In the beginning days of FIRST, long before I would ever know what was going on, there existed an unparalleled, one-time opportunity to lay the foundation of a new culture with new convention and new tradition. FIRST and The Real World existed side by side, if just for a brief moment, each with the potential to decimate the other. The concept and the goal and the hopeful end result, of course, is that FIRST would grow to become large and important and influential, and that the best elements of FIRST would seep into The Real World, and that things would begin to change.
Because of that, I can’t truly understand the existence of some organizations within FIRST. On my mind of late, and possibly only because of the recent activity surround it, is the Robot Chicks Union (RCU). Why does the RCU exist at all?
Just a moment ago, I explained the potential FIRST and its newest, first participants had to create a new culture free of the worst trends in our own Real World and that the ultimate goal would seem to be introducing these new elements into The Real World. Well, with that said, it seems to me that the creation of the RCU shouldn’t have ever been necessary, and that its creation actually allowed The Real World to seep into the FIRST culture. It was, among other things, the apple to Dean’s Eden.
So now, in 2003, we have an organization that ensured its need by its very creation. By introducing and reinforcing the notion of gender stereotypification within FIRST by creating a group designed to combat it, and thus, by raising awareness to such stereotypes, the RCU is now a necessary element in tipping the scales of opportunity for woman and girls. So, of course, I’m not suggesting that the RCU need to be disbanded, but that it’s creation was totally unnecessary. Or, it should’ve been unnecessary.
But, where does that leave us? A large part of the RCU’s mission seems to be in recruiting new woman and girls to FIRST. While I realize that teams do this as well, I think that such recruitment by the RCU is damaging, and only goes to further existing stereotypes. What message does it send to a new participant when they’ve been introduced into our world of FIRST by a group who felt isolated enough to form their own organization, particularly when the new participant was specifically targeted by that group because of a physical characteristic? In my mind, that does not take any great steps toward creating gender equality, as it only seems to further highlight the irrelevant physical differences betweens boys and girls.
FIRST’s participants will always pledge support and praise for the RCU and its effort to bridge the gender gap, but it seems like they’re truly supporting the existing dichotomy. After all, isn’t it really saying, “I support your efforts to involve more people who aren’t like me?” Doesn’t it again point on the difference, acknowledge that there is a difference, and establish a precedent that can later be used to further propogate archaic stereotypes? If woman are just as capable as men, and we each truly believe that, what need is there for the RCU?
Again, I’ll offer that its existence ensures its necessity.
Sure, there are people in FIRST who may not necessarily agree with the assertions I’ve made and may truly feel woman to be inferior. If that’s the case, the RCU shouldn’t need to band together to combat such behavior and thinking. We all should, but yet again, it seems like the majority of participants are too lazy to think beyond their own college scholarships, job prospects, and trophy case.
I have tried long and hard to justify the trends I’ve been seeing among some participants of FIRST. I can’t. So, that’s why I’ve done so much thinking, and ultimately, that’s why I’m sharing my thoughts. I’m looking for answers.
I don’t believe that FIRST is without benefit, and that’s why I’m still evaluating my participation and haven’t left entirely. I believe that there are people who’re still making a difference, and that I’ve made a small difference, as well. So, while that benefit should certainly not go unnoticed, I can’t help but think that we’re limiting our own potential.
I’d like to stick around a bit longer and see a real change for the better. FIRST is growing at an enormous pace and with every year passed, it becomes increasingly easier to forget who your neighbor is and forget the accountability that comes with everyone knowing who you are. It’s becoming easier to read the rules a bit less carefully, demand that a call be changed, and get caught up in floating to the top of the growing pack. In what I’ve encountered, what’s easiest is almost never what’s best. For a change, let’s all stop taking the easy road and began the long, arduous hike up the road less traveled and really realize some of the potential we’ve wasted before – personally and as a community. Let’s understand that decades from now, the medals and the banners and the trophies will have meaning, but the way we behave toward one another will change the world.
That doesn’t mean that we should all agree to disagree, or that we should each be allowed to do whatever we see fit. We need, now more than ever, to keep each other in check by challenging opinions, actions, and beliefs. This is the watershed. This is when we can grow to be better than we are, or when we can descend into chaos and give in to the influence of the Real World. Now, I think, is when we need to be stronger and more vigilant and more aggressive than we’ve ever been about taking what we’re capable of seriously. Now is the time to make some changes before we’re each swallowed up that which we were running from in the first place. The Real World is catching up. Let’s work harder and run faster for a change.