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?
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.