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Sexism and science

Sexism and science

The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently announced its new post-doctorate in feminist biology, which seeks to counter alleged sexism in biological science.

The program, which,  according to a university press release, “attempts to uncover and reverse gender bias in biology,” will develop and reflect biological theories through feminist approaches.

“The program is the first in the nation – and probably the world,” Janet Hyde, director of the campus Center for Research on Gender & Women, said.

Hyde said that feminist biology “is raising new questions and suggesting novel solutions.”

“All human beings have gender stereotypes in their brain,” Hyde told Campus Reform. “Gender stereotypes are pervasive… people just don’t see things or don’t appreciate them or don’t process them when they don’t conform to stereotype notions.”

The program’s first post-doctoral fellow, Caroline VanSickle, begins her fellowship in September, which is when the program opens. VanSickle intends to continue her research on female human anatomy by exploring evolution in pelvis shapes and childbirth anatomy.

“We aren’t doing science well if we ignore the ideas and research of people who aren’t male, white, straight, or rich,” VanSickle told Campus Reform in an email. “Feminist science seeks to improve our understanding of the world by including people with different viewpoints. A more inclusive science means an opportunity to make new discoveries.”

Wait a second, Ms. VanSickle. We need to consult someone who is female, non-white, homosexual, and less than wealthy simply because they have these characteristics? That doesn’t sound like credible scientific research to me. We should examine a biologist’s findings because of their achievements in their field, not because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.

The first alert is that this program isn’t even part of the biology department – it’s classified under the women’s and gender studies’ department. But in actual undergraduate biology departments, women are already earning biology degrees at a higher rate than men. Since the 1990s, they have been earning about half of all biology degrees, and in 2009, they earned 60 percent of degrees in biological sciences. Women gravitate toward biology over most other sciences.

Women have been recognized for their work in biology for quite some time. Barbara McClintock, considered one of the greatest biologists of the twentieth century, is renowned for her discovery of transposition in genetics. Linda B. Buck made significant discoveries in the olfactory system. And surely feminists haven’t forgotten Rachel Carson either, the marine biologist renowned for her work that attributed to the development of the environmental movement.

Hyde and VanSickle suggest that we are supposed to be skeptical of all male biologists’ achievements in science simply because their gender leads them to be biased against women. I doubt that was the case when German gynecologist Ferdinand Adolf Kehrer performed the first modern Caesarean section in 1881, a procedure which has saved the lives of many women and their babies.

And what about the countless male scientists and doctors who work tirelessly every year to find cures for ovarian and breast cancer, which primarily affect women? I don’t think their research is inhibited by any kind of gender bias.

Feminists often hoist one of their favorite trophies – the birth control pill. Let’s not forget, though, that its inventors were… men. Dr. Gregory Pincus had been studying the use of hormones in reproduction when he met Margaret Sanger in 1951, and with her encouragement he moved forward with efforts to eventually develop the birth control pill, along with his colleagues Dr. M.C. Chang and Dr. John Rock. Liberal feminists shouldn’t be so quick to discount male scientists’ contributions to biology, especially when those scientists made developments in their favor.

This “need” for more female biologists is just another example of the victimization liberal feminists practice while promoting their cause. Women biologists certainly aren’t the victims – they’ve been esteemed in this field for decades and have been making their strides without any explicitly feminist degree to guide them. Good science should be based on hard work and meticulous study – not a narrow political mindset.

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