At a recent lecture someone remarked how fantastic it was that "even girls" might get excited about caterpillars through our programs. That comment stuck in my head. "EVEN GIRLS".
I try not to divide our audience into different categories and rank their interactions - the interplay of all groups present is the highlight for me - but I must say, if there has been any pattern it is this: girls, young women, and old ladies alike, LOVE caterpillars, are EXCITED by the natural world, and have all the CURIOSITY and DRIVE to explore these critters and their biology as anybody else. In fact, I really believe that we experience more intense curiosity from our younger female visitors than ANY OTHER demographic.
Worryingly, we hear from elementary age girls that they love bugs, but don't talk about it at school. Or they feel weird about being interested because its not normal. And we meet high school age and college age women who come to the tables thinking they dislike creepy caterpillars, only to leave the tables completely turned around and wanting to explore insects more! Luckily, we have a fantastic and diverse crew of caterpillar educators, including female biologists, educators, and artists, who work tirelessly to convince these kids and young women that it is not just OK to be a BUG GIRL, but freakin AWESOME to be one.
To me it is clear as day: there is no human biological principle that dictates that little boys love muck and creepy crawlies and little girls find them icky. This notion is a total fabrication, born out of the innumerable interactions children have growing up that tell them who they are supposed to be. I consider it MY JOB to encourage these kids to let their Bug Girl flags fly high, be proud, and get ever more involved in all it is to be a naturalist, a scientist, an artist, an observer.
Please post YOUR OWN STORIES on the subject. Are you a bug girl. Did you ever have to hide it? Did you discover your love of insects later in life, after the social pressures of youth and school were more removed? Have you helped your own Bug Girls develop at home or at school?