In the FCL Lab, we are all interested in learning about how people learn science.  Often, we approach this process by looking at how they currently interact with scientific exhibits and other people in those exhibits.  What they say, what they do, and how they then reflect on the experience gives us social scientists information about how the information is being processed.  I am interested in this work because the processing of information by an individual is very telling.  But often, we aren’t aware of the impacts that our home culture, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status play in how we perceive the world, let alone science.  So for my first FCL blog, I want to bring this question to the forefront: How has gender played a role in how we see science?

In today’s postmodern, feminist, gender-blending world, the idea of gender can be sometimes seen as a negative four-letter word.  I am sure that there have been situations where you looked at someone and wanted to ask, “Is that a man or woman,” but know it is not PC to do so.  As social scientists, we don’t often ask questions in relation to gender unless we feel they are important to the study.  But listening to a This American Life podcast made me rethink whether we should research the role gender plays in learning science.  Here is a link to the podcast. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone

In Act Two of the podcast, you meet Griffin Hansbury, who was born a woman but has since transitioned into man.  He speaks about how increasing testosterone has changed his life – not only in the way he sees the world and himself in the world, but even in his interests.  At one point, he mentions that after taking testosterone he finds that he is more interested in science.  The interviewer remarks that with that comment, he has set our society back 100 years.  But is there some truth in what Griffin said?  If we look at the science field, it is dominated by males (many of whom are white – but that is another blog post).  Is it because the way science is done now speaks to a male, testosterone-fueled mind? Would it be different if science was propelled by female, estrogen-fueled minds?

In Star Trek’s Next Generation episode, Angel One, the crew encounters a society woman-dominated culture.  On this planet, women not only hold the positions of power, but are also the ones that do the science.  Men on this planet are considered “emotional” and incapable of doing anything in leadership or science.  As a work of science fiction, this episode not only points out the inaccuracies with this form of thinking, but also serves as a social commentary on our society.  Could it be that somehow this still holds true in our modern day, despite supposed advancements in gender equality?  If we move further into the World of Geek and equate how women are viewed in science with how they are viewed in gaming, maybe the video Nothing To Prove can give us an inkling of what is happening today.

You be the judge.

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