Hidden Figures, Hidden Feelings

We impoverish the Kingdom when we fail to encourage young people—whatever their sex, color, or class—to reach their full potential.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/kathryn-applegate-endless-forms-most-beautiful/hidden-figures-hidden-feelings

The middle school earth science textbook that we used last year with my daughter featured a profile of Katherine Johnson in the unit on space. We thought she was so amazing, we looked up extra information on her at the time. I was so excited when I saw the trailer for the movie come out. I’m glad my daughters are growing up in a time when people are more focused on highlighting the achievements of amazing women than they were when I was young. Those kind of messages matter.


Hi Kathryn,

Thanks for sharing your feelings (hidden) that the movie provoked. I think your post is right-on.

I also loved the movie. I led the clapping at the end. :slight_smile:

Wonderfully written, @Kathryn_Applegate! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been trying to (subtly and not so subtly) work against the usual narrative with my daughter for years. You, @DeborahHaarsma and Jennifer Wiseman have been featured in those discussions!

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A long time ago I was reading a book on fathers and daughters that I can’t remember the title of. It summarized a bunch of sociology studies. There was one interesting study where the researchers wanted to study a connection between female mentorship or role models and women who were successfully pursuing STEM careers. But the most salient thing that kept coming up in the interviews with the women was not these amazing women mentors or role models who inspired them, but close relationships with very supportive fathers who had always encouraged them to pursue their interests and talents.

Last year I read the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai to my kids. She is an amazing woman to be sure, but her story makes it very clear how much she cherished her dad and what a profound impact her father’s lifelong work on behalf of girls’ education and his constant belief in her has had on her life. I think the part that is often missing from “girl power” stories is how important men are to the equation. In her telling, her father is every bit the hero she is, and she avoids casting men as the enemies that hold women back. Those are important messages too. :relaxed:


…And speaking of women scientists to tell our kids about, NPR just published this very nice write-up on Mildred Dresselhaus.

Thanks Dennis! Fathers are so very important, as Christy points out. I was always very close to my dad and still am, and I find it hard to imagine I would have taken the academic path that I did if not for my parents’ encouragement. You are a great role model for your own kids and the kids in your church.

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Even Lego is getting into the act of celebrating NASA’s women pioneers, including Katherine Johnson. Read
New Lego Set to Celebrate NASA’s Women Pioneers

But the film is not without its critics. An article from Sojourners explains that in the desire to make the white boss look better, a scene was invented showing him taking a crowbar to the sign for the white ladies’ bathroom, opening it to all women. But that scene never happened. The truth is that Katherine Johnson, instead of submissively going out of her way to use the colored bathroom, defiantly used the white ladies’ bathroom!

Read Hidden Racism by Da’Shawn Mosley.

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This is such a complex issue. I’m a well educated woman with many years in school and extra letters on my diplomas. And I still love to learn about a wide diversity of topics. But I figured out many decades ago that I intimidate people when I talk. That’s annoying. Without meaning to, I also figured out that I very intentionally use smaller words and avoid certain topics so as to minimize people’s perceptions that I’m “smart.” That’s also annoying. If I’m put in that “smart” category, and I think this is especially because I’m a woman, people seem to act as if they are somehow unable to relate to me. And I think you’re right; men who are perceived as “smart” don’t seem to face the same social reaction as women. I’ve raised three daughters who are perceived as (and really are) smart. My two oldest daughters have both observed this same phenomena regarding how people seem to treat them. In academic settings, they don’t seem to encounter any repercussions on being perceived as smart. They are respected and celebrated. But the opposite is true in social settings. With their peers and at church, they often feel a need to dumb themselves down so as not to make others uncomfortable. I would be interested in knowing if this is something that is sort of an American cultural thing or if well educated women in other places like Canada, Norway, Australia and so forth experience this sort of social reaction. (We are so blessed in our culture with the opportunities and respect we as women receive. I totally recognize that this experience of social isolation is a trivial inconvenience when compared with the disrespect, marginalization, and brutality that women have been and currently are treated with in many cultures.)

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