By Anna Cook
Geek, Dweeb, Nerd, Dork, in America, these are terms used slightingly to refer to unique and often academically inclined individuals. But is one’s “nerdiness” such a bad thing? According to a sociology study examining a self-identifying social group, “‘Nerds’ seem to be more intellectually motivated, valuing science, math, and studiousness" (1). 50 years ago, no one was calling themselves a nerd; it was used to label and belittle others. I am suggesting an enlistment of nerd ownership.
***Disclaimer: I am not endorsing the negative perpetuation of stereotypes or bully tactics but rather the takeover and a connotative shift of the title “Nerd”.
Problems with Women’s Progress
In today’s society, women make up almost half of the workforce, yet represent only a small fraction of science, engineering and political occupations. Only a fifth of physics Ph.D.’s are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American (2). At this rate of governmental and educational progress, it is projected, “women will not achieve fair representation for nearly 500 years,” says Cynthia Terrell, in the “Representation 2020” project (3). If you do not plan to personally run for government office or obtain a physics Ph.D., what can you do? Be a nerd.
Someone Needs You
Developmental studies have shown, that kindergarten boys and girls equally express a want to be the president when they grow up. Years later, when asked again, many boys still maintain a desire to be president, while the proportion of aspiring girls astronomically drops. Why? In early childhood, children undergo a process referred to as “Gender Socialization”, during which they look to adults of the same sex and begin to model their behaviors. Dismally, young girls begin to look at current and past presidents and realize they aren’t “what a president looks like”. The same occurs for many aspiring rocket scientists, chemical engineers, and CEOs. If we want our youth to reach for greatness, we must first grasp our own inner greatness.
Be a Nerd
Be a nerd because one of the primary ways nerds differ from other groups is through the high value they place on individuality (1). Because you have the power to inspire the next Marie Curie, Emilia Earhart, or Emily Dickinson. Because exploring outer space is cool. Because for ethnically diverse nations, having a woman in top national leadership was correlated with a 6.8% greater increase in GDP growth in comparison to nations with a male leader (3). Because gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers (4). Because I’ll be the first to say it, I would rather watch jeopardy over any hit TV drama, I have an extreme ardor for all things Abraham Lincoln, and running reactions in my research lab gives me more gratification than most social accomplishments.
One day someone is going to look at you with young, questioning eyes for the signal, make sure you have your nerd flag ready to fly. As Gandhi once said, “Be the nerd that you wish to see in the world”…or something like that.
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