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Ada Lovelace Day! When you blog about a woman in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics who has inspired you. Technically yesterday.

I took some neat classes at Berkeley, since the MCB (Molecular and Cell Biology) path allowed for two free slots every semester. One class that I took for both entertainment and actual MCB credit was a tiny elective about plant genetic engineering; turned out to be two professors and about 18 students in a classroom the size of a normal room. The professors were Sydney Kustu and Mike Freeling; I get the impression they were both kinda having fun. That was the class where I found a lot of my science stories: the guest speaker who is the Most Bitter Scientist I ever met, a guy who worked on the ice minus bacteria; the class where Freeling talked about the interaction between the Novartis money deal and research; the independent study projects where I looked in to terraforming Mars with skunk cabbage (the professors: "...Huh...") and, I believe, pointed out to them the fascinating circumstance that one of our most recent super-useful science techniques, RNA interference, was discovered because the Dutch (through scientists in Oakland!) were trying to genetically engineer petunias of a richer purple.

Kustu was inspiring because she was aware of the social undercurrents in science, and she was willing to speak about them. She talked about how she was one of the few women in the National Academy of Sciences (in 2000, only 6%, according to this post). When she joined science in the early 70s it was still a very macho field. They had to mouth-pipette radioactive things, and people kept an eye out to be sure she was cool enough to join the boy's club.

It's nice to think that, although things aren't super in science these days, they are better. And it makes for a friendlier environment to know that there are scientific trailbreakers who are aware of the politics of gender.
zdashamber: painting - a frog wearing a bandanna (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] scalzi posted cheerfully on his blog, the Whatever, about how his wife was awesome: she'd gone out for an evening at a bar with her friends, a drunk hit on her all night despite pointed ignoring and tellings-off, the drunk went to grab her, and she pinned him against a wall and made him apologize and slink off. Yay! Instapundit, the pretend-libertarian, noted the post, and then his wife Dr. Helen posts a OMG FEMALES ARE TEH OPPRESSORS response. A bunch of mouthbreathing knuckledraggers go over to the Whatever and leave indeterminate ultra-sexist comments. John Scalzi is like, "Why are the commentors of my friends the fake-libertarians such cretins?"

I've never in my life seen a situation where the phrase "You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas" is more apt. Why is it, John, that people who love smug poorly-argued sexist bullshit are themselves likely to produce smug poorly-argued sexist bullshit?

This all ties to a recent post of [livejournal.com profile] ginmar's:
"Are you sure?" is another way of invalidating a woman's ideas, of questioning her judgement, of changing the subject. How much of this second-guessing is part of women's daily lives, where they get people acting as if they're too stupid to think things through? Once you start noticing it, you can't stop, so my advice, is to notice it and keep noticing it---and then start calling people on it.
Notice how Dr. Helen says that only a man could possibly have learned when it was appropriate to apply violence to solve a problem?


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Madeline the Edifying

October 2011

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