Posts tagged feminism
Posts tagged feminism
Not only did Scottish mathematician, science writer, and polymath Mary Fairfax Somerville (December 26, 1780—November 28, 1872) defy the era’s deep-seated bias against women in science, she was the very reason the word “scientist” was coined: When reviewing her seminal second book, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences, which Somerville wrote at the age of 54, English polymath and Trinity College master William Whewell was so impressed that he thought it rendered the term “men of science” obsolete and warranted a new, more inclusive descriptor to honor Somerville’s contribution to the field.
Reconstructionist Maria Mitchell, herself a pioneer who paved the way for women in science, captured Somerville’s singular genius in a May 1860 article for The Atlantic:To read mathematical works is an easy task; the formulae can be learned and their meaning apprehended: to read the most profound of them, with such appreciation that one stands side by side with the great minds who originated them, requires a higher order of intellect; and far-reaching indeed is that which, pondering in the study on a few phenomena known by observation, develops the theory of worlds, traces back for ages their history, and sketches the outline of their future destiny.
Somerville came to science by way of the arts, the era’s traditional domain for young girls. When her art teacher made a passing reference to Euclid and his theories of geometry to explain perspective in painting, noting that they also illuminated the foundations of astronomy and physics, young Mary found herself mesmerized by the promise of a science so expansive and dimensional. So she pleaded with her brother’s science tutor to help her learn about Euclid. But her ascent to science was far from smooth — this early initiative was met with adamant resistance by her father, who found mathematics not only unsuitable but also sanity-jeopardizing for his daughter. Somerville recalls in her journals:My father came home for a short time, and, somehow or other, finding out what I was about, said to my mother, ‘Peg, we must put a stop to this, or we shall have Mary in a strait jacket one of these days. There was X., who went raving mad about the longitude!’
To correct young Mary’s intellectual aberrations, her parents put her on a steady diet of illustrated ladies’ journals. But those happened to contain puzzles and logical riddles, many of which required mathematical solutions. It was in them that Mary discovered the curious symbols of algebraic equations and was once again enthralled.
Rather than thwarting her budding crush on mathematics, her parents had inadvertently turned it into a lifelong love.
Even so, however, they were bent on sending their daughter down the traditional path destined for women of the era. When she was twenty-four, Mary was married to her distant cousin, Samuel Grieg — a severe man with little faith in women’s capacities beyond their childbearing ability, who forbad Mary from pursuing her studies.
When Grieg died three years later, he left Somerville with two young children, but also with an inheritance and a freedom that opened a new horizon for learning. She soon began corresponding with the mathematician William Wallace at the University of Edinburgh, who mentored her studies in math and astronomy as she at last indulged her intellectual calling.
In 1832, Somerville married another cousin, Dr. William Somerville — a bright and gentle man who thought the world of her, encouraged her studies, and relentlessly helped her master the physical sciences. After the couple moved to London, along with their four children and the two boys from the previous marriage, Somerville met some of the era’s greatest scientific minds, from legendary astronomer William Herschel to computing pioneer Charles Babbage. It was there she became the first mathematical tutor of reconstructionist Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, thus illustrating the beautiful daisy chain of brilliance that unfolds when the hunger for knowledge is set free from the shackles of stereotypes and cultural norms.
In 1835, Somerville and Caroline Herschel, sister of William Herschel and a trailblazing astronomer in her own right, became the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Above all, however, Somerville embodied the richness of mind and spirit that marks out the true scientist. Maria Mitchell, who had met her in 1858, poignantly observes in her Atlantic essay:No one can make the acquaintance of this remarkable woman without increased admiration for her. The ascent of the steep and rugged path of science has not unfitted her for the drawing-room circle; the hours of devotion to close study have not been incompatible with the duties of the wife and the mother; the mind that has turned to rigid demonstration has not thereby lost its faith in the truths which figures will not prove.
Back in May, Wendy Kaufman wrote a piece on Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe’s efforts to increase women students in their technical programs on NPR’s All Tech Considered blog:
At Mudd, about 40 percent of the computer science majors are women. That’s far more than at any other co-ed school.
… She says if you can make computer science interesting to women, empower them so they believe they can succeed, and then show them how their work can make a difference in the world, “that’s almost enough to change everything.”
You probably remember from May of last year the Tropes versus Women in Videogames campaign launched on Kickstarter by Feminist Frequency. A few weeks into funding, controversy erupted overnight at the mere thought that such a project might exist, amidst which a small group of fellows decided to organize a Tropes versus Men in Videogames campaign on Indiegogo in June by way of a retort.
While I didn’t back Tropes vs Women in Video Games on Kickstarter, I had been following the project on its way to the release of the first video earlier this month. I hadn’t heard a single thing about this protest campaign, though, which I guess is not surprising because they only raised about $3,000.
It took eight months from the end of the Kickstarter campaign for Anita Sarkeesian to release the first Tropes video, so a common complaint among project detractors was that it was a scam. This makes it patently hilarious that it’s the Tropes vs Men organizer(s?) who appear to have taken the money and ran. Read on about Gameranx’s research into where the money went.
The chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote a book that was just released on Monday. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is about the disproportionately low number of women in leadership roles in companies and advice to overcome the inequality. The title of the book comes from her belief that societal expectations and conditioning are a big factor, as she explained on 60 Minutes:
JUDY WOODRUFF (PBS NewsHour anchor): One of the biggest names in the Silicon Valley tech world, Sandberg addresses issues on pay, gender stereotypes, and the work-family juggle that working mothers and fathers face. She argues women are too often prone to undercutting their own career potential.
SHERYL SANDBERG (60 Minutes excerpt): They start leaning back. They say, oh, I’m busy. I want to have a child one day. I couldn’t possibly, you know, take on any more, or I’m still learning on my current job. I have never had a man say that stuff to me.
So the idea is that, instead of leaning back, women should do the opposite: lean in.
Yesterday’s episode of PBS NewsHour had one of the best segments I’ve ever seen from them, a discussion with three women on their thoughts, good and bad, about Sandberg’s advice. After getting their brief reviews out of the way first, the women then begin to engage in almost a crash course on feminism with regards to the workplace: covert sexism in hiring, social conditioning, gender expectations, and more. Writer Katha Pollitt even sneaks in a bit about how gender expectations harm men as well:
I mean, don’t fathers want to spend more time with their children? I think they do. Aren’t fathers very important parts of their children’s development and upbringing? Yes, they are.
So let’s have a world where men can do that. I mean, it should be as normal for a man to stay home with children as a woman to stay home with children.
But my absolute favorite part came from Jody Greenstone Miller, CEO of a consulting firm, at the beginning:
I think if we listen to [Sandberg], however, we will not solve the problem that she herself so eloquently states, which is how do we get to a world where half of our leaders are women? And I believe if that’s our goal, which I think it should be, the problem is women aren’t leaning in not because they don’t know how to, but because they don’t like the world they’re being asked to lean into.
I’m part of an industry that has recently been publicly examining how it treats women; blogs like PROGRAMMERS BEING DICKS catalog horribly sexist (and other -ist) events involving techies and tech companies. Miller, in an eloquent way herself, captured the problem and effect of hostile workplaces in just one sentence.
If we had a Nullary Sources badge for must-reads, this would get three.
Colin: This is CRAZY good
Colin: I’m blown away
Colin: If I had been watching this on TV I would have been cheering
Donald McRae writing for The Guardian:
Sarah Taylor, the England wicketkeeper, has revealed that she is in talks to play men’s second XI county cricket this summer in what would be a groundbreaking move for women’s sport.
Taylor, widely regarded as one of the best female cricketers in history, has an informal agreement with the coaching staff at Sussex that if their second team needs a wicketkeeper at short notice this year, she will be selected to play.
So just an alternate; no guarantee that she’ll play. But it would be really neat if she does!
Short news story by Gregory Blachier for Reuters (couldn’t really find anything more substantial to link):
Female riders will earn as much as their male counterparts at cycling World Championships from next year, the governing body of the sport said on Friday.
Apparently this didn’t happen before, so hooray for progress!
I also enjoyed the final sentence:
Money has been an issue in some sports including tennis, with some men complaining about women having equal prize money at grand slam events despite playing shorter matches.
'Ili: OH YOU THINK A PAY DISCREPANCY IS UNFAIR HUH
'Ili: PLEASE TELL ME MORE
I am a fan of everything in this video by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Hoo doggie.
Shabnam Dastgheib writing for Stuff.co.nz on something that happened yesterday:
Coffee will cost 10 per cent more for men than for women at Wellington’s Victoria University Law School campus this morning.
In an effort to highlight the continued lack of pay equity between men and women, a campaign by the YWCA is calling on Parliament to do something about the problem. A coffee cart has been set up on the Law School lawn this morning, which was as close as organisers could legally get to Parliament grounds, to illustrate the issue in real terms.
Long blacks and flat whites would cost $3.50 and $4 respectively for women, while the same drink would cost $3.85 and $4.40 for men.
Pay gaps are a problem all over the world, not just in the United States.
If you haven’t heard anything about the suicide of Amanda Todd yet, you may want to skim the Wikipedia article. It’s not necessary, as the piece I’m linking gives a short overview, but the piece isn’t strictly about her and so leaves out a lot of the details.
So, on to the piece. Michelle Dean wrote this fantastic post for The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog that ties the awful death of Amanda Todd together with recent developments on reddit and the internet's attitude toward anonymity and free speech. It's hard to quote my favorite part of the Todd's piece, as it depends on several of the themes she develops, but the sentence is so powerful that I'm going to try it anyway:
What you could call the Brutschean world view—which takes anonymity as the only meaningful form of privacy, and a key element of free speech—is nearly an article of faith in these lower levels of the Internet. …
But, as the scholar Mary Anne Franks has observed, women haven’t actually achieved this “bodiless” freedom online. They are embodied in distributed pictures and in sexual comments, whether they like it or not. The power to get away from yourself, like everything else, is unevenly distributed. Women have become, as Franks put it, “unwilling avatars,” unable to control their own images online, and then told to put up with it for the sake of “freedom,” for the good of the community.
Emphasis added by myself. It’s really harrowing when it’s put like that, and yet it’s also totally undeniable.
OK so consider this a tentative link. There are a lot of great statistics in this article about how women view themselves vs. how men view them, and a lot more too. Unfortunately it is also full of a lot of bonkers evolutionary biology stuff some of which really doesn’t sit right with me. I recommend trying to make it through the whole article, switching to “skim” briefly if you can’t hold your nose any longer.