Belated Carnival Post

I have been derelict at my post here, forgetting to link to two carnivals that came out on Thursday: Philosophia Naturalis, the carnival of physical sciences, and the first-ever edition of Scientiae, the carnival for women and science. I’m sure I’ve been multiply scooped, but there you have it anyway.

Comments on selected Scientiae entries after the jump.

An old post, but a good post, at Irrational Soapbox lists things individuals can do to reduce the impact of discrimination in science, from the fuzzy-wuzzy:

On Clifford’s thread, Scott mentioned that after grading a exam for his course, he sent a short “good job” email to the top few students. If you can do this (as in many US unis), great. A lot of students, especially women, never get told they’re doing well.

[I can’t tell you how much difference this would have made to my undergraduate experience. Hell, to my graduate experience. –yami]

To the supremely practical:

When you write letters of recommendation for women/minorities, maybe check them against the ones you’ve previously written for white men, and make sure they focus on the same sorts of things. A lot of studies indicate that letters of recommendation for men tend to emphasise lab work, whereas letters for women tend to emphasise character traits.

See also Zuska’s discussion of What’s Good for Women Graduate Students?, which brings up the recommendation issue as well.

Elli at Peanut Butter Cabal writes about being singled out as a woman first and a scientist second. Her post is full of good points – no one asks men what it’s like to be in a male-dominated field, and female underrepresentation is always assumed to be a “woman’s issue” – but I find myself disquieted:

What bugs me is that, if I decide in five or eight or ten years that I am through with academia and decide to quit in pursuit of happiness in another career, I will not only be “a failure”, I will be “a woman failure”, yet another statistic of how women either aren’t cut out for academia or how academia is particularly hostile towards women, when in reality the issues I have the most difficulty with are not gender-specific at all.

As an undergrad, I never thought my problems were gendered at all; now that I look back on my experience, with the clarity of hindsight and a bunch more feminism under my belt, I see many of them as gender-related (though not gender-specific). I would not be surprised if three years from now, I feel the same way about grad school. The line between “individual; not gendered” and “societal; gendered” is not a clear one.

Finally, Sean Carroll posts on sexual objectification in telescope ads. The telescope manufacturer in question defended his decision to show an attractive woman in a short skirt curled coyly beside the equipment as follows:

No need to be embarrassed for the many female science students coming along. Rather, encourage them to celebrate that another smart, young, and attractive female has joined the ranks of women in a technical field, which breaks the pattern of discrimination you describe.

It’s good to know that despite my brains, I can still aspire to have my body displayed for the approval of a male audience. And clearly, if you object, it’s only because you think smart women can’t possibly be fit objects for the male gaze, and how dare you propound such stereotypes!

The same arguments are there in somewhat muted form on the She’s Such a Geek! photo contest, about some of the cheesecakier submissions. And, I’m sure, in about a billion other places. Remind me sometime to complain at length about men who think it’s good feminist practice to tell some random woman at a party that her brains/geekery really turns them on.


  1. Lab Lemming wrote:

    In terms of gender/science issues, do you reckon academia is better, worse, or simply different than private sector science?

    As for the geekery turn-on line, are you upset by this being done to random women, or do you dislike when it is done by random guys to a specific woman (no need to specify which one)?

  2. Andrew Ironwood wrote:

    Speaking purely fer meownself, if *I* were to tell a woman her brains/geekery turn me on, there’d be *nothing* random involved in the selection process (but then, I suppose that maybe that’s just me…)

  3. yami wrote:

    Well, s/random/not previously flirted with.

    LL, you’re right in detecting a rather, ah, personal animus. I’m smarter than I am pretty, and I go to parties full of software geeks, so if I’m going to be cluelessly hit on it’s usually nerd-related. But in general, I am annoyed when anyone assumes that an unknown person will care that they are turned on. I reserve the extra special soup├žon of eyerolling for those who assume that having a politically correct set of turn-ons exempts them from standard flirting etiquette.

    It’s related, I think, to the concern I hear from many men, that feminism demonizes straight male desire. Of course it doesn’t (“it” being my particular brand of feminism as well as most mainstream feminisms) – it only demonizes the hegemonic position of straight male desire – but that can be a tough distinction to convey. So these guys end up looking for an “approved” form of desire, and assume that expressing a new and improved desire in the same old clueless ways will somehow smash the patriarchy.

  4. yami wrote:

    Oh, and I suspect that gender issues in the private sector are qualitatively different from those in academia, but I don’t have any numbers handy to make any firm statements about whether they’re better or worse.

  5. Lab Lemming wrote:

    “But in general, I am annoyed when anyone assumes that an unknown person will care that they are turned on. ”

    Very well said.

  6. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Are they the same gender issues, or different ones?

  7. yami wrote:

    What defines the boundaries of an issue?

  8. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Not me.

  9. Andrew Ironwood wrote:

    Let me just state fer the record (in my own pre-emptive defense) that I had only ever ‘hit on’ two women back in my single life*, and I had been introduced to both of them by mutual friends in social contexts long before ‘pick-up lines’ ever entered the equation…

    *[at least those are the only ones that I was sober enuff to remember afterwards, anyhoo..]

  10. Sabine wrote:

    They never tell me that my geekery turns them on. When I open my mouth and geekery falls out, they just stare at me with glassy eyes. Of course, this is South Texas (there is a stereotype right there, which tends to fit quite well most of the time).

  11. yami wrote:

    I get that reaction too, sometimes. Watch out for the droolers.

  12. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Glassy eyes? Coool.
    What kind of glass? Are we talking a natural obsidian or pumice, a synthetic simplified endmember composition, or just high-alkali window and/or beer bottle scunge?

  13. Sabine wrote:

    Haaaaaa, I’ve met a few droolers. it’s especially akward if they actually drool on your person. :

    Lab, definately a vitreous luster most comparable to the beer bottle variety.

  14. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Vitreous luster or vitreous lust?

    BTW, how many white male oppressor points do I get for sidetracking a post on femenist scientists into a dating discussion?

  15. yami wrote:

    No points until you’ve gotten us going on ways women can change their behavior to elicit less obnoxiousness from men.

  16. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Can my answer invoke the second amendment?

  17. yami wrote:

    Only if you claim that the NRA does more to further the interests of women than NOW, VAWA, and UNFPA combined.

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