by Cody J. Elms
I am no expert on women. To be honest, in some areas I probably know less now at 32 than I did 20 years ago, yet in others I have been enlightened. Partially because of the increased number of females in my family, and partially because of various women’s issues that have been the topics of campaigns and news coverage for most of my adult life. So, when it comes to who should be a role model for young women, ultimately it is not up to a man to decide who is appropriate and who not, however I do have an opinion that I hope will make its way to the right eyes to take into consideration when assessing their own future and identity.
This week, we were introduced to the first ever photograph of a black hole. This wasn’t just some space photo, this was a 55 million light-year away photograph of a black hole that was at the center of gigantic galaxy name Messier 87, which is part of the Virgo galaxy cluster, and was captured because of an algorithm that a California Institute of Technology assistant professor created. Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old Indiana native who attended and graduated from the University of Michigan and then Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to ultimately go on to join the Harvard University Event Horizon Telescope Imaging team.
I won’t get into the algorithm itself because I am vastly under-qualified to even try to explain it, but I will drop another name; Margaret Hamilton.
I am not the first person to put these two women in the same context. Last week there had been countless articles written about the two. You see, Margaret Hamilton isn’t just another woman. No, in the science world, she is one of THE women. A computer scientist and systems engineer that not only coined the term, “software engineer,” she led an MIT team for NASA in the development of in-flight software for Apollo, which included the command module and lunar lander. Hamilton went on to have many successes in life, including receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom given by then President Barack Obama in 2016.
It is important to educate ourselves and the young people in our lives of the journeys and accomplishments of women throughout history. For far too long, women such as Margaret Hamilton were overshadowed or forgotten because of throwback stigmas, misogyny, and inaccurate portrayals of historic events, while the more glamorous, sexual, and proactive side of women was brought to the forefront.
I don’t believe it is necessarily bad to look up to a certain artist or entertainer, whether it is music, movies, fashion, etc., but I do think there are particular benefits to women as a whole to start inspiring now more than ever, the young women of our nation to become supporters and followers of historically impactful women who not only defied the times, but also in many cases permanently changed the world. These examples are not just regulated to science. There have been women who have stood up for women’s rights, women who were sometimes the lone female voice in a governmental body full of men, women who were the first to climb the ranks in the military, and many more. The examples are truly endless. Which is why these women should be shared and known just as equally as the women in entertainment are now.
As an adult that was born in the 80s, was a kid in the 90s, and a teenager during the infancy years of this century, when I reflect on entertainers that held not just their hierarchy in influence, but also their relevancy among the masses, there aren’t many names to list. That includes both male and female entertainers. I could say the same about influential women that are not entertainers but is it because they did not have a long-standing impact on the world, or is it because the world did not accredit them properly from the beginning? Perhaps that is worth exploring, but what I do know is, once you start digging into many of today’s technologies, freedoms, and ways of life, there seems to always be the common theme of strong, intelligent, independent women actively involved.
Regardless of whom young women decide to model themselves after or who inspires them, it is important that they choose wisely and for the right reasons. Young women often times are still facing an uphill battle, and this can result in them dreaming of the easy path to success even if that means they sacrifice their pride, self-respect, or morals and values. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can certainly guide them. I advise adults to not just wait and hope for the best when young women begin to look to the horizon for their role models, because commercialized society will try desperately to lead them down a cheap and empty road from an early age. Simply put, buy following in the footsteps of the women who came before them that forged a path of achievement, strength, and liberation, while concurrently creating the platform they have today, they will be able to lead future generations of women into tomorrow and beyond.