A few people have asked me to weigh in on the Guardian’s recent foray into SCEINCE JOURNLISM, “Girls and science: why the gender gap exists and what to do about it.” With its discussion of nature, culture, science and female gender roles, it is scandalously encroaching on my turf. There’s nothing I love more than a rousing discussion of How To Get More Girls Into Science! And yet, the article seems calculated to enrage pretty much any female scientist who reads it, with suggestions for getting girls interested in science that include “use lots of bright toys and colors!” and “have her cook!”
The author, one Emma G Keller, uses the word “domestic” four times. She asserts that the gender gap in the STEM fields can be closed by getting girls to bake more cookies.
Click to read more, but pour yourself a 1950′s drink first.
You know what, The Guardian? I’d like to know what your problem is. The entire article seems like it’s trying to bait me personally! I mean, Emma-G has done her absolute best to learn nothing from the “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!” debacle, offering advice like:
- “Shopping is filled with math problems, particularly if your daughter wants something that is too expensive.”
- “Never tell her the answer. Ever.”
- “Keep doing jigsaw puzzles, even when she seems to lose interest.”
- “Scientific theory fires her imagination when connected to current or domestic affairs, or when she can empathize.”
- “Make your domestic scenario more mathematic and scientific.”
- “Encourage the same kind of collaboration in your sleepovers or birthday parties. Have the girls cook dinner, or bake cookies or tie dye t-shirts together.”
- “Never accept language such as “I can’t do this” or “I’m bad at math”"
- “The numbers of females entering medicine is increasing every year with women attracted by the empathic nature of medical science.”
Why does the Guardian do this to me? I think they’ve teamed up with the Daily Mail, forming a coalition “ScIenec JOurlanism” campaign just to torture me. I must have missed something, or pissed one of them off somehow, surely! Who was it, though? Was it the Guardian’s science history blogger, who told me “not to be too controversial” if I didn’t want to get rape threats? Or was it some more subtle cosmic crime? And now that we’re staring glumly into the bottom of our sherry glasses, resigned to living in a world where all of our accomplishments must be viewed through the pink-tinted lens of Living While Female, how can we continue living our lives?
Well, Friend of Blog Laura kindly linked to a response piece, also hosted by the Guardian, which may yet give you a little spark of faith in the publication, if such a thing would help your weary heart. “Boys and Science: The Gender Gap and How To Maintain It” is actually very funny, and I am very grateful to the lovely Laura for sharing it. The article contains some great tips to teach science to boys:
As well as teaching them about science, there’s a chance they’ll be so incensed by the injustice of your behaviour that they eventually become a masked vigilante themselves, like Batman. Everyone likes Batman, and he’s a scientist.
If the Hunter-Gatherer gender divide holds any weight, then male brains have evolved to think like hunters. Use this to teach your son about biology, taxonomy and the environment by abandoning him in the woods or similar undeveloped area. His hunter’s brain will immediately kick in and ensure his survival, and he will turn up at home some days later, with a much greater understanding of the natural world. He may also be filled with fury and resentment, but that’s not a problem. Scientists don’t need to be happy.
Well played, Dean Burnett.
Anyway, the author-ess of the original article is proving to be quite cranky on Twitter, insisting that anyone who criticizes her must limit themselves to commenting on her article with a long list of ways to actually engage young women who are interested in STEM fields, which rather sounds like a demand that the Internet do all of her thinking for her while driving up her pageviews and making her look popular. But because the House of Glass has explicitly stated that it endorses constructive criticism, I will outline a rough program for Attracting Females to Science.
Step One: Attract Females Into A Lab Environment Using Trails of Snacks.
Step Two: Attractively Position Haunted Scientific/Magical Objects Within Reach.
Step Three: Without Knowing Quite What She Is Doing, Her Female Intuition Will Lead Her To Select An Artifact Of Great Power.
One pipette to rule them all
One pipette to treasure them
One pipette to bind them all
AND IN THE DARKNESS MEASURE THEM
Step Four: Now the Female Has Entered The STEM Fields. You Win!
As a passionate scientist, science communicator and tutor, I have seen time and again that haunted pipettes of great power, possessing a piece of the radioactive soul of hivemother Marie Curie, are really the only way to go forward with this. The reason for the gender gap in STEM fields is actually because Curie’s radiation decays over time, so the half-life of female scientists is on the wane. We are actually fading and going West, leaving the earth to the hands of Men.
Thank you for your time.
While we’re on the subject of hot labpunk scienceglam princesses: here.