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October 12, 2014

Science is for White Men

Apparently, women don't do science. Apparently, minorities don't either. At least according to a couple things that have prickled my annoyed-bone lately.

Here's one: an article from the BBC about why English has become the language of science. Which is very interesting. It has to do with World War I and did you even know that German was outlawed in 23 states in the U.S.?? I had no idea. So I read this article thinking wow, interesting. (You know, me and communication...) But then I got to the end of the article thinking, really? Not one photo of a non-white-male scientist? I give it to them that the archival photos they were looking for would have mostly if not all white men. But that last photo got me. They could have chosen any stock photo, and they chose one with three white dudes.

Nobel Prize: How English beat German as language of science

Also, no mention of non-Western scientists, and how the rest of the world played into the scientific landscape at the time and since. Event to say that the Western world dominated scientific discourse, and why. (Maybe I'm being a tad harsh on this one—the title of the article I read, on my phone, was just How English became language of science.)

To note, the article is spurred by the winning of the Nobel Prize by May-Britt and Edvard Moser (May-Britt is a woman and, also to note, was mentioned first). Clearly not all science is done by white men. But images are important...

The other thing that got me was a poster is a kit for Earth Science Week, which starts today. When I first pulled it out, I thought, GREAT POSTER! They don't try to cram too much into one space, it's cartoony and colorful and fun, and I thought, I'm totally hanging this up in my office!


[SO cool! So.... male, and white.]

My excitement waned when I looked at the back of the poster, and then the front again. Four people depicted on the poster, and all were clearly men. Again, white men. One of them is going bald, which I thought was funny and realistic, but still.

And you could make a "well, it's mostly men in science, so these images are just being true to the demographic" argument, but 1) half of geology students at the university level are women (true that the workforce is not even close to that, but there are a lot of women in geoscience), and 2) some people are encouraged to do things by seeing someone that looks more like them doing those things. Role models. (I say some because I was allured into going into a male-dominated field because it was male dominated, but that's a whole other entry and can of worms.)

Also, full disclosure, I am completely guilty of this same thing. I made a poster for an event in May that has only white dudes on it. I am completely embarrassed by that. I picked the best pictures, wanting it to look visually sharp and professional, and I just wasn't wowed by any of the pics that I could find of women working. And it seemed contrived. But sometimes we need to be contrived. As instant karma, or something, one of the pictures I chose was too low res for print, and subsequently looks like crap. Serves me right.

Posted by beth at October 12, 2014 4:30 PM

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