Femininity and Science Can Go Hand-in-Hand
Contributed by Lizzie Cochran
Like many little girls who grew up in the 90s, I spent my early days wearing “Beauty and the Beast” costumes and princess dresses. I was a classic girly-girl well into middle school, no doubt about it, with a closet full of glittery shirts and zebra print scrunchies. But I was not just that. I was curious and inquisitive. I was a kid who spent hours trying to make homemade plaster casts to put on pretend broken arms. I once insisted on crutches as a birthday present and spent my allowance on medical supplies from CVS.
Medicine called to me again and again throughout my childhood and teenage years, but each time I rejected the possibility of a future in the sciences. I was an arts and humanities kid; always at the front of the Accelerated Reader parade, but not quite so natural at algebra and chemistry. With that in mind, I turned my attention to Harry Potter books and my love of musical theatre. As it turned out, my path to medical school began with two years at a musical theatre conservatory in NYC. After the conservatory, having decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in theatre, I went back to college to complete my undergraduate degree. I started taking science courses while at Columbia and soon realized that, with a little bit of time and effort, I wasn’t so bad at it after all. Now, after having completed my first year of medical school, it seems clear to me that I convinced myself I wasn’t good at math and science because I thought I wasn’t supposed to be good at math and science. The very subtle message I had absorbed was that a girl, especially a girl who wears sparkles, belonged in the arts, while scientific fields were more suited for men.
That is the notion I hope to fight with my company Epidemia Designs, which makes athletic apparel for women featuring prints made from biological images and helps to fund programs aimed at encouraging young girls to consider careers in STEM. Our first activewear line, called “She’s Got It,” features images of brain, nerve, and heart muscle cells. The goal of the line is to use the strikingly beautiful images of what happens inside our bodies to show young girls that that same beauty and power manifests itself on the outside. I hope our clothing will make its wearers feel strong and confident and help to dispel the notion that femininity and science can’t go hand in hand. They can and they do.
Lizzie Cochran is the founder of Epidemia Designs. Epidemia Designs is committed to moving perceptions about women and girls in STEM and going the extra mile by funding organizations that provide support and resources to women who wish to pursue education and careers in STEM.