We have more internecine warfare going on at scienceblogs: in this case it’s a matter of casual sexism. Should someone be surprised at pretty girls reading science fiction, or even being nerdy?

As someone who has been immersed in the nerd culture of the university since the mid-1970s and has also hung out in the science-fiction culture even longer (anyone remember Escape Books in Seattle? Been to Uncle Hugo’s or Dreamhaven in Minneapolis?), and is a heterosexual male who usually notices the hot girls, I will say with great emphasis, NO! In my generation, women in biology were a minority, but really, they looked fine. The students in my classes now are mostly women, and they are lovely, although I tend to see them with a more fatherly (or grandfatherly, sad to say) eye nowadays. Science does not attract the unattractive, so could we please end that stereotype?

We also shouldn’t judge the attractiveness of individuals on the basis of such shallow parameters. True male nerds all know that intelligence is a +2 bonus to charisma, and SF fannishness is an additional +1. Heck, if I were on the market right now (oh, but I’m so glad I’m not), the first places I’d choose to hang out in to meet attractive ladies would be the bookstores, and the SF and fantasy section in particular, but not exclusively.

Not that SF is a prerequisite—my wife is both a hottie and not particularly interested in genre fiction; I’d probably find her in the science section, or math/statistics, or social sciences. And that’s OK, and defies the stereotype, too.

One last datum: my daughter‘s bookshelf looks like a subset of what you’d find at Dreamhaven. If you want to argue that she ought to be homely, you’ll find me looking pissed off at you.

Finally and in general, these expectations about how women should be expected to look, and what set of irrelevant traits ought to be correlated with desirability, and how we guys ought to tie the preferences of women’s minds with our definitions of the sexual properties of their bodies, is more than a little annoying, and something women ought to be rightly irritated about. These unwarranted assignments of roles on the basis of irrelevant characteristics can hurt people.


  1. #1 Ichthyic
    December 14, 2006

    I think I may have just PWNED Razib on his own blog, but would like a third party verification.


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