Pioneering Women in the Geosciences: Introduction

When asked for early geologists, all of us can rattle off names. Some of us may remember Nicolas Steno, the father of stratigraphy. We certainly mention James Hutton (father of deep time) and Charles Lyell (father of modern geology). Some of us would even throw Charles Darwin’s name in there for his work on volcanic islands and coral reefs.

Geology has many fathers, and we know them well. But few of us can name its mothers. Mothers who sacrificed far more than most of the men did – many women could only succeed in the geosciences if they remained unmarried and childless (and some organizations, like the British Geological Survey, made that a formal requirement). They fought discrimination and doubt. They worked hard for a fraction of the recognition their male colleagues got. Despite all the decks stacked against them, they made important contributions to our knowledge of the world. Forgetting the women who left us geoscience legacies is intolerable. We need to remember. [Read more…]

Links on the Travesty that is Fifty Shades of Grey

Oh, how I hate to see that dreck making bank at the theatre. Thing is, erotica for women is so thin on the ground in popular culture that crap like this gets made into a movie, whereas the quality stuff like The Boss series doesn’t. However. Let’s hope the FSOG horror show opens up the market for better things (and full male nudity in film, which I hear didn’t happen in a film meant for horny heterosexual women, WTF?!). In the meantime, those of us who hate FSOG can continue to say why it’s so horrible. Other than the fact it won’t show us whole nekkid dudes, I mean.

Jenny saw the movie. She live-tweeted it, if you want her on-the-ground impressions, and reviewed it thoroughly. She also has these excellent posts, which I wished to commend to your attention: [Read more…]

Emmylou Harris is a Feminist. Huzzah!

So, remember that conversation about country music we had a while back? It got me to recalling my country music days, which began with my parents and lasted until I got introduced to heavy metal. I don’t listen to much anymore, but after that post and the discussion around it, I began trying to recall the names of female country singers I’d loved. And Emmylou Harris came to mind. [Read more…]

An Informative Tour of Victorian English Women’s Struggles for Equality

Have you encountered an MRA spouting nonsense about how women lorded it over men in Victorian England, and need a rebuttal? Perhaps you’ve encountered Christian patriarchy advocates who are waxing lyrical about how good the ladies had it when they were under male authority, and wish to disabuse them of some ridiculous notions? Then you need to procure yourself a copy of Mary Lyndon Shanley’s Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England at once.

Cover of the book Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England.

This is a slender tome packed full of eye-popping information on how married women were treated by law in that romantic era, and their decades-long struggle to be treated as people, not property. She tells the story through a series of Acts of Parliament. If, like me, you’re a sucker for law drama, you’ll savor this method thoroughly. Even if that’s not your thing, you’ll encounter too many fascinating feminists in infuriating situations to care. [Read more…]

The Unstoppable Force of Huxley, Darwin, and Frances Power Cobbe

Reading this book on Victorian England’s marriage laws is slow going, because I keep running into fascinating women. Mary Lyndon Shanley quotes a snippet of their work, and then I end up haring off after the source and promptly getting immersed in that instead. I made it to Chapter Two, and I did intend to get all the way to Three, but then I ran into Frances Power Cobbe. And I had to read her article “Criminals, idiots, women and minors” in its entirety. It is so full of good things that I will probably quote from it even more. The woman was a caution. She may have been an anti-vivisectionist, but she completely eviscerates the laws against married women owning their own property. She impales her opponents’ arguments on their own logic before she finishes them off with several master strokes. It’s just amazeballs.

Since we’re just past Darwin Day, I figured I’d share this bit with you. It seems appropriate. [Read more…]

Researching 19th Century Sexism with Cat, Plus Bonus Squee

Over the last couple of days, Misha’s been insisting on me making a blanket cave for her to sleep in. She likes to pick random inconvenient times, like when I’m asleep, or about to grab the computer and start typing. I could tell her no, but snuggling with a warm kitty is not to be turned down. I mean, honestly, look at how adorable she is.

Image shows Misha lying with her cheek on her paws. A bit of my red shirt is visible beside her. The blanket is overhead.

Snoozin in teh warms.

 

She’s actually preventing me from avoiding research, because that’s pretty much all I can do when I’m having to make a cave roof with one arm. I might be able to type, but it would be slow and complicated. And I have a 19th century MRAnt to dissect. [Read more…]

Six Snubbed Women in Science

Someone (if only I could remember who!) recently linked this 2013 NatGeo article: 6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism. Rosalind Franklin is there, of course, but there are also women I’d never heard of: Esther Lederberg, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Nettie Stevens. The list hasn’t got any geologists, alas, but physics and biology are well-represented with one shout-out to astronomy.

Image shows Chinese scentist Chien-Shiung Wu smiling at the camera in an old black-and-white photo.

Chien-Shiung Wu. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m happy to be living in a time when women are finally beginning to get the recognition they deserve, but there’s a long way to go. I’ll be bringing back our Pioneering Women in the Geosciences series soon, now that summer field season is over. We won’t let their contributions be forgotten.

 

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

A Rant Against the Dual Nature of Marketing Towards Men and Women

In which our own RQ riffs off my Fifty Shades of Fucking Abuse post. (say something about the gender binary) The floor is hers:

I got to thinking about your post during the day, and on what it means regarding who is reading what, and what kind of reading is marketed to whom. Especially romance and/or sex-related stuff, or, hell, just books that might have sex in them somewhere.

Because all those tired housewives? What’s marketed to them? Insipid romance where the man saves the day (or is horribly abusively ‘romantic,’ right, because what woman doesn’t love a good stalker?), magazines on housewifery and how-to-keep-your-man-interested… What else? Not much – I read a pretty decent science magazine (GEO, not to be confused with NatGeo) that explicitly states in its subscription description that it is geared towards middle-income, successful men. And what is in this magazine? Well, it’s not women in any state of undress – it’s very interesting science and geography articles, with nary a nod towards ‘typical’ male interests (except in advertising, and even that – alcohol, watches, suits…). Why can this kind of stuff not be geared towards women, too? Those bored housewives who are so uninteresting to their husbands – wouldn’t this kind of thing be perfect for them? Educate themselves while gaining a broader perspective on the world (they’ve had some neat articles on transgender children and non-traditional relationships, plus a very feminist one on the role of fathers from a scientific perspective), while acquiring information useful in ordinary, daily conversation with their far more worldly husbands. Sounds great to me, so why not market it as such?

Then there are the women’s magazines, which are… well, cooking, interior design, and, on occasion, nicely dressed and fully clothed men (there was that one comparison of Hugh Jackman on the cover of men’s and women’s magazines a while back). And that’s all fine, until it’s the only thing ‘appropriate’ for married women with children, and the thought of showing a bare-chested man in a housewife magazine (YUMM) is considered racy and borderline non-permissible… Where’s the women’s equivalent to FHM and Playboy? And I don’t mean just erotic shots, I mean the intelligent interviews with the interviewee posing in his underwear as eye-candy. I can think of a few local candidate athletes who would be perfect for this.

But no.

Women, especially women in long-term, childed relationships, don’t have sexuality. Not one worth talking about, at least, except as a ‘haha I bet you never have sex’ joke. This is something that needs to die a very, very painful and quick death (I’d say slow, but I’ve had enough of slow).

And that leaves me to wonder, from whence do women get their ideas about their own sexuality, in a fairly puritanical society that deems them worthy only of having children and being satisfied only under the wing of a man?

And that is what leaves them wide open for books like 50 Shades – because, unfortunately, with all the abusive aspects of it, and the childish language (they can’t even talk dirty enough because it will hurt the sensitivities of women? what?), it does speak plainly and openly about sexual love within the bounds of a relationship. I mean, I read a lot when I was young, and my first awakenings into sexuality came through SF/Fantasy novels (Hel-lo, Lions of Al-Rassan). And then for a while I made sure that all the books I read had at least one sex scene in them, because that shit was awesome! Masturbation material! (Sorry if it’s TMI.) And it was in all kinds of books!

Which leaves me to wonder, are people really so limited in their reading choices (and more specifically, are housewives really so limited in their reading material) that they have to resort to such ridiculous trash as 50 Shades to re-awaken those feelings? To allow them to feel like sexual beings again, to let them know that it’s perfectly normal to want sex and love your body and have someone do wonderful, touchy-feely, hot things to it? Is it just the marketing this time around? Is it a lack of resources to know that, hey, having kids doesn’t automatically turn the pleasure-centres in your vagina and environs off? Because there’s so much literature out there that can get people hot and bothered – if they bothered to look at it that way. But I think I’m slowly discovering that, indeed, there’s a very narrow lane you have to walk when you’re set in a certain role, a very narrow set of interests you’re supposed to cultivate in order to be the right kind of wife/mother/girlfriend. Because the gods forbid you start having fantasies about imaginary characters or unattainable athletes or actors on-screen… Because Hugh Jackman would set a bad precedent by taking his shirt off in a women’s magazine, while being all bare-chested and manily aggressive is perfectly fine for the men to see (because that’s how they should be, too!), but there’s no reciprocating audience to accept him as such, from a sexual point of view (I feel like there’s some underlying homophobia here, too, because sexy pictures of men might be looked at by gay men, and ew, right???).

I suppose this is a rant against the dual nature of marketing towards men and women (and never mind those who aren’t straight and cis, because… well, because, right?), how men are allowed to be sexual, women are too nurturing to understand, and women who want sex for the sake of sex and pleasure are sluts and shouldn’t be treated with respect… Yes, that’s rape culture. But is it really so ingrained that it subtly limits everyone’s reading choices? That it denies such self-examination and acceptance of all of one’s self?

I’m sad to think that the answer is yes – that the only way to awaken women’s ‘lost’ sexuality is through aggressive marketing piggy-backing on the coattails of an already-terrible romance. That there’s so much beautiful, sexy stuff written out there, that would appeal to both men and women without resorting to silly cliches and harmful stereotypes of romance that doesn’t get a single note of attention because… because it doesn’t fall neatly into a box. Because it doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘housewife’ or ‘husband’ or ‘sex after marriage’ (I’m pretty sure there isn’t even a box for that last one). And this is only in the context of plain, vanilla relationships (which can be pretty hot too).

The Lions of Al-Rassan isn’t marketed or ever described as a romance novel – even though, in essence, that’s what it is. No? And it’s not the only book that avoids the ‘romance’ label even though it is chock-full of romance.

Anyway. I’m not sure how to end this in a good way, because it’s saddening and slightly angering that this is what women have to resort to – that this is what is pushed at men as a model – because society is too afraid to acknowledge sex and sexuality as a real, living aspect of all adults, whether single, married, with or without kids, of any orientation or sexual proclivity. Sex is too awesome to be demeaned and swept under the rug like that – why does it happen?

(And yes, I have some idea… I just wish there was a better way to stand against it and make a change.)

*sigh*

Sigh indeed.

Let’s Bring Skepticon and the Ada Initiative Together! #skeptics4ada

So, remember how I talked about taking our activism, passion and filthy atheist lucre elsewhere?  Here’s an elsewhere: the Ada Initiative. It’s named for Ada Lovelace, “the enchantress of numbers” and the first person who wrote an algorithm meant for machines. She was essentially a computer programmer before there were even computers, people. That’s how awesome she is.

Image is a watercolor of Ada Lovelace, wearing a lovely purple dress and holding a fan.

Ada Lovelace, my darlings. She exudes awesome, doesn’t she just? I definitely need to make this costume for Halloween once I’ve got the hang of this seamstress stuff. Watercolor portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780–1860). Image courtesy Science & Society Picture Library via Wikimedia Commons.

So this foundation honors her memory by supporting women in tech. They are not afraid of a certain f-word, either:

[Read more…]

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable
[Read more…]