It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire cultural change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.
Today, our Badass is Patricia Valoy. Patricia is an engineer, a feminist and an activist who is working hard to bring women and the STEM-fields closer together. She has her own blog, Womanisms, is an avid Tweeter under the handle Besito86, and she’s a co-host at Let Your Voice Be Heard Radio.
And here is what she had to say to us!
What inspired you to study engineering? What was that like, and what does it feel like now working as a woman in the field?
While on a tour of the Bosch company in Stuttgart, Germany, my junior year of high school, I realized that there was a way to combine my imaginative and practical tendencies, in Engineering. Studying Civil Engineering was not easy, and many times I wanted to quit. I felt intellectually inferior to many of my classmates who had come for schools with excellent science programs. I attended an inner-city high school in Brooklyn, NY, where science and math classes beyond the basics were not an option due to lack of qualified teachers. Needless to say, I had to do a lot of catching up and take advantage of the many tutoring services offered to me. As one of the few women in my classes, it often felt that I was not smart or rugged enough. Now that I am a woman in the professional world of Engineering, I still fight with feeling inadequate, but I know that if I can do my job well I am on the right path. Confidence is cultivated, no one is born with it. Everyday I strive to stand up for myself, be a role model for other young women (and men) who are interested in Engineering, and align myself with people who uplift me.
What came first, your feminism or your interest in the sciences?
I only recently started calling myself a feminist, but I have always been a science lover. The term “feminism” was never used in my household, although I consider my mother a true feminist in spirit. I lived with a conservative extended family that ostracized my mother for teaching me and my sisters about safe sex and having the guts to leave an abusive marriage. As a child I was fascinated by technology, gadgetry, and things that could not be seen (atoms, air, gravity.) My curious nature allowed me to break free from my family’s expectations that I become a traditional woman; I now question scientific theorems and a patriarchal society.
You do a lot of outreach work in schools, introducing girls to the STEM fields. What are some common questions or concerns that they have, and how do you address them?
The best part of my job is doing presentations where I show students what their imagination and a little science is capable of doing for our society. Boys’ toys are still a lot more creative (LEGOs, sports equipment, etc.), than girls’ toys (Barbie, makeup kits, etc.) When speaking to students I find that girls and boys are equally eager to really understand how science, technology, and engineering affect us, but girls are often more curious to learn about me as a person and a woman, and boys want to know if I physically build things. The most asked question among co-ed groups is “What do you do?” But when I’m only speaking to a group of girls, I get asked “How does it feel to work with so many boys?”
You are also a moderator at Let Your Voice Be Heard Radio. How did you get there and what do you do there?
I would have never imagined I would be part of a radio show, but life has a way of surprising you in the most unexpected ways. I was asked to join the show, which at the time was done out of a college radio station in Old Westbury, NY, by a high school friend. We would constantly chat about politics, social issues, women’s rights, etc. and he felt that I would make a great addition to the show. In no time I was a regular host and now we are on an FM station out of Harlem, NY (90.3 FM, www.whcr.org). Every week we gather interesting topics, and after finalizing which topics will become segments I get to researching, booking guests, and preparing questions. I have hosted segments on sexism in the media with Jennifer Pozner, healthy sexuality with Soraya Chemaly, and white privilege with Dr. David J. Leonard. Next weekend I will be hosting a segment on street harassment with Holly Kearl. It is truly one of the best ways I can spend my Sundays.
What projects are you currently working on? What plans do you have for the rest of 2012?
Currently I am working on several projects, but my favorite one is overseeing the renovation of a historical building. It will require that we design in the Beaux-Arts style of the early 1900s in order to retain the historical authenticity of the building. The project will include the restoration of ornate copper trims that were very popular in the early 1900s, though has decreased in popularity due to the rising cost of copper. I tend not to plan my life too much, but I am looking forward for the rest of 2012. I am currently gathering essays written by women who feel marginalized by Western feminism for an anthology. It is a project that sprung from a lunchtime chat with a friend, but has quickly become my most desired goal.
Thanks for your time, Patricia!