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Monday, July 17, 2006

A Simple Method for Women to Improve the Quality of Their Work

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer had a nifty little story about Ben Barres, who used to be Barbara Barres.  Ben/Barbara is a neurobiologist.  Here is my very favorite quote from the article:

After he undertook a sex change nine years ago at the age of 42, Barres recalled, another scientist who was unaware of it was heard to say, "Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister's."

There's nothing in the world like objective peer review, I always say.  Nothing in the world. 

Apparently, Ben has not had nice things to say about Lawrence Summers, Steven Pinker, or Peter Lawrence, standard-bearers for the Penis-Is-Mightier-Than-the-Brain Club.  Has Ben Barres been accused of being a shrill, hysterical harpy as a result?  Well, try this exercise:  Google "Ben Barres hysterical".  Then Google "Nancy Hopkins hysterical".   

Larry refused to comment for the Inquirer. (Probably just as well, dude - you've gotten yourself into enough trouble with your mouth already.)  Curly and Moe, I mean, Steve and Pete whined that Ben had "misrepresented their views and unfairly tarred those who disagree with crude assertions of racism and sexism ".   Pete had this to say:

Lawrence said it was a "utopian" idea that "one fine day, there will be an equal number of men and women in all jobs, including those in scientific research."

Here's another utopian idea:  one fine day, I won't have to read this dreck anymore. 

Lawrence also tells us

females on average are innately designed to empathise, to communicate, and to care for others. Males tend to think narrowly and obsess, while females think broadly, taking into account balancing arguments.

Awwwww....that is so sweet.  We're all kind and nurturing, except for when we are enraged, castrating feminists, or shrill hysterical harpies.  Well, I guess that's what happens when you go against nature and try to become a scientist - you start secreting those lesbo harpy hormones.  Which interfere with your ability to do math anyway, even as they destroy your femininity.  Or something like that.    

Personally, I do not care for others who make these kinds of stupid assertions.  I would like to communicate to them that I do not feel much empathy for their desire to keep women down, and even if they don't recognize their all-encompassing, societally broad obsession with keeping women down, of which science's sorry-ass state of affairs is but one manifestation, I do. 

I encourage everyone to read Cynthia Burack's The Problem of the Passions  and Mary R. Jackman's The Velvet Glove.  Women are angry as much as they are nurturing.  I think we ought to be even angrier, more often.  Certainly stubborn sexism disguised as "I just want to help the ladies" ladled out by the likes of Peter Lawrence and his ilk ought to at least make you angry enough to feel like horking up your breakfast on his shoes next time you see him.

In an earlier post, I ended by encouraging my readers to imagine themselves as the princess of the planet Zorn (you'll just have to read it to learn why).  One of my commenters wrote to say that zorn means anger in German and therefore he/she would not want to be princess of Zorn.  I say:  even better.  Zorn is exactly the planet women scientists need to take up residence on and rule, dammit.

Empathy, communication, and caring are HUMAN traits available to all of us; most men choose or are trained not to practice them.  Labelling them innately female, labelling mathematical prowess innately male, devaluing one and over-valuing the other, is one of the crudest forms of sexism there is.  Well, aside from raping your research assistant.      

p.s.  Thank you, Ben, for remembering the ladies.       

11:02:02 PM    comment [] trackback []

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