditioning already discussed:
1) Become aware and share
The first step to any change is become aware of the need for it. Beyond reading this article, look out for evidence of this epidemic in TV, movies, and your real life interactions with both men and women. Go a step further and share this realization with those around you.
2) Drop unhealthy role models and adopt new ones
Stop taking in media that gives the spotlight to poor role models. Instead, spend that building up what should have always been yours: a healthy sense of self-worth. Watch TED talks from badass women, research those who are pioneers in their fields. Do anything and everything find new role models to emulate.
3) Stand up in situations where gender inequality is occurring
This one goes without saying. Be a beacon of the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t be afraid to be vocal with friends, family and strangers. Awareness starts with you.
4) Figure out what you can do to help the world
Think about what you can do for others as a strong woman. What issues could benefit from your feminine touch? The world needs you now more than ever.
To The Men of the World…
This issue goes both ways. We are taught from day one what it is to be masculine, and how women should be viewed and treated. Thus we must play an equal role in reversing that conditioning.
1) Take a walk in someone else’s high-heels (metaphorically!)
Read #2 of this experiment in empathy.
2) Be Conscious of Your Interactions with Women
Notice the subtleties of the way you talk and treat women, while also noticing how they interact with you. If you see something you don’t agree with, be vocal about it — whether it’s your action or that of a female friend. Call attention to the bullshit.
3) Become a Loud Advocate for Women
Other men are far more likely to take your words into consideration than a woman’s. Make feminism cool. One thing is for sure: this certainly won’t hurt your chances with the ladies.
Thank you for reading this article. This is not an easy topic to broach for men or women because it calls into question so many basic assumptions. You’re awesome just for considering it, let alone following the steps laid out above. Keep fighting the good fight 🙂 Much love.
Tupac was ahead of his time for sure.
“You know it makes me unhappy
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up”
The controversial pill known as “Plan B” typically works up to 72 hours after intercourse.
The ruling overturns a decision in 2011 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that barred over-the-counter sales of the controversial pill to girls under 17. Sebelius’ decision itself had overruled an FDA recommendation to widen availability of the drug.
The pill, popularly known as “Plan B,” typically works up to 72 hours after intercourse, and is distinct from the so-called “abortion pill.”
READ: The full ruling
FIRST TAKE: The decision turns politics upside down
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, of Brooklyn, said his order must be carried out within a month.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Justice Department officials were reviewing the ruling, but reiterated the president’s support for Sebelius’s original decision to place age restriction on the sale of the drug.
“Secretary Sebelius made this decision. The president supported that decision after she made it,” Carney said. “He supports that decision today. We believe that it was the right, common-sense approach to this issue.”
The Department of Justice “is reviewing the appellate options and expects to act promptly,” spokeswoman Allison Price said.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, hailed the ruling as “a significant and long-overdue step forward for women’s health that will benefit women of all ages.”
“When a woman fears she might become pregnant after her contraceptive has failed or she has had unprotected sex, she needs fast access to emergency contraception, not delays at the pharmacy counter,” Richards said in a statement. “Lifting these restrictions will allow emergency contraception to be stocked on store shelves, making it more accessible to everyone.”
In a statement, the Family Research Council raised what it called serious concerns about the ruling.
“This ruling places the health of young girls at risk,” said Anna Higgins, director of the council’s Center for Human Dignity. “Making Plan B available for girls under the age of 17 without a prescription flies in the face of medical information and sound judgment.”
Higgins also expressed concern that the over-the-counter availability of Plan B for girls of any age would put many at further risk of sexually transmitted infections because it circumvents necessary medical screening for sexually active girls.
She also said that there is a “real danger” that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent. ”
The judge said the case isn’t about the potential misuse of the so-called morning-after pill by 11-year-olds. He said the contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over the counter. He said the number of 11-year-olds likely to use the drugs was minuscule.
In his 59-page ruling, Korman said that Sebelius, in overruling the FDA, had forced the agency to “to ride roughshod over the policies and practices that it has consistently applied in considering applications for switches in drug status to over-the-counter availability.”
Korman, who was appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1985, also noted that the FDA itself had engaged in its own foot-dragging over the years, dating from the Bush administration, when the plaintiffs first began trying to get it to rule on Plan B more than 12 years ago.
“The FDA has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition,” he wrote. “Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster.”
He was particularly caustic regarding the FDA’s call for public comment on whether it needed to engage in rulemaking in order to adopt an age-restricting marketing regime.
“After eating up eleven months, 47,000 public comments, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars,” Korman wrote. “It decided that it did not need rulemaking after all. The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction.”
Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a non-profit group that studies reproductive and sexual health, says the focus of HHS secretary Kathryn Sebelius and President Obama on girls 10-11 in their past decision to restrict sales of Plan B to women 17 and older, “was misplaced.”
“Very few girls that young are involved in sexual activity,” Finer says. “Rather, a substantial minority of young women aged 15 to 16 are sexually active, and they are old enough to initiate emergency contraception in most cases. They are the ones who had been hurt by the decision.”
Last year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendedthat oral contraceptives be sold over the counter without a prescription to help lower the nation’s high unintended pregnancy rate.
Morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy that has implanted, according to the Mayo Clinic, and should not be confused with abortion pills.
The clinic says morning-after pills, which have been widely available in Europe and Latin America for several years, can prevent pregnancy “because conception typically doesn’t occur immediately after sex.”
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Pregnancy may happen up to several days later. During the time between sex and conception, sperm travel through the fallopian tubes until they potentially reach an egg. Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, morning-after pills may act by one or more of the following actions: delaying or preventing ovulation, blocking fertilization, or keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.”
Korman, who also worked in the solicitor general’s office during the NIxon administration, served 22 years on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, including a role as chief judge. He is currently serving in a “senior status,” which amounts to semi-retirement.
Contributing: Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
“Finally science won and the years of unnecessary politicization of a safe and effective contraceptive are over,” said Susannah Baruch, interim president & CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.