Thus Spake Zuska

Why There Are No Great Women Science Bloggers

The Scientist wants you to vote for your favorite life science blogs. To get the party started, they asked seven prominent science bloggers to recommend their favorite science blogs. I mean, they asked seven prominent male science bloggers for their recommendations. This is science, after all, and we need to be precise.

So, they didn’t ask any women – big deal, whine whine. Right?

Yeah, well, in the grand scheme of things, who gives a rat’s ass? It’s just some dumb article in one magazine.

But in the grand scheme of things, this is just one more example of how women get overlooked and underrated, consistently, time after time after time. And it adds up over time to advantage men and disadvantage women. Over time this creates large gaps in the way men versus women, on average, get rated/evaluated/promoted/paid etc. Any one little incident on its own doesn’t seem so awful bad. It’s the cumulative effect of all the subtle biases, adding up over time, that sucks a mighty wind. That’s what makes the progress of women in science so excruciatingly slow.

But when you protest, you’re often protesting one crappy little thing at a time, and people look at you and think “big deal, whine whine”. And some people want you to keep that focus on the little picture, the individual incident, so as to pretend that there’s nothing going on on a much larger scale that desperately needs our attention.

So what the hell, you may be saying, why not ask the men about the best science bloggers, since most of the science bloggers (and readers) are men anyway?

Are they?

On the supposed overwhelming number of males vs. females in the science blogosphere – some thoughts:

Isn’t this just the same argument that’s been made about the blogosphere in general? And hasn’t it been established that the presence of women bloggers in the blogosphere is overlooked/underreported? That women bloggers don’t attract the same attention as male bloggers, don’t get linked to as often by the heavily trafficked blogs, don’t get talked up as much in the popular press? The piece in The Scientist is just a microcosm of what goes on in the blogosphere at large.

Layer on top of this that science is prejudicially thought to belong to men anyway and you have a real problem for science bloggers who are women. We’re adjectivized (when did you last hear the phrase “men science bloggers”? ’cause they’re just the default, right?), overlooked, and under-ranked. Standard blogospheric invisibility of women bloggers, the myth that science belongs to men, and then we have the fact that women are underrepresented in science: even if, as I suspect, they are oversampled among scientists who blog, the end result is over-determined to be (1) more male science bloggers than female because of the imbalance in science and (2) invisibility of the women science bloggers who do exist.

This should be less of a problem in the life sciences, however, where women are present in much larger numbers. The life sciences were what The Scientist was concentrating on…and yet they did not think to ask a single woman what she thought about the best science blogs out there. If this is the result you get in the field where you expect to find the very best representation of women science bloggers, then what hope is there in something like, say, engineering?

The last time I checked, the year was 2007. Gender equity is not a brand-new concept. It should not be that terribly difficult to notice, when one is putting together an article about science bloggers – or a panel for a conference, or a list for a campus speaker series – that one has somehow managed to come up with a list that includes only male names. Ideally, one would create a list that includes male and female names to begin with; ideally, one would notice the women scientists from the outset. But barring that advanced gender equity maneuver, reviewing the list and having it gradually dawn on you that you neglected to include half the world’s population in your reckoning would be an acceptable move. Making an effort to actively compensate for the gender schemas that blind us to women’s achievements and abilities is not too much to ask for, though apparently it is way too much to expect.

Gender equity: it’s not rocket science. Just review the list.

If you are still sitting there with your mouth half open, scratching your ass, and gesturing at your computer while preparing to type wildly in the comments “yeah, but there really aren’t any great women science bloggers!” (and yes, I mean you – you know who you are) then may I suggest this for your reading pleasure.

Comments

  1. #1 Herb West
    September 19, 2007

    So… what are your favorite life science blogs?

  2. #2 Bill
    September 19, 2007

    Show evidence of systematic bias if you want to make claims of discrimination. I’m not talking about historical bias, but recent bias against women science bloggers.

    Get a sample size of more than 1, and perhaps you’ll make some kind of point. I’d expect better from a scientist.

  3. #3 Rosie Redfield
    September 19, 2007

    The many little instances of gender bias don’t just add up; they compound (like the interest on my mortgage). Each little disadvantage leaves us slightly less able to deal with the next one.

  4. #4 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 19, 2007

    I’d find this argument more persuasive if I saw more emphasis on the gender of science bloggers by others. The majority of gender emphasis concerning female bloggers seems to come more from the bloggers themselves than from people talking about them. For example, I regularly read both your blog and Tara Smith’s blog, and gender of the writers doesn’t cross my mind often unless it is explicitly brought up (which isn’t often for Smith’s blog, much more for this blog). Also, in Smith’s blog, the fact that she doesn’t often make a big deal about her being female and it isn’t that relevant- what is relevant is that she’s smart and well-educated. And that seems to work pretty well at getting her to be a popular and well-read blogger.
    Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the majority of science bloggers are male (although a general study of the breakdown would be interesting), so if one picked 7 prominent science bloggers one might get 7 males even without any biases figuring into things (Even a 3-1 or 4-1 ratio would make picking 7 males out of a random sample not so unlikely).

  5. #5 Michael
    September 19, 2007

    I have a few issues with the post, but I’ll make one point in particular…

    If I had too choose amongst a group of candidates, I would choose the best. Period. If the turned out to be completely men, or completely white, or completely comprised of some other “preferred” class, so be it. They’re the best, and that’s that.

    Now, if I feel one class is under-represented unfairly, I’ll certainly work to fix that, and women DO suffer from this. It’s unfortunate, and I agree with you. However, helping a class achieve equal opportunity in general is not the same as purposefully selecting inferior candidates in some sad nod toward Affirmative Action. That is entirely wrong and unethical to the superior candidates who were set aside as sacrifice to one’s misguided effort at achieving equality.

    Getting people to recognize women as capable and equal is important. When a candidate appears who is clearly superior, s/he should be selected. Simple as that. However, as long as the men who show up at my door are superior to the women who apply, I will always choose the men.

    And were I putting together a list of scientists to query for recommendations, and top names I could think of were all men, then my list would be all men and I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

    Now, having said that, there DEFINITELY ARE cases where women are overlooked because of discrimination, and that’s horribly horribly wrong. However, it’s only part of the picture, and, at least as I interpret the tone of your post, you seem to be biased and viewing the world as universally and intentionally pushing women down. Such an extreme view is seriously flawed.

  6. #6 Herb West
    September 19, 2007

    I have an idea to get more recognition for female science bloggers. Add a “Female Bloggers” channel to the ScienceBlogs homepage. Zuska, Tara and Dr Free-Ride’s posts can be listed in that channel instead of the gender-ambiguous Academia, Medicine, and Philosophy of Science channels. My idea may sound like a sad nod to political correctness but over time all those sad nods will add up.

  7. #7 Zuska
    September 19, 2007

    Dear Morons:
    Herb, you win the prize for being the first to say “you can’t complain about sexism unless you also provide a list of outstanding women in order to prove that sexism exists”. This is a common response and I am always amused to see who will be the first to use it on any given thread.

    Bill wins a special award for his “you can’t discuss instances of sexism unless you prove that sexism even exists in the world” defense mechanism. Or, “I dismiss all you say as meaningless. But I swear if you ever showed me anything I considered to be proof, I might be willing to listen to it.” Bonus points for the “a real scientist would never do/say this” trope.

    Joshua (who is possibly not a moron, but is addressed here for convenience’s sake) is to be congratulated for picking up on the fact that gender is a salient issue on this blog, which after all deals with gender and science, but not on Tara Smith’s blog, which is about a particular area of scientific research. Sadly, he loses points for not realizing that the ability to remain blissfully unaware of gender is a privilege of being male, thus the “I don’t see an emphasis on gender” bit. Joshua, please go back to the post and actually read what I said about women being underrepresented in science in general, but more heavily represented in the life sciences, so one would expect to see them show up in any sampling there.

    Michael gets the “defense of standards” award, with bonus points for chiming in so quickly with this familiar defense mechanism. How, exactly, do we decide who is best? If our methods of evaluating and assigning credit have gender bias built into them such that women are likely to be under-valued and men over-valued – as is the case – then it makes no sense to prattle on about “just taking the best” and not worrying about gender. You need to do something to ensure that your method of identifying “the best” is not gender biased. Settling back with a happy smile when all you can think of is a long list of white males won’t cut it.

    Herb comes back with the “political correctness” canard, which is also sure to show up in any defensive posture when gender equity is discussed, and shares with us his deep sadness about what the world is coming to today.

    All in all it’s an excellent crop of moronic comments. So many familiar, tired, trite and worn-out defense tactics within a mere four hours of posting! The boys must be feeling nervous tonight.

  8. #8 winersweet
    September 20, 2007

    The defensiveness in the comments on this post is striking.

  9. #9 Chris Rowan
    September 20, 2007

    Ah, so much casual sexism in one thread. It warms the cockles of my heart.

    The issue with the Scientist’s poll isn’t so much about proportions (although that contributes to the problem) it’s about representation. Would a political survey not bother to ask about women’s voting intentions? It’s smaller scale perhaps, but it’s the same deal.

    Unless, of course, you want to claim that no woman ever reads or writes blogs…

  10. #10 andesite
    September 20, 2007

    Thanks for the post. FWIW, blissful unawareness can be hard to throw off. (No sarcasm intended).

    One thing I’m curious about, though: what if the person at The Scientist who picked the infamous seven blogs is a woman?

  11. #11 irony miner
    September 20, 2007

    I would like to think that the pattern of immediate masculine defenses, denials, and dodges was deliberate performance art. I would like to think those comments came from characters in a one-act drama, whose words and behaviors were deliberately designed to demonstrate the playwright’s point. I would like to think the actors playing those roles have insight and awareness into the irony they portray. I would like to think all that occurs for the benefit of an observing audience, who leave the theater thinking,

    “Wow, I really learned something from that performance!”

    That’s what I would like to think.

  12. #12 Doc Bushwell
    September 20, 2007

    At the risk of exhuming a tired old religion-tinged cliche, you’re preaching to the choir (that would be me), Zuska. Excellent rant, and I can certainly attest that it is in fact the accumulation of those seeminly small slights that add to the big picture. Oh, the stories I could tell! My personal (and painful) anecdotes are not statistically meaningful as certain kneejerk pendants might desire, but they sure as hell were meaningful to me.

    Re: I would like to think that the pattern of immediate masculine defenses, denials, and dodges was deliberate performance art.

    *Snort* Of course, I am only feigning to appreciate the most excellent humor of your comment since not only are women less adept at science blogging, we are also humor-impaired.

  13. #13 LauraJMixon
    September 20, 2007

    andesite, the gender of the poster is in fact irrelevant to Zuska’s point. Women can — and do — propagate anti-female bias, all the time. We have received centuries of training in internalizing anti-female bias of a variety of types: physiological, intellectual, and so on.

  14. #14 Michael
    September 20, 2007

    Honestly, I don’t see how a “defense of standards” is in any way invalid. You make a good point that one needs to be unbiased in one’s selection criteria, and that’s absolutely true. My point was that assuming unbias, which is a significant disclaimer, there’s nothing wrong with under-representation of a particular class. I also gave you credit in noting that there is in fact bias, and that does need to be resolved. However, modifying one’s selection criteria is not the way to go about it (unless, of course, one’s selection criteria is based on discrimination).

    Again, my point was not to brush the discrimination issue under the rug with a rock solid defense, but merely to point out that, in an age where factors such as discrimination have led to under-representation, the result is that honest standards-based selection can and will result in one-sided results, and that that’s okay. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that.

    The issue we need to fix is biased selection, as that will eventually lead to proper representation of all classes. The issue we don’t need to fix is unbiased selection resulting in skewed representation. Until the former is fixed, the latter is justifiable, and altering the latter to fix the former is, at least in my own view, wrong.

    An analogy can be found in software development. I happen to work on a high-level product that the end-user sees. We also have a low-level product that operates behind the scenes. When something goes wrong with the low-level product, it’s the high-level product that catches the error and informs the user, so naturally, the user is led to believe the flaw is in the high level product.

    I see your example of a selection of scientists as the high-level product. It’s a byproduct of a flawed system, and not the flaw itself. The discriminitory bias is the cause. The under-representation of women is the effect, and will naturally lead to skewed proportions even when an unbiased selector is at the helm, because the unbiased agent is in an environment shaped by bias. My argument is that the unbiased agent, despite his flawed environment, must not alter his selection criteria, provided that he is in fact unbiased.

    In the end, I’m granting you that biased agents are many and there is a problem and it must be fixed. I agree.

  15. #15 Mrs Whatsit
    September 20, 2007

    I have been reading about this in other places in the blogosphere and here’s the thing that bothers me. When I first read about the poll or survey or whatever it is, I didn’t even notice the scientists they asked were all men. It’s like I don’t even stop to think about it, don’t even question it, it’s so part of the norm that I don’t notice! I never notice these things unless I really think about it. The same thing about women faculty and so on. Women are approximately 50 percent of the population, so you’d think about 50 percent of the faculty would be female, but no.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I have been so indoctrinated into this male-dominant culture I don’t even notice the under-representation of women. It’s just the way that it is. That makes me so very angry. It’s like finding out you’ve been brainwashed.

    BUT when this sort of thing is pointed out to me, I notice. I realize. I understand. I say, “You’re right, it seems to me that there should’ve been one female blogger in that list because there are a lot of very good female science bloggers out there.” What amazes me is that there are people who don’t get it (and by and large these people are men, but there are women who don’t get it, too). You can point out inequality to them, you can say why it’s discriminatory and they just don’t see it. I don’t get it. Are they blind? Do they not understand the meaning of discrimination?

  16. #16 Mecha
    September 20, 2007

    … the people who are arguing about ‘merit’ here clearly didn’t read the list, or the post. That’s an excellent proof of defensiveness right there.

    The Big Name Bloggers were never said to be ‘the best’. Just some of the ‘best known’ (not random, so throw that blind ‘appeal to the average’ out the window, okay?) Huh. Men being more popular and well known than women. You’d think there were some sort of… bias that would create a situation like that…

    The blogs that were then listed as possible best-ofs, some of them were women bloggers. That is where the real ‘merit’ comes in. The issue was that, arbitrarily, seven Big Name Bloggers were picked, and it just so happens that they’re all men. Just another bias example to be summarily dismissed and ignored, clearly.

    I find myself stunned at times at how often I can appropriately quote the concept of “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group” from Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack at people to whom it applies.

    -Mecha

  17. #17 Sandra Porter
    September 20, 2007

    Nice rant Zuska!

    I decided to write about some of my own experiences – you’re not kidding about them adding up – these have all been in the past couple of months.

  18. #18 andesite
    September 20, 2007

    LauraJmixon: Fair enough, point taken. Irony miner needn’t sound pessimistic. I’ve learnt something.

  19. #19 "GrrlScientist"
    September 20, 2007

    okay, not to brag, but the traffic that my blog enjoys exceeds that seen for at least several of those male bloggers who were asked to identify the top life science bloggers out there. yet, despite the fact that my blog has fairly high traffic, i was not asked to participate in that survey.

    gender bias?

    yes, i think so.

  20. #20 anotheranon
    September 20, 2007

    I’m calling total BS on that statistic that bloggers, and especially blog readers, are men. C’mon. I read most of the major science blogs, across many fields, on a daily basis and I have a good feel for which commenters are male and female based on long-standing participation. Even a lot of the hard science blogs have a suprising number of female readers / commenters. My understanding was that the “95% male readers” statement I saw elsewhere on this topic was based on self-reporting. My feeling on this is that 1. women are much more likely to comment anonymously and use anonymous handles, for many of the reasons discussed elsewhere by Zuska, 2. the number of self-reporting people for a given survey or post is not necessarily representative, given how many posts and information overload happens here at ScienceBlogs. I have never filled out a survey here which asked about my gender, and I have read ScienceBlogs since it’s inception. Just call me another uncounted female apparently…

    It’s my opinion that there are many well-trafficked and excellent science blogs who just happen to be written by women and/or minorities, and there are many of them to be found. They are without a doubt on par to anything written by men. The idea we are even having this discussion seems so ‘retro’, and in a bad way. So for that reason I do find it, shall we say odd, that somehow none of them ended up with serious representation on The Scientist’s original commentary for the survey. From what I see, this is getting somewhat corrected in their comments section and I encourage you all to vote for your favorite blog… especially if you feel the author or genre is of a type being underrepresented.

  21. #21 Lab Cat
    September 20, 2007

    Sigh – we still have men who think that bias is not happening because women just aren’t good enough or to quote Michael:

    If I had too choose amongst a group of candidates, I would choose the best. Period. If the turned out to be completely men, or completely white, or completely comprised of some other “preferred” class, so be it. They’re the best, and that’s that.

    But how do you define the best? How did the Scientist chose which science bloggers to ask which were the best science bloggers? Was the panel of science bloggers asked to pick men and women. It has been shown over and over, that once men are reminded that there are women scientists, or in this case, women science bloggers, they can come up with names, but otherwise there is a sort of gender based bias in which men just do not see women.

  22. #22 PhysioProf
    September 20, 2007

    “All in all it’s an excellent crop of moronic comments. So many familiar, tired, trite and worn-out defense tactics within a mere four hours of posting!”

    It’s like you titled this post, “Hey, dumbass, your shoes don’t have enough puke on them!!”

  23. #23 Kea
    September 21, 2007

    I just wanted to say thanks, again. Sometimes I come here to remind myself that there are actually other women out there in my world who see things as they really are (I’m in theoretical physics and a science blogger).

  24. #24 Flicka Mawa
    September 21, 2007

    Uggh, too many heated comments to read them all and see who is being rational and who isn’t. Suffice it to say, I’d like to say props to you for writing this stuff on a forum where you get such a huge amount of people just waiting to jump at you to prove everything you say. I’m not sure how I’d handle that.

  25. #25 usagi
    September 21, 2007

    crossposted at Pharyngula
    It’s the close of orientation week at my school (Registrar–I do two sessions with PHDs and one with the Master’s students). Having discovered Powerpoint, I was bound & determined to use it, hopefully to good effect.

    When I got to the graduation slide, I looked for some clip art. The school’s about 65/35 female/male, so I needed, at minimum, an image with a male and a female. Nothing in the simple search looked good. Checked the MS clip art library. Found a nice pair of 50s style cake toppers in caps & gowns, one male, one female. Fortunately, they didn’t look right either (I say fortunately because I’d been playing with the position for a while then realized they were both rather pale–not a great choice for classes with 25% non-Caucasian enrollment). Finally found a cartoony group of five in caps and gowns with a nice ethnic and gender mix, but when I positioned the logo the way I wanted (yeah, I’m picky about my layout–sue me), I had four figures showing: 3 male, 1 female. Solution: do a quick gender reassignment by copying a ponytail from one as a separate graphic to drop in over one of the identically drawn male figures. The point of all this? It’s really not all that tough to be inclusive, if you take a moment and consider your audience.

    Did it take me longer than grabbing the first thing I saw? Sure. Did anyone notice? Probably not. But someone would have if I hadn’t paid attention, and that would not have reflected well on my office (and the school), especially in a first contact like orientation.

    A mistake like this from The Scientist (and it was a mistake) is foolish, unnecessary, and, above all, lazy.

  26. #26 Walls
    September 21, 2007

    As someone who is new to blogging, and to the science community, may I humbly ask for a link or links to the best female blogs? I’m sorry if the question is rude.

  27. #27 SteveF
    September 21, 2007

    I was once told* that you need two P’s to become a geologist; a PhD and a penis. Looking around most of the conferences that I attend, that seems to be a pretty accurate description of the state of play. Geology has always been a very male science, moreover quite a manly one (i.e. beer drinking, general crudity). However, I wonder if things may be changing; when I did my MSc, half of the group were female and a reasonably similar ratio applies to fellow PhD students around the country (from my informal observations at conferences). Hopefully this will then translate up to professional academics. Not that this has much to do with the numbers of female science bloggers, but I thought I’d mention a happy and vaguely connected development!

    * by Lisa Sloan:

    http://www.es.ucsc.edu/personnel/Sloan/

  28. #28 Christopher Mims
    September 21, 2007

    Zuska, I must say that as annoying as they are, I am impressed that your critics find your arguments dangerous / convincing enough to keep coming back and making moronic comments. Too many blogs sound like they’re preaching to the choir — here at least there is a semblance of a real discussion. Also SB once again gets bonus points for being the ombudsman that science journalism has always desperately needed and never really had until now. Keep up the good work!

  29. #29 Kate
    September 21, 2007

    Good point, Christopher Mims. I’m always annoyed when Zuska points out irrationality and sexism in science, only to be bludgeoned with irrational, sexist comments. But I suppose it’s encouraging that they think it’s dangerous that we, I don’t know, address the irrationality of our discipline?

    I wonder, also, if The Scientist not only chose male blogs because they didn’t think and just assumed science blogs would be so overwhelmingly male that they wouldn’t have to pretend at equal representation of great blogs, BUT that they also place different values on what different science bloggers write about. I’m a female science blogger, but I only rarely blog about science for one reason only: I worry that by displaying my particular expertise I am compromising my pseudonymity. If I wasn’t worried that my blog would hurt my career (and I often feel like any little excuse to say that a woman is an inferior candidate to a man is eagerly jumped upon), I would post a lot more specific posts about my discipline, more comments about recent articles, and the like.

  30. #30 Laura
    September 21, 2007

    Zuska, thanks for this post and others. I’m young, working as a research technician and applying to PhD programs currently, and already in my budding career I have faced moments of creeping institutionalized sexism in science. The other tech here is male. I’ll let you guess which one of us gets assigned all the administrative tasks and is frequently asked to type and photocopy things by our boss, and to run little errands like “please bring this piece of paper to someone in the building next door.” When I applied for this job I was not told that I would become the lab manager, but that’s what has happened. It takes up about half of my time, which means I have less time to work on experiments (unless I put in unpaid overtime, which is encouraged) and am considered less productive that my male counterpart. I fear that this may impact my letter of recommendation from this PI when I send in my grad applications, but because I am depending on him for a letter, I am afraid to complain, let alone to suggest that he has behaved in an improper or sexist fashion. He’s mostly a nice man, and I just don’t believe he’s ever given it any thought.

    Blogs like yours give me strength and remind me that other women out there have faced much worse and pulled through, and that we are fighting against bias and prejudice. Thank you.

  31. #31 LJG
    September 21, 2007

    This makes me think of a quote I have on a magnet that my best friend gave me in high school:

    “Women have to work twice as hard as men to be thought half as good.”

    It doesn’t say they are half as good, as some commenting on this blog may read, but that they are THOUGHT half as good – meaning it’s a perception, not a fact.

    I think this is a pretty true quote and it really reflects on the affirmative action argument. I hate to put it so bluntly, but, the world softly says (as this entree topic shows) ‘because you are a woman your worth is half of a man’s worth’ and I really think certain groups arguing that affirmative action is unfair really shows that women/minorities/etc are half as valued. I understand the argument is that if the candidate who is the best is white male than they should be chosen because they are The Best. But if the candidate who was not white male never had the OPPORTUNITY to be considered or was discouraged by all the small “you’re not really good enough” whispers that are so programmed into our culture in the first place, you just may be passing on The Best candidate. I think of affirmative action, not as something taking away from the opportunity to hire the best candidate for the job, but as something giving everyone an OPPORTUNITY to be seen. I guess if you are white male and you and a minority female are exactly or very close to the same in terms of ‘best’, I can see why you would be upset that she would get the job in a male dominated feild. But guess what fellas; THAT’S THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS FOR WOMEN/MINORITIES ALL THE TIME! Thanks for reminding us it’s not fair that someone can get something because of their anatomy and skin color – welcome to our world! But instead of taking a step back and having an “Ah-Ha, this is what it’s like to be overlooked, this is what it’s like to be Ellie the Engineer” moment, you COMPLAIN about it. Oh, poor us white men, we’re so put-upon. Bah! That’s where I get my Inner Bitch on and just want to squish you!

    Thanks, as always, for the sarcasm Zuska! Love it!

  32. #32 Ray C.
    September 21, 2007

    “Women have to work twice as hard as men to be thought half as good.”

    That magnet doesn’t continue with “fortunately, that’s not difficult”?

  33. #33 Signout
    September 23, 2007

    Don’t nobody listen to that idea about starting a “Female Bloggers'” section at SB. That just reinforces the idea that men are the default and women are the special sex class.

    True gender equity isn’t as easy as just dedicating a special section, or a special day, or a special month to women. It’s making decisions, day to day, with the mindset that women are humans.

    Excellent smackdowns here. Zuska, keep preaching.

  34. #34 Emma
    September 26, 2007

    I’m taking issue with posts 4 and 5 and, yes, I know, I’m late to the party. First, post 4 with the point on proportional bias, it would hold true if they claimed to pick a random sample of bloggers to questions about this. However, that’s not the case, they’ve deliberatley selected a sample and that sample should represent the full range of bloggers, including those in a ‘minority’. We don’t need three opinions on what, for example, straight white men in high level jobs think makes a good science blogger, but maybe one from that class, a woman, an undergrad, a person of colour.

    Second, post 5, this presumes the men who were chosen were the best. It presumes your assesment of who is best is completely objective and not coloured at all by your inate perception based on their gender. It’s the same argument we hear with affermative action, “The best candidate should be selected”, carrying the assumption that the best candidate isn’t the ‘minority’ person who was hired but the STRAIGHT WHITE MAN who’s been turned down. And also that everyone is evaluated by the same criteria and there’s no unconscious bias at all.

    I’m done now.

    The invisibility of female science bloggers annoys me a lot. I just wish I knew why it happens.

  35. #35 Zuska
    September 26, 2007

    I’m loving the discussion…thank you all for your comments. I’m sorry I’ve been away from the blog for so long but my mom needs me right now and being here for her is a 24/7 job at the moment. I’m hoping to get back to blogging at latest by early next week and will address some of what has been said here as well as writing some new stuff.

    But I just wanted to add that I totally agree with Signout about not wanting a “women SB section”. Bleah. Who wants to be ghetto-ized? As Signout points out, saying “hey, looky here, we got us some wimmin!” is not the true, real, hard work of equity – which needs to take place daily, from moment to moment, in many small ways as well as larger efforts. (By the way, I think SB has many topnotch kickass science bloggers who happen to be women.)

  36. #36 Alex
    January 28, 2009

    But in the grand scheme of things, this is just one more example of how women get overlooked and underrated, consistently, time after time after time. And it adds up over time to advantage men and disadvantage women. Over time this creates large gaps in the way men versus women, on average, get rated/evaluated/promoted/paid etc. Any one little incident on its own doesn’t seem so awful bad. It’s the cumulative effect of all the subtle biases, adding up over time, that sucks a mighty wind. That’s what makes the progress of women in science so excruciatingly slow.

    What the hell? Did you consider that maybe, just maybe there are more prominent male science bloggers than female and thus there is a greater chance that only males would be selected? What you want is for them to go out of their way to pick females. That’s sexist. Choosing people without regard to their sex is how it should be. Just because they didn’t happen to ask a female doesn’t mean they’re underrating women.

    “when did you last hear the phrase “men science bloggers”? ’cause they’re just the default, right?”

    You’re right about this, and it bothers me too. As far as I know I’ve never said “female/women/girl *something*” unless I needed to for some reason. That doesn’t mean they should have gone out of their way to make sure they included one or more females.

  37. #37 Zuska
    January 28, 2009

    Alex, you are a complete moron. I mean, did you even read this whole thread of comments before leaving your comment?

    Oh yeah, making an effort to pick a few female science bloggers is sexist, but not bothering to examine one’s unconscious bias and just going ahead and picking the same old crop of the usual white males isn’t. Yeah, whatever.

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