Xconomy Bookclub: “Inferior” Peruses Science’s Historic #MeToo Bias

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their work despite the sexism. But, frequently, their contributions were simply stolen. Saini writes how male colleagues took credit for the work of a number of female scientists. Rosalind Franklin helped to decode the structure of DNA but the Nobel Prize was given to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins. Saini points out that in 1974, the Nobel for the discovery of pulsars was not given to Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the astrophysicist who discovered them, but to her supervisor Antony Hewish.

Saini also writes about medical research and innovation, and how, for the most part, those efforts have largely failed to include women. Largely, researchers had tested drug candidates on men and assumed both the therapeutic effects as well as any adverse reactions would be the same. But that one-size-fits-all approach has, for example, resulted in less research on ailments like autoimmune diseases, which affect far more women than men.

Humans like to organize the world around themselves in categories, Saini writes, so it’s understandable that there is satisfaction in assigning strengths and weaknesses to people, including by sex. But some of the research she cites shows that, while the sexes have differences in a variety of traits, the overlap between them is far greater.

And she points out that male superiority isn’t the norm in all human societies. In Tanzania, men of the Hadza community take the lead in child care. Women in the Nanadukan Agta community in the Philippines are the hunters who use bows and arrows and spears to bring food back to everyone.

“There is no biological commandment that says women are natural homemakers and unnatural hunters, or that hands-on fathers are breaking some eternal code of the sexes,” Saini writes.

Getting science to reflect its objective ideal is what Saini calls the “final frontier of feminism.” Given the current reality of “alternative facts” and the generally science-phobic rhetoric that dominates a lot of public policy discourse, this might be difficult to accomplish.

But Saini expresses optimism that while scientific endeavors can end up being flawed through human error, science “can only be a self-correcting journey toward the truth.”

“The facts are what will empower us to transform society for the better, into one that treats us as equals,” she writes.

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