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Sadly, it’s International Women’s Day

It’s that day when we’re supposed to celebrate the accomplishment’s of women. I say “sadly,” because unfortunately there are way too many people out there who would rather sneer at and diminish women’s status in the world.

Case in point: on twitter, I ran across this lovely tweet from one of those repugnant slymepitters.

On #IWD remembered the nearly 0 wimmin – Nobels in science, highbrow art, chess GMs, great standups, but 100s of pop-culture hos #ftbullies

`

Yes. Let’s remember those women.

Let’s remember Lise Meitner, Hilde Mangold, Chien-Shiung Wu, Rosalind Franklin, and Jocelyn Bell — who were all well-qualified (men won the prizes for work equivalent to what they did, instead) to win a Nobel but didn’t get one.

Rather than 0 women, perhaps we should remember Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert Mayer, who won Nobels in physics; Irène Joliot-Curie, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, and Ada E. Yonath in chemistry; Barbara McClintock, Carol W. Greider, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Gertrude B. Elion, Gerty Cori, Linda B. Buck, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Rosalyn Yalow, in physiology or medicine. Clearly women are not intrinsically incapable of scientific work at the highest levels. Of those whose work I’m familiar with in detail, I have to tell you that McClintock blows me away with the stunning brilliance of her abstract reasoning — I know of no other male scientist whose work is at all comparable (that of course is a matter of taste!)

The relatively lower frequency of women recieving Nobels is not something any man should take pride in; what it really indicates is that we’ve been shortchanging half the human population, depriving them of opportunities to excel. Wait — we’ve been doing worse than shortchanging women; we’ve been depriving all of humanity of the potential in those minds. This pattern of discrimination against women has hurt us all.

Let’s not forget also all the people, men and women alike, deprived of opportunities because of their race or class — deprived by the kind of endemic bigotry that would, for instance, denigrate an entire group of people as “pop-culture hos”. And it’s not just science — it was good of our petty MRA to remind us that we’ve also lost their contributions to art and theater and games.

That’s what I think of everytime some bigot crows about the absence of some group of people from some field of endeavor — it’s a reminder of all that we’ve lost to selfish stupidity.

Comments

  1. says

    Perhaps someone can tell me about Astrokid NJ’s Nobel prize, his grandmaster status in chess, his international reputation in highbrow art, and his wonderful standup routines? Because I’m sure he has accomplished all of those things, since he is a man.

  2. Onamission5 says

    But you see when men don’t accomplish those things it’s because they didn’t want to or because some money grubbing harpy sucked away their life force, and when women don’t accomplish those things it’s obviously because we’re inferior life forms.

  3. cactusren says

    I don’t recognize all those names, and am now feeling compelled to go do some research.

    Thank you PZ–this post brightened my day.

  4. screechymonkey says

    I’m confused. I thought the slimepitters and MRAs weren’t anti-women at all — I was repeatedly assured that they totally believed in women’s equality, in fact, as “equity feminists” they were even more pro-equality than the rest of us. And now PZ is #ftbullying this #bravehero with his mean nasty facts!

  5. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    At Micheal Nugent’s blog, where the Slymies have been squatting for the past few days, I have read repeatedly that the Slymepit is the true feminist site. Therefore, Astrokid cannot be a true pitter. Could be a plant by oolon.

    (100% pure snark.)

  6. la tricoteuse says

    Sally:

    Awww, someone’s still feeling mad about the success of Anita Sarkeesian’s project.

    Some woman somewhere is getting attention and she isn’t even getting naked. She must be stopped!

  7. Ulysses says

    Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes, the 1903 Physics prize which she shared with Antoine Becquerel and her husband Pierre and the 1911 Chemistry prize which wasn’t shared. She is one of the four people to win two prizes and the only one to win prizes in two different sciences.

  8. says

    A short list of women in mathematics: Agnesi, Germain, Herschel, Hopper, Kovalevskaya, Lovelace, Noether, Robinson, Taussky-Todd, and Young. Their accomplishments stand comparison with at least 95% of men in mathematics. Probably 99%.

    A much longer list (containing links for all of the above) is here.

  9. inflection says

    I work in combinatorics. Off the top of my head, and just in my specialty subfield, women whose names on a preprint make me promptly download the thing to read are: Jennifer Morse, Carla Savage, Mireille Bousquet-Mélou, Kathrin Bringmann, and Sami Assaf, and I’m sure I’d remember more when I saw them.

  10. zekehoskin says

    And in the list of women who did Nobel work without the prize, Cecilia Payne comes immediately to mind.

  11. anteprepro says

    On top of the problems with the Nobel prize example, in order for the screed to make a lick of sense, you’ve got to also:
    -Turn Chess into Serious Intellectual Business instead of, you know, a game.
    -Make sure that artists don’t count unless it is “high brow” art (whatever the fuck that delineation might be).
    -Inexplicably include stand-up comedy specifically as an example of intellectual achievement.
    -Pretend that “stand-up comedy” is not a subset of “pop culture”.

    I mean, really: This is your brain on sexism, folks. Logic need not apply.

  12. Francisco Bacopa says

    Meitner probably would have shared a Nobel if she had been able to stay in Germany and continue working with her team. In any case, she has an element named after her now. No one remembers very many of the Nobel winners, but the periodic table will bear her name forever.

  13. garlic says

    Did any pitters call him out?

    Not called him out in the sense of directly addressing him, but there’s some explicit disapproval:

    Pitchguest: Honestly, though, I don’t really “get” the tweet at all. Actually it’s pretty bad from where I’m sitting.

    Gumby: Astrokid has apparently decided to become a douche.

    Probably as tough words as you’ll ever get from pytters.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    Yes, I know about Lamarr’s contributions to mathematics. I just couldn’t pass up a Blazing Saddles reference!

  15. WhiteHatLurker says

    Not in a field with Nobels, and long before dynamite, but … Hypatia

    Like the xkcd link!

  16. garlic says

    More context from the pytters:

    Dick Strawkins: Astrokid is one of the AVFM contingent. I think he was the one that wrote that stupid article over there after the Indian gang rape and murder case, saying that the big problem there was sexism against men!
    He seems to barely conceal a hate for women – which is probably the reason he rarely posts here.

    Desperate measures by Peezus if he’s forced to trawl through AVFM writers and try to paint them as representitive of the Slymepit.
    What next? Johntheother? Paul Elam?

  17. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    That is fucking rich. Seeing that some Slymies are part of AVfM and other are followers of their blog. And seeing that at least one video by a Slymie was fucking featured at AVfM.

    Dick Strawkins is living in a world of denial.

  18. says

    Natehevens,

    Don’t get too excited, those few comments are still stuffed in between the typical BS from them, frothing at the mouth over everything Ophelia posts, shopping PZ’s face on to a dildo, fat shaming etc…

    Don’t buy in to the trope that they are a monolithic group when it comes to opinions about sexism, it’s fuel on the fire for them. Their membership ranges from the extremely misogynistic scum PZ notes here to some rather sensible folks who would otherwise agree with the general missions and goals of feminists, but hang out at and defend the pit anyway because of their fucked up views on free speech.

    The only monolithic view they promote is that FTB and the A+ forums are evil because ZOMG! they ban people and occasionally replace truly putrid comments with fluffy bunnies!

    * using that term very charitably, and they are very few in comparison to the MRA types or various flavors of sexism deniers or libertarians hung up on personal responsibility and victimhood.

  19. says

    Oh, and to be clear, I’m not at all saying that the two noted here for taking issue with astrokid’s tweet would fall under the “sensible” category I spoke of. And I’m also not defending the pit, at all. If you hang out there and defend it, you’re misguided at best.

    I’m only trying to point out that they revel in being able to call anyone who tries to paint them with a broad brush a liar or hypocrite, or accuse them of not knowing anything about the pit, and therefor unqualified to criticize it.

  20. formerlysuspended says

    Thanks for the nice post. It’s sad that women’s achievements, whether in science, politics, entertainment, or pretty much any human endeavors, are glossed over at best and more often ignored and forgotten, while many men’s achievements are relatively speaking puffed up and overglorified. For example, how many of the men on the list had support from a wife, mother, or female colleague who was never acknowledged for her efforts? Besides which for thousands of years women have been punished for daring to participate in areas (like science) considered exclusive to men – in many places they still are!

    Also, as far as pop culture goes, let’s remember that there seems to be a lot of trash on the men’s side with male celebs abusing their wives while still cashing in on their music and acting. So I think that leveling such an accusation on women is more than unfair. Anyway why is a woman bad just for being popular? Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Rihanna, and even Lindsay Lohan all have my respect, as do most types of popular women, for having the guts to be in the limelight 24/7, being thrust into “rolemodel” status without their consent, and for building their careers to their current level. Most men AND women only dream of doing what people in Hollywood and the music business do every day, and we go about our humdrum lives accusing them of being trashy. Sad.

    Thank you again for shining light onto this important issue and calling out sexism where you see it :)

  21. screechymonkey says

    erikthebassist,

    They can revel all they want, I don’t think most of us give a shit. We’re well aware that they’re not all the same, but I can’t say I’m terribly interested in drawing fine distinctions between the ones who harass, the ones who don’t harass themselves but high-five the harassers, and the ones who just nitpick everything at the FtB monolith while ignoring the scumbags amongst them except to act shocked — shocked! — that any of us would hold that against them.

  22. says

    Agreed screechymonkey, My only point was that pointing out that a few of them condemned this tweet is no reason for optimism that anything is changing over there. This is business as usual for them.

  23. DLC says

    There is one woman from computer science who should be recalled.
    Allow me to link you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper
    Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Grace Hopper.
    I had the honor of meeting her when she spoke to my student group back in the 80s.
    (yes, she gave me a nanosecond! )
    [meta: I have probably mentioned her before, probably on a previous IWD]

  24. Elena says

    Here’s to Henrietta Lacks, the ENIAC programmers, the group of astronomers charmingly known as “Pickering’s harem” and Alice Kober, who also deserves more recognition.

  25. Elena says

    formerlysuspended @27

    For example, how many of the men on the list had support from a wife, mother, or female colleague who was never acknowledged for her efforts?

    There’s always the mystery of how much of Mileva Maric was in Einstein’s theories of relativity.

  26. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Those few ‘pitters who are condemning it are only doing so because they know others are watching. That they still choose to associate themselves with a place that’s attractive to people like that is a better indication of their characters.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    Onamission5 @ 2,

    Also, when men don’t accomplish those things it’s because ZE JOOS! ZE JOOS!

  28. Maureen Brian says

    And then there’s Dame Mary Cartwright – chaos theory – brilliantly remembered yesterday by Professor Lisa Jardine.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qng8

    Let us, guys, spend no more time on this thread worrying about the finer points (sic) of those who reside at the arsehole end of the universe. Let us concentrate on the women. And not just because that’s what PZ intended but because they are far, far more interesting.

  29. rq says

    Yes, far, far more interesting! A very interesting list to explore in detail as I procrastinate during my free time. Thank you!

  30. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    highbrow art,

    Does literature now not count as “highbrow”? Take, for instance, the most recent American Nobel laureate in literature — Toni Morrison — who is a woman and who really fucking deserved her Nobel. Or consider the four women who are Nobel laureates in literature since Morrison’s award.

    As for “great standup”? Margaret Cho. And she’s the beginning of the list, not the end.

  31. voidhawk says

    The Ukraine surprised me because Women’s day is a big, big deal over to here. Every woman seemed to have flowers, shops were giving gifts and we were on the sleeper train with a man and his daughter down to Odessa to see his mom.

  32. unclefrogy says

    >””That’s what I think of everytime some bigot crows about the absence of some group of people from some field of endeavor — it’s a reminder of all that we’ve lost to selfish stupidity.———————-

    that is the thing I fail to understand. how can anyone not realize that?

    uncle frogy

  33. says

    Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Giovanna Garzoni, Marie-Denise Villers. That’s just off the top of my head in the painters of the “Highbrow Art” category. Oh! Saint Catherine!

    What else qualifies as “Highbrow Art”? Literature? Classical dance? Opera? Because we can do this all night.

  34. says

    Funny how the reactions of the pit turns from mild disapproval (compare it to the level they get themselves up when somebody here appears to be saying something wrong. For all they claim Greg Laden called all men brain-damaged rapists and is still on FtB) to the much bigger crime of PZ calling them out.
    Sorry folks, but if those people hang out at your site and are welcome there, they are your problem. And if a not neglectable part of your group overlaps with AvfM, that’s your problem, too.

    Sally
    Could also be Quevenzhané Wallis. Remember, her big crime is having achieved what nobody achieved before while being a black girl. Which means that what she excelled at has now officially become trivial and just generally not noteworthy and vain.

  35. bovarchist says

    That’s an impressive list of great woman scientists. But how many of them are named Steve?

  36. Andrew G. says

    There’s always the mystery of how much of Mileva Maric was in Einstein’s theories of relativity.

    No, there isn’t.

    There are enough real examples to go around without needing to make stuff up or resort to crankery. There are some good articles on ur-B&W about this issue.

  37. says

    We’re not just dealing with skeptics who happen to be misogynists. Forums are being flooded with sewage from places like AVFM, who just hate women, and aren’t the slightest bit interested in skepticism. Astrokid NJ seems to be a case in point.

  38. Elena says

    Andrew G. @44

    Personally, I find extremely unlikely that two married physicists won’t talk about their intriguing theories over the table.

  39. Maureen Brian says

    Andrew G,

    Take care! People campaigning for women’s work to be recognised have often been accused of making it all up. It was so with Rosalind Franklin.

  40. Tapetum, Raddled Harridan says

    Adding to the list of oft neglected women, Emily Roebling – the woman who built the Brooklyn Bridge.

  41. Ogvorbis says

    [META]

    I have this horrible vision of Astrokid NJ (or some other misogynist asshat) standing up at a Nobel Prize presentation in which the prize is going to a woman and shouting, “Tits or GTFO!”

    [/META]

    In school, Curie was the only female scientist that I can remember being mentioned. Ever. And at least twice, she was held up as an example to show that yes, you girls can become scientists and do great things. But if one female scientist is mentioned while discussing 50 males scientists, what message did/does that send?

  42. vaiyt says

    The lack of women in the most valued positions and fields proves they’re inferior – and remember that’s why we must fight tooth and nail to keep that number down.

    *rolls eyes*

  43. vaiyt says

    That’s what I think of everytime some bigot crows about the absence of some group of people from some field of endeavor — it’s a reminder of all that we’ve lost to selfish stupidity.

    It’s also circular reasoning – using inequality as an argument to justify inequality.

  44. Andrew G. says

    @ Elena, & Maureen Brian:

    This is a topic which has been researched in considerable detail by historians of science in relatively recent years. The articles reproduced at ur-B&W go into considerable detail and include extensive references and bibliography.

    Regardless of what they may or may not have talked about over the dinner table, which obviously is unknown, there is significant evidence in the form of letters, accounts from friends, their respective grades at the Polytechnic, and so on, none of which indicates any degree of substantive collaboration.

    This link should get you to the relevant articles – primary material mainly from Esterson, commentary from Ophelia and some links to other sites:
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/?s=Mileva

  45. nullifidian says

    On top of the problems with the Nobel prize example, in order for the screed to make a lick of sense, you’ve got to also:
    -Turn Chess into Serious Intellectual Business instead of, you know, a game.

    I don’t think we need to denigrate chess in order to refute this article. Like every long-established complex strategy game, there is a lot of intellectual spadework you have to do in order to become even moderately proficient in the field. It requires memorization of openings, a knowledge of endgame theory (including extremely complex positions like bishop and knight checkmates), and a fundamental understanding of the various schools of chess thought, from the Romantic style to Philodor’s Positional style to the Hypermodernism of Nimzowitsch, Réti, etc. and finally the New Dynamism, the modern blending of all these trends.

    It’s just this background that barred chess to many women, who were expected to fulfill all the household duties for their family (if unmarried) or husbands (if married). Like any learned skill, chess takes hours of practice each day for professional-level playing, and that kind of dedication is inconsistent with being expected to run the house on one’s own. Even today, these social roles haven’t been entirely overcome, but there are many more women in chess today. The FIDE recognizes the category of WGM—women’s grandmaster—and there are many women who have become just plain GMs in their own right, like Judit Polgar, Hou Yifan, Koneru Humpy, etc. As social roles tend to equalize, we’re bound to see many more women earning their GM norms along with their male counterparts.

    -Make sure that artists don’t count unless it is “high brow” art (whatever the fuck that delineation might be).

    I can’t guess. Whatever the delineation means, it cannot include novels, poetry, plays, painting, sculpture, or classical music. Maybe “high brow art” means posting on Twitter, in which case this ridiculous screed is an example of performance art and should not be taken seriously.

  46. says

    Nullifidian@55:

    This article from Pharyngula’s old haunting grounds totally demolishes the idea that women can’t do well at chess:

    Far more men play chess than women and based on that simple fact, you could actually predict the differences we see in chess ability at the highest level. It’s a simple statistical fact that the best performers from a large group are probably going to be better than the best performers from a small one. Even if two groups have the same average skill and, importantly, the same range in skill, the most capable individuals will probably come from the larger group… The model revealed that the greater proportion of male chess players accounts for a whopping 96% of the difference in ability between the two genders at the highest level of play. If more women took up chess, you’d see that difference close substantially… So why are there so few female chess grandmasters? Because fewer women play chess. It’s that simple. This overlooked fact accounts for so much of the observable differences that other possible explanations, be they biological, cultural or environmental, are just fighting for scraps at the table.

  47. marcus says

    Oh but we must treat “Asshole nutjob” sorry “Astrokid NJ” with cibility and respeck, amirite?
    Personally, I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.

  48. otranreg says

    @40 voidhawk,

    This is Soviet legacy, and you’ll see the ’8 of March’ celebrated even in those ex-Soviet places where the holiday isn’t official. Unfortunately, it has long been perverted (like many progressive ideas in the SU), and isn’t much more of a clone of St.Valentine’s Day, with lots of sexist crap (‘oh-oh, let’s be chivalrous to appease the otherwise nagging fairer sex at least today’) flogged on every corner.

  49. says

    As for chess, how about:

    Hou Yifan, Awarded Grandmaster at 14.5 years old, currently the 15th fastest GM of all time
    Judit Polgar, Grandmaster at 15, faster then Bobby Fischer
    Alexandra Kosteniuk, WGM at 14, GM by 20; she also found time to complete the Russian equivalent of high school by age 15.

  50. says

    Clara Schumann, the over shadowed wife of Robert Schumann.

    The wiki article on her is fascinating.

    Clara Schumann was the main breadwinner for her family through giving concerts and teaching, and she did most of the work of organizing her own concert tours. She refused to accept charity when a group of musicians offered to put on a benefit concert for her. In addition to raising her own large family, when one of her children became incapacitated, she took on responsibility for raising her grandchildren. During the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849, she famously walked into the city through the front lines, defying a pack of armed men who confronted her, rescued her children, then walked back out of the city through the dangerous areas again.

    Her family life was punctuated by tragedy. Four of her eight children and her husband died before she did, and her husband and one of her sons ended their lives in insane asylums. Her first son Emil died in 1847, aged only one. Her husband Robert had a mental collapse, attempted suicide in 1854, and was committed to an insane asylum for the last two years of his life. In 1872 her daughter Julie died, leaving two small children. In 1879, her son Felix, aged 25, died. Her son Ludwig suffered from mental illness, like his father, and, in her words, had to be “buried alive” in an institution. Her son Ferdinand died at the age of 43 and she was required to raise his children. She herself became deaf in later life and she often needed a wheelchair.

    Composing gives me great pleasure… there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.
    —Clara Schumann
    Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.
    —Robert Schumann in the joint diary of Robert and Clara Schumann.

    As far as women composers are concerned, The International Encyclopedia of Women Composers by Aaron I. Cohen lists over 6000 names over two volumes.

  51. Elena says

    Andrew G. @53

    Yes, yes, there is not one ounce of documentary proof that Maric had any recognised input in the theories of relativity.

    Because the sentence I was responding to upthread was

    For example, how many of the men on the list had support from a wife, mother, or female colleague who was never acknowledged for her efforts?

    and I basically said that in the case of Einstein and Maric we will never know.

    Are you hapy now?

  52. prfesser says

    Agnes Pockels won her recognition at the kitchen sink… but not as many many might envision. She was unable to have her work recognized and published without the help of Lord Rayleigh.

  53. says

    I’d like to give a shout-out to Elinor Ostrom, the most recent political scientist to win a Nobel Prize. (We don’t have one in our field, so when our ilk win it’s typically in economics, as is Professor Ostrom’s.)

  54. hypatiasdaughter says

    #51 vaiyt
    The corollary being that women were made by God and Nature to be wives and mothers; interested only in babies and cleaning toilets; have no interest in the public sphere and public acclaim and have no head for “deep thinking”. All of which requires societies to create the most draconian laws and punishments to ensure this Natural Law isn’t broken.
    You know, the same way we have to pass laws to ensure that objects fall downward and dogs to walk on four legs.