Friday, August 10, 2012

Gender Matters in Science

Gender affects the way you are perceived in science. I can see it where I work, and my friend with a PhD in chemistry can attest to this fact firsthand.

The Wall Street Journal tells of Ben Barres, formerly Barbara Barres, and his experience as both a male and a female scientist. The biggest difference, according to Barres:

"People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

 Wow. On the flip side is biologist Joan Roughgarden, formerly known as Jonathan:

Jonathan Roughgarden's colleagues and rivals took his intelligence for granted, Joan says. But Joan has had "to establish competence to an extent that men never have to. They're assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise. I remember going on a drive with a man. He assumed I couldn't read a map."

Barres' Nature commentary can been read here. What Barres describes is the end result of "the drip, drip, drip of sexism that is the most harmful to our girls. It is everywhere, and too few people are questioning it." This phrasing was used by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies when sharing the following photo on facebook:

"It can be easily made by girls students and low grade students"

It's also what Rebecca Hains is trying to avoid when she wants her dentist not to assign gender to her son's teeth and react negatively to any "girl teeth" that may be invading his mouth. Get a clue, dentist!

Thanks to Blue Milk for highlighting Barres' WSJ story, as well as The Mamafesto for the link to Rebecca Hains, and to Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies for sharing the photo. These folks keep the gears turning in my head.

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