Stereotyping women right out of science

One of the most cunning tools of the patriarchy is the assignment of woo as a feminine virtue. Women are supposed to be intuitive, nurturing, accepting, and trusting, unlike those harsh and suspicious men. It’s a double-trap; women are brought up indoctrinated into believing that being smart and skeptical is unladylike and unattractive, and at the same time, anyone who dares to suggest that intuition and soothing, supportive words are often unproductive can be slammed for being anti-woman, because, obviously, to suggest that a human being might want to do more with their life than changing diapers and baking cookies is a direct assault on womanhood.

This naive imposition of unscientific modes of thought on women specifically leads to the state we have now. Assume a fundamental difference in attitude: women feel, while men think. Now declare an obvious truth: science requires rigorous thought. The conclusion follows that women will not be taking advantage of their strengths (that woo stuff) if they are trying to do science, therefore they will not be as good at science as men, and they will also be harming their femininity if they try to shoehorn their tender and passionate minds into the restrictive constraints of manly critical thinking.

I’ve seen that condescending attitude often enough; it was at its most vivid when I was working with surgeons in training, and if there were any women in a group, they would invariably be shunted off into some task like post-op animal care while the men would get the sharp scalpels and dental drills and do the hard work of cutting into the animal subjects. I once dared to ask the team I was assisting, after seeing that casually assumed division of labor, if maybe they should ask her what she wanted to do, and was told indignantly by the men that she would be so much better at taking care of sick cats, as if their concern was their inferiority at the nurturing part of the job. It’s the academic version of the wheedle, “Honey, I couldn’t possibly do housework as well as you do…”, and it’s just as phony.

Twisty Faster has the other side of this bias — it ends up portraying science as anti-woman, therefore women should embrace the woo.

The argument has been made that intuition is superior to science because it is somehow free of the oppressive misogynist entanglements that encumber its dude-dominated counterpart. A spin-off of this argument says that, because academia has traditionally given (and continues to give) women the stink-eyed bum’s rush, science is antifeminist and, presumably, must be shunned in favor of this women-centric intuition dealio.

I have to say that I really like her two answers to this view.

Science, like everything else on the planet, is Dude Nation’s minion, yes, but “intuition” doesn’t exist in a magical patriarchy-free zone merely because it is associated with women’s reality. In fact, it is because of patriarchy that women were assigned the supposedly unique and mystical power of hunchiness the first place.

Exactly. Woo is powerless; you want to make someone powerless, put them in charge of nothing, but give it a happy-sounding title. Women have been taken on a millennia-long snipe hunt. But, you know, it keeps them busy and out of the hair of the guys doing the real, important work.

Her reply to the argument that science is anti-feminist, is even better:

But the statement “science harms women” is not as accurate as is “the application, by misogynist knobs, of scientific method to systems of oppression harms women.”

The answer seems clear to me. Women shouldn’t be cornered into the realm of superstition because it is more touchy-feely, and they shouldn’t be anti-science. What they need to do is take the toys out of the hands of the misogynist knobs.