The Invisible Woman
The other day a German man asked me “Why do you think German women don’t code?” The question threw me because, well, my knowledge of recent German culture is pretty well restricted to the works of Rammstein, Wir Sind Helden and Nena. But the question itself reminded me of all the other times I have been told that girls don’t code, despite me being a living example to the contrary.
There’s this persistent meme that women have never participated in anything but keeping the home and raising the children. Kameron Hurley wrote about that brilliantly in We Have Always Fought but I’m not sure if that’s the whole story. Confirmation bias is, of course, a thing so when we see something that doesn’t match the narrative in our head, we tend to ignore it.
I’m not a historian, nor a sociologist, anthropologist or anyone with a professional opinion, just a lot of observations I’ve made over my life. And the thing I keep noticing over and over again is that somehow women keep disappearing. Not in the literal sense of the word, although that happens as well. What I’m talking about is both critics and audiences completely missing a major character like Black Widow, despite the fact that she’s a major player in both Avengers Assemble and Captain America: Winter Soldier. I mean if the most you have to say about a character who takes the second most amount of screen time and whose actions are constantly defining what happens in the movie is that she was “leather-clad” then there’s something wrong with you. When that happens over and over and over again then there’s something rotten further afield than in Denmark.
In case you haven’t heard Ubisoft, a major game developer, decided that women are just too hard to animate. A lot of people have been calling bullshit on that particular piece of nonsense so I’m not even touching that mess. Except to note that this is a notable company with huge resources essentially saying that women don’t kill.
As far as I know this is not a new phenomenon by any means. In the Bible God punishes Eve for eating and encouraging Adam to eat that damned apple by making her subservient to Adam. But the thing is, it’s not universal. While Western/European society as we know it has been pretty patriarchal (women were denied ownership of property in most of Europe somewhere around the Middle Ages), many indigenous peoples lived in matriarchal societies. But to look at the history books you would think that women never existed, which is of course untrue.
Women died during D-Day in Normandy. A woman invented the technology that is the basis for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. A whole team of women were there at Bletchley Park, working with Alan Turing, cracking the Enigma code. A woman was designing and building airplanes within a couple of years of the Wright brothers completing theirs. A woman wrote one of the earliest commercial science fiction books, practically forming the genre – at nineteen. And despite what Damon Lindelof thinks, women pretty much built the Star Trek fandom and until the deeply sexist J.J. Abrams reboot, formed over half of it. And despite the brony culture being a media darling, the original audience as well as the popularizers of the Friendship is Magic show were little girls.
So why don’t German women code? From the evidence I’d be willing to bet that they do.