“Now is the time we raise our voices”

In light of the Tim Hunt saga, now seems to be a good time to rerun this piece. I’m hoping to free up some time to write up some fresh stuff for ye – in the few scattered minutes where I’ve not been obsessing over finding a place to live and how to get rid of a ridiculous number of books, I’ve had Thoughts about privileged people’s responses to both Hunt’s sexist asshattery and the appalling slaughter in Charleston. I hope to share them coherently soon. Right now, I’m just wanting to grab certain people – almost inevitably white men – by the lapels, and shake them and shout at them until some sense penetrates.

One thing I will say is: good. I’m glad they’re whining about witch hunts. I’m glad they’ve been rocked back on their heels by the volume and effectiveness of the response. I’m glad they’re clutching at any excuse to avoid facing the reality that they’re losing. They’re losing their assumed and unquestioned superiority. They are being forced to share, and they can’t stand it. They’re being required to behave, and it’s outraging them. They’re facing actual consequences, and they have no idea why, or how to deal with it. They’re having to confront some damned ugly facts about how society works, and they’re completely horrified. Good. The louder they howl, the more they protest, deny, and try to accuse and redirect, the clearer it becomes we’re getting through to them, and it’s making them more uncomfortable than they’ve ever been in their clueless, privileged little lives.

This is why we raise our voices. This is why it’s essential that we never stop. Not until they’ve finished howling their wretched little lungs out, and are finally ready to listen. Then, only then, we might have a chance to speak without having to shout.

Read this. Read all of it. If you’re very busy and must read it later, read this bit right now. [Read more…]

Damn Right We Did! Women, Civilization-Building, and Men in Denial

Entitled males love to howl about how penis-bearing people did all the hard work creating civilization. It became so much of a trope that David Futrelle renamed his blog after one of their cries: “We hunted the mammoth for you!” To hear men (especially white European males who haven’t done shit with their own lives) tell it, the only people who did anything noteworthy in the entire history of the world had dangly bits between their legs.

After yet another men-did-it-all screed, Rubyyogi had enough, and unleashed some truth upon them: [Read more…]

Dispatches from Women’s World

B and I are sitting side-by-side. We are in different worlds.

Image shows a red planet, a blue moon, and a binary star system.

Binary Star, Nebula, and Planet with Moons courtesy Matt Hendrick via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

B’s wishing he’d known women actually like sex back in his raging hormone days. Society had told him that girls just aren’t in to doing the wild thing, and he’d believed that, so he missed a lot of opportunities. He’s not the sort of man who’d ask a woman to do something she didn’t like. It’s why we’re together.

We’re watching UFC fights. B wishes the cage girls were curvier – these are famine years for men attracted to women who jiggle more in the bum than boobs. He’s hoping for an audience shot of Benson Henderson’s wife, because she’s a hottie. I’m busy watching various nearly-naked men in exquisite physical condition grapple and writhe. Some of the wrestling moves look like they could easily be modified for incredible bedroom encounters. And if Benson Henderson and I were unattached and he was interested, I’d love to test that theory with him. But as much as I’m assessing the fighters for potential happy fun sexytimes, I’m also aware that every one of them could turn horrifically violent in a heartbeat, and their strength, speed, and skill mean I wouldn’t stand a chance. So as much as I enjoy admiring the bodies and consider their performance potential, I’m also trying to read their character, aware that misjudging it could get me raped, killed, or both.

How many men consider calmly the chance that a potential sexual encounter will turn violent? [Read more…]

Hapless Dudes Try Labor, Literally Tap Out

I think I may be a bad person for loving this so much. But I have my reasons!

I’ve never given birth, but I’ve experienced pain verging on it. When your menstrual cramps are worse than kidney stones, and your doctor tells you that women who’ve had both babies and kidney stones said the stone were worse than labor, you can be relatively assured you’ve survived something approximating the most painful experience uterus-bearing people typically face. I’m willing to bet that there’s worse things, like maybe being on fire, but childbirth is generally considered to be pretty awful. Yet our culture tells women it’s beautiful, and wonderful, and they shouldn’t ask for pain relief because that will somehow cheapen the experience or something.

You know what, fuck that. [Read more…]

Happy 127th Birthday, Inge Lehmann! Google Doodle Celebrates

Oh, look, Google Doodle’s honoring one of our Pioneering Women in the Geosciences! Fantastic!

Image shows the earth split apart, forming one of the Google Os. The core is shining between the halves. The continents can be seen revolving independently on each half.

Inge Lehmann Google Doodle

That is one of the coolest doodles ever. Absolutely fitting for one of the coolest women ever. Have you read up on her? If not, you totally should. She was amazeballs!

Only a year later, an earthquake in New Zealand would lead her to her greatest discovery.

The behavior of certain seismic waves, called P’ (P-Prime) waves, didn’t match what would be expected “if the earth simply consisted of a hard mantle surrounding a fluid or soft core.” Inge considered different models, and discovered an interesting result. “The existence of a small solid core in the innermost part of the earth was seen to result in waves emerging at distances where it had not been possible to predict their presence.”

[Read more…]

A Victorian MRA Interlude: Coverture

I’ve fallen a bit behind in fisking our Victorian MRA dude, but never fear! I shall persevere until the end. Eventually. After finishing mah bad Bible stories book, doing up some hawt geology posts and working on this amazing backlog of nature photography I have got. In the meantime, there’s this very concise (and potentially rage-inducing) post on coverature by Cerys Gruffyydd for your history-of-how-horribly-women-were-treated needs. Trigger warning for marital rape. [Read more…]

Kumbaya Feminism

I cringed when I read about Patricia Arquette’s oblivious comments at the Oscars. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been an immediate, “Whoops! I’m so sorry, I definitely should’ve phrased that differently and not implied everybody else’s struggles are totally over.” It’s too easy, when you’re a white feminist, to get wrapped up in your own problems and forget that other people are dealing with far more shit than you are. It’s far too easy to assume the black feminist in the room faces the same issues you do. And then you end up blabbing something that comes across as dismissive, erasing the existence and concerns of huge swathes of people and then wondering why they’re mad at you.

At its worst, we end up with “kumbaya feminism.” [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: Women of the Geoblogosphere

Happy International Women’s Day, everybody! Feel like celebrating with women in the geosciences? Sure you do! The full list is right here. Have I missed anyone? Tell me about them in the comments!

Throughout the week, we’ve been sampling the various blogs. You can find all of them right here:

Maps, Science Education, and Geology in Space

Zombies! Plus Kittehs, Water, and Plants!

Extinctions! Glaciation! Movies! Books from Space!

People-Snatching Pterosaurs! Fossils! Argo Floats! Plus #SciArt!

Careers! Volcanoes! Birds! Earthquakes! Centaurs! and Geysers!

 

hi-five

Marjorie Sweeting: “The Basis for a World Model of Karst”

One of the best karst geologists in the world was technically a geographer. That’s the thing with physical geography: women were allowed to do it, and some of them made it just as geological as they liked. Dr. Marjorie Sweeting (1920-1994) certainly loved doing geology. Let’s call her what she was: geographer, geomorphologist, and distinguished Cambridge Fellow. The quality of her life’s work, plus my affection for alliteration, leads me to crown her the queen of karst.

Marjorie Sweeting. Detail of image in obituary by H.A. Viles.

Marjorie Sweeting. Detail of image in obituary by H.A. Viles.

I’ve fallen a bit in love with all of the women in geology I’ve researched and written about so far, but Marjorie was the first who got me copiously salivating. You see, I’m a bit of a karst addict. I especially love the karst landscapes of China. So finding out that this remarkable woman led the first set of British geomorphologists to China, and was the first western geologist to study those astounding landscapes, sent me into an agony of ecstasy. And I discovered a woman every bit as remarkable as the landforms she studied. [Read more…]

Mary Horner Lyell: “A Monument of Patience”

You never hear of the other Lyell. Sir Charles, you know quite well: he set the infant science of geology firmly on its feet and inspired Charles Darwin. But there’s another Lyell who was a geologist, and without her, Charles Lyell would have found his work far more difficult, if not impossible. When he married Mary Horner, he pledged himself to a lifelong scientific partner.

Portrait of Lady Lyell, after a crayon drawing by George Richmond, R.A.

Portrait of Lady Lyell, after a crayon drawing by George Richmond, R.A. Image from the Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, bart. Vol II.

Why don’t we know her?

Charles provided some insight when speaking of mathematician Mary Somerville. If she’d married a fellow mathematician, he mused, “we should never have heard of her work. She would have merged it in her husband’s, and passed it off as his.” It’s possible he had his own Mary in mind when he said that.

Mary Horner Lyell (1808-1873) was surrounded by geology from the beginning of her life. Her father, Professor Leonard Horner, taught geology in England and Germany, and became a member of the Geological Society. He hired tutors for his sons and daughters, ensuring all of his children had an excellent education. That education allowed Mary to become a conchologist and her younger sister, Katherine, to pursue a career as a botanist. Both of them were well-respected and accomplished in their fields. Both of them also married a Lyell: Katherine married Charles’s younger brother, Henry.

Marrying Charles didn’t confine Mary to the domestic life of a housewife: far from it. She traveled the world with her husband as his partner in geology. She did the packing: their clothes, his geologic equipment and specimens. While Charles investigated, she sketched and painted the outcrops, geologic structures, and cross-sections they discovered. When circumstances prevented her from going out into the field with him, Charles didn’t neglect her. He created detailed journals of his investigations for her, and wrote affectionate letters beginning, “My dearest Mary…”

Mary wasn’t just an asset in the field. She helped him with research and cataloged the rocks, minerals and fossils they collected. She acted as his scribe and interpreter: her fluency in French and German allowed her to translate letters from European geologists, and she learned Spanish and Swedish as well. Charles’s eyesight became less up to the task of correspondence, she ensured he stayed current and connected.

When Darwin and Mr. Lyell discussed evolution, Mary was an active part of the conversation. When Darwin needed barnacles, she supplied them (“I am much obliged for the Barnacles,” he wrote to her, and then launched into a discussion of the glacial geology of the Scottish glens. In a letter a few years previously, he had described Mary as “a monument of patience” for putting up with his and Sir Charles’s “unsophisticated geologytalk – it seems that by the time she began slipping him barnacles, he’d figured out she actually enjoyed this geology stuff).

Mary also carried on a lively correspondence with another geological wife: she and Elizabeth Agassiz discussed the glacial geology of South America in their letters back and forth.

Her husband was fully supportive of women who wanted to participate in science. He insisted that women be allowed to attend his lectures. Mary didn’t limit herself to just his talks: she attended special lectures at the London Geological Society with keen interest.

Though her contemporaries and later historians too often overlooked her, it was clear she understood geology thoroughly. And she was certainly a scientist in her own right. In 1854, she collected and studied land snails in the Canary Islands, her own version of Darwin’s finches. In another age, her work may not have been so merged with and overshadowed by her husband’s. She was a geologist to the core. If Charles Lyell was one of geology’s fathers, Mary Horner Lyell was certainly one of its mothers, an extraordinary and dedicated woman we need to remember.

Mary Lyell later in life. Image courtesy Darwin and Gender.

Mary Lyell later in life. Image via Darwin and Gender.

Previous posts in this series:

Pioneering Women in the Geosciences: Introduction.

Zonia Baber: “The Public May Be Brought to Understand the Importance of Geography.”

 

References:

Ashcraft, Donna Musialowski (1998): Women’s Work: A Survey of Scholarship by and About Women. Binghampton, NY: The Hawthorn Press.

Hardman, Phillippa: “Talking to Naturalists.” Darwin and Gender: the Blog. Last accessed 4-25-2013.

Hestmark, Geir (2011): “The meaning of ’metamorphic’ – Charles & Mary Lyell in Norway, 1837.” Norwegian Journal of Geology, Vol 91, pp. 247-275.

Ogilive, Marilyn B. (1986): Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century. Boston, Massachussets: MIT.

Somerville, Mary (2001): Queen of Science. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd.

 

(Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.)