Hidden Figures

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The idea behind this diversity exercise came about one Sunny Tuesday afternoon. Abby and I wanted to see this movie after seeing the preview, waiting for the latest Ben Affleck movie to start. Later on during studying, she suggested we make it a qlc event. So, on a warmer than usual Tuesday where classes were sparse but enthusiasm was everywhere, seven Shimer students embarked on the short train ride to Roosevelt to see Hidden Figures. I still recall seeing the trailer for this movie and being particularly excited about the concept: Three women of color with brilliant minds overcoming racism to use their brilliant minds to get a man in space at the NASA program. In addition to keeping our rivalry with Russia very clear, the movie Hidden Figures did something I was surprised with because it did a good job focusing on the work lives of the three women. Often, movies with strong women still put emphasis on their family and this movie did a nice job of showing their families in a pleasant way that helped us gain perspective on them as women. However, it was more in the background and their crowning achievements in their careers were celebrated in this movie. Kate was extremely good at math and worked in that department at NASA. She was a widow with three children and she was asked to check the equations of an all white male division of NASA. She had to overcome the adversity of the colors only coffee pot the men installed one day, and the biggest struggle she had to get her work done was the bathroom situation. The colored bathroom was almost a mile away in another building. This becomes a problem because she cannot affectively do her work, with the amount of time spent running to the bathroom.
Kevin Costner had a wonderful role as a mentor of sorts, I thought, being kind to Kate, the mathematician. But, unfortunately, I found out that his character was not part of a true story. He was a “white hero” invented by Hollywood and based on the texts I am reading in IS6 and in Fem Theories, it was particularly difficult to deal with the fact that they couldn’t stay true to the history and create a white hero who knocks down the colored bathrooms sign, but in real life that didn’t even happen. The adversity these three women faced as women of color is clear from the beginning with their car breaking down and the white male police officier demanding respect. Sadly, in a more passive aggressive way, the second brilliant woman is denied a promotion and it is clear the tension between the white and black women in this movie. The third women, who wants to be an engineer has to take courses at what is a segregated high school. So, to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer she must petition the courts to allow her to study at an all white school. Despite all the backlash and struggle, these three women were pioneers of math, computers, and engineering. I only wonder if they weren’t held back so much if they could have achieved even greater things if their race was not in the way.

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