Editorial Notebook

Women deserve to be heard

For one of my writing classes this semester, I have to write a piece about what irritates me. As I am new to this type of self-expression, this class has really opened my eyes to healthy ways of questioning aspects of my life. And, as I sat at my desk thinking of daily irritations, I realized my biggest annoyance resulted from my male peers: mansplaining. I’m sure the majority of women on campus are familiar with this term as we fight to simply be considered equally.

Throughout high school, I had somehow managed to surround myself with powerful feminists and thus didn’t experience mansplaining until college. As a woman at Rensselaer—or really anywhere in STEM—oppression by men is bound to happen. I’ve seen it in each of my computer science classes so far. My male counterparts have had a hard time believing my answer to a particular problem, or found it shocking when I finished homework before them. And, God forbid, I ask for help; they’ll start mansplaining the problem, assuming I am confused about every concept, not just one small part. I know I am not alone in my experience. I have watched my friends here struggle to believe in themselves, becoming less and less confident as more male peers disregard their opinions.

Although my irritation is very generalized towards men, I don’t mean to attack every single man I’ve met in STEM. There are a handful that have helped me to better myself, and some actually value my opinion. However, this idea of accepting women as equal in the workplace or in a classroom setting definitely needs more support. I saw a lot of this at the Grace Hopper Celebration—the biggest conference for women in technology. It was mesmerizing to be in an environment where women are encouraged to succeed by their peers or mentors. I honestly didn’t want to leave that space and come back to our heavily male-dominated campus.

I can only hope that someday the students at RPI will realize the importance of this matter. The change must come from within the student body; there is only so much the administration can do. Bettering the gender ratio on campus will take years, but what about the time in between? Don’t we, one of the many minorities on campus, deserve respect?

If you’re reading this and are struggling with oppression by men or mansplaining, don’t be afraid to speak up. You deserve to be heard. You’ve earned your spot at the table. And be sure to talk to your friends and other peers; you’ll notice that you are not alone. Women are here, we are the present and the future, and no one can take that away from us.