Stereotypical Cartoon from the 1900's about Women's Suffrage

Ada Lovelace and Why Well-Behaved Women Never Make It In My Circle

Jose Vilson Jose 11 Comments

Stereotypical Cartoon from the 1900's about Women's Suffrage

Stereotypical Cartoon from the 1900's about Women's Suffrage

In the early 1800s, a woman by the name of Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace (commonly known as Ada Lovelace), wrote a “program” for Charles Babbage that would work for a “computer” that he hadn’t even created yet. She’s widely credited as the first computer programmer, and even had the first major computer named after her. Yet, there’s still debate about this point because, of course, Babbage didn’t acknowledge her or any other contributors to his work much.

From many reports (and just from reading some of her sample biographies), she didn’t seem like one to follow rules. She studied math in a time when the idea of women becoming educated citizens in this world was still either new or still unheard of in many countries. From all accounts, she was a badass and a thinker, who actually predicted that, with computer programs, we’d be able to hear music while others found it to be nonsense. (New Zealand was the first country to let women vote … in 1893! The US only picked that up 30 years later.)

Now, I wouldn’t bring someone up like Ada Lovelace (who I still don’t think the male-dominated technology fields give enough props to) because she was the first computer programmer or a bad-ass, but because she was the first computer program AND a bad-ass. People have said in my circles that well behaved women rarely make history, and that stands true to now. It’s easy for males to say that women need to act a certain way to be productive members in society. They should naturally lean towards the kitchen and the laundromat. They should naturally lean towards taking care of the kids. They should naturally wear certain types of clothes or act a certain way.

And naturally, I find it all to be BS. I want you right now to make a list of all the women that have made history right now in your mind.(rosaparks, angeladavis, michelleobama, sallyride, doloreshuerta, arethafranklin, susanbanthony, sojournertruth, idabwells, yurikochiyama).

OK, that’s enough time. Now if 60% of your list were goody-two-shoes, then I suspect you need a few more lessons in history.

Now, think about your present situation and think about the women in your life. I’ll give you enough time to think about the women who make a difference in your life, in any facet …

Right. Now if your list is 60% goody-two-shoes, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. I said it.

For some reason, whether the woman is my girlfriend (who is as misbehaved as they come), or the writers of the blogs I read, or the friends I’ve made, the women who surround me serve as, at once, independent figures who I believe are making history with their ways or starting revolutions with their work and counterbalance to my own delusions of grandeur. I don’t think any of them are considered well-behaved, and while some of them play nice when needed, none of them conform to some social standard of what they’re supposed to do.

And that thrills me.

As men, we need women. I’m not ready to worship women either, but the ones in my life need that affirmation to let them know just how they’re breaking standards in their own way. I prefer when the women aren’t well-behaved, and make conscientious noise. This behavior isn’t about being rude, disrespectful, trifling, bellicose, or disagreeable. It’s about breaking those social norms that dispel the nonsense of what women can achieve and can’t.

Society is quick to tell women how they should behave, but it’s often the ones that don’t behave that push the human race forward. If people can’t accept that, then maybe they need to be reprogrammed.

Jose, who needed the right impetus to celebrate Women’s History Month …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 11

  1. The Jaded NYer

    This more than makes up for yesterday’s cringy chisme :D

    I’m proud to say that I have my little Girl Army of envelope-pushers and in-your-face great thinkers in the making: my baby sis, my two daughters, my god-daughter and soon, the two girl-babies that were just born to other friends.

    I won’t stop until the phrase “barefoot and pregnant” is nothing more than a (not so) fond memory, and no one will think twice about hiring a woman for any and every job under the sun. No matter what it is.

  2. MarcyWebb

    Pioneers lead the way, correct? Women who have taken those first steps were out of step in their time, challenged convention, and made change. Of course, this pioneering spirit often came at great cost. Still, I think that if any of the “mis-behaved” women had to do it again, they would.

  3. Jennifer

    I was fortunate to have role models who didn’t conform, or even see the need to, and mentors who encouraged me to indulge my interest in technology. What’s sad is when women (or men) limit themselves in either direction, or think they must be misfits if they don’t feel like conforming to the ‘right’ set of behaviors for their gender.

  4. Joshua Daviss

    Great post, but I do take exception to your statement about ignoring Ada. There’s a computer programming language named after her, and pretty much every computer class that talks about the history of computers acknowledges her.

  5. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Ladies and gents, thanks for your awesome comments. TheJadedNYer, I’m not surprised you have your little troop of misbehaved women. You’re the leader to begin with.

    Jonah, until I see you ride that bike, I need to wait to give you the title of bad-ass. John, however, is indeed that. Which I guess makes you bad-ass by relation. Let me know how that goes.

    Marcy, that’s how misbehaved women do. Are you that person?

    AngelaMichelle and Jen Armstrong, thanks for dropping by.

    Jennifer, you’re right: we shouldn’t limit ourselves. Some things come naturally, but there are other behaviors that we acquire through society. Let’s misbehave some more.

    Joshua, why take exception? I graduated from Comp Sci, too, after all. I know about the computer language, and the other things that people attribute to her, but frankly, even some computer scientists don’t know this history, and so they just know the name, but nothing behind it. That’s the difference. Again, though, thanks for the comment.

  6. pre_k

    I see that you are still holding it down quite nicely over here. the quality remains good and the perspective fresh.. its always nice to come through and see what you are up to. I am digging the concept of ‘conscientious noise’. maybe I will do a post on that in the not too distant future. how would i say it. breathing just to be breathing is almost like a waist of good air.. piece and blessings.

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  8. stephen

    Engaging post. Society needs more out-of-the norm women because when you look at it although it has been centuries since the world was deemed not flat, there still subsist ideas about women which are antiquated and at best prehistoric. Women who are paradigm setters are a marvel to reflect on and I believe and see more women paradigm setters with us today. My message is to them is why not!Go for it!Grab it for it will and was never intended to be handed to you.

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