'Hidden Figures' Trailer Proves That Smart, Badass Women Change the World

Taraji P. Henson is taking one small step away from Cookie and making one giant leap for womankind in the latest trailer for the film Hidden Figures. The actress is taking on the role of NASA's very own Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who helped the country win the space race a decade before the Civil Rights Act banned racial and gender discrimination. And I couldn't be more excited because this true story is an inspiration for women and girls who are still facing discrimination today in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. 

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Stereotypes run the world. And unless you're in the favorable set (or, rather, sex), it's hard to break free of these gender "norms" that label us as either this or that.

Girls especially are bombarded with them even before they are born. Just think about all that pink. But school is the place where the brainwashing really begins. There have been studies to suggest that the gender gap is formed as early as kindergarten, with children associating math as something that boys do while associating subjects like language arts as those for girls. How are girls supposed to discover new things when society tells them certain subjects aren't for them?

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Well, it's a good thing that Johnson didn't buy into that. The brilliant mathematician graduated from high school at the age of 14 and then college at 18, with degrees in both math and French.

According to NASA, she described her fascination with numbers explaining, "I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed ... anything that could be counted, I did."

And this interest eventually led her to being an integral human "computer" that calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, who became the first American to travel into space.

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Yes, a black woman did all of that in a place that was predominantly overrun with white males. Talk about someone who should be admired for her success!

Henson, along with Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer as Johnson’s colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, will tell the behind-the-scenes story of how these calculations helped the first American astronaut make that famed orbit around the Earth.  

To turn a phrase from Johnson, if that was "when computers wore skirts," then what about now? It would be amazing if we could get some variant of that notion across to the rest of the world in relation to what females, particularly those of color, can do.

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Despite having made strides since the days Johnson fought to utilize her craft, we still have so much farther to go. Young girls are capable of doing so much more in STEM-related fields. A 2014 study conducted by the National Women's Law Center examined that "only 6 percent of African American girls met the ACT science college readiness benchmark compared to 27 percent of girls overall; and 14 percent of African American girls met the math benchmark, compared to 42 percent of girls overall."

Aside from this disconnect regarding math and science in schools, discrimination continues in the workforce toward women concerning pay and representation. There is still a gender and racial bias, despite the ongoing push to encourage girls to pursue these fields. Women of color are still grossly underrated in many STEM areas.

So what's the solution?

Give all of our girls options. Encourage them to learn subjects that challenge and frustrate them.

Clearly, Johnson didn't give up on her talent, and that's something that all girls should aspire to. 

Everyone should be taking their daughters to see this inspirational flick. In the meantime, brush up on your high school trig so that you can keep up with the Hidden Figures cast when the film hits theaters on January 6, 2017.

 

 

Image via 20th Century Fox/YouTube

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