Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scientific Sexism

Chauvinism pervades every single area of our lives to an incredible degree. Even scientists, whose job is to discover and report objective data, prefer to push their patriarchal ideology instead. A recent article in Science Daily is a perfect example of that.

The article is titled "Unnatural Selection: Birth Control Pills May Alter Choice Of Partners." Its main goal is to bash the most important scientific breakthrough of the XXth century: the birth control pill. Many patriarchally-minded people hate the pill because it liberated women from having their lives controlled by their biology (as I discuss in my last post.) So they come up with studies which are aimed at scaring women off of the pill.

The main problem with taking oral contraception is that it will destroy your personal life. Giving birth to an unwanted child every year of your life, of course, will not do that. But taking the pill definitely will. So how does the oral contraception damage our lives? According to the article, by "interfering with a woman's ability to choose, compete for and retain her preferred mate." Women who are on the pill, the article claims, are less likely to prefer "men showing dominance and male-male competitiveness." Of course, female interest towards domineering jerks is diminishing (which in my book is great). This is a natural process for a society that is trying to move away from patriarchal stereotypes. The only group of people who might find this tendency scary is domineering men. So, in reality, the pill doesn't prevent women from "retaining their preferred mate." What happens is that domineering losers cannot retain a woman in a new reality where women aren't tied forever to these idiots by constant child-bearing.

In order to sell their idiotic propaganda to women, these pseudo-scientists tell us that if we dare to mess with nature's design that destines us to be perennially pregnant, we will not be able to find us a man: "The authors also speculate that the use of oral contraceptives may influence a woman's ability to attract a mate by reducing attractiveness to men, thereby disrupting her ability to compete with normally cycling women for access to mate."   I have no idea since when specialists in Animal and Plant Sciences, as these pseudo-scientists are, qualify to talk about purely sociological issues such as mating and dating. But from personal experience of someone who has been on the pill for 15 years, I can tell these stupid women-haters that they can relax. My attractiveness hasn't suffered and I have never in my life had to compete with any women ("normal" or otherwise) for access to men. Somehow, men never give me the chance and just keep competing for me, as annoying as it is to me.


Gemma said...

"Even scientists, whose job is to discover and report objective data, prefer to push their patriarchal ideology instead."

You know, I totally understand why you're pissed off- since I take the pill myself- but please try not to make the assumption that science is inherently sexist just because some group of douchebags used it as an excuse to stop making sense.

I'm a woman and a scientist, and out of all my experiences with misogyny, none that I recall were associated with the science industry. Perhaps my geekery has blinded me to it, but as I'm just beginning my career in clinical research and I don't see scientists pushing patriarchy- in fact, the majority of my new colleagues that I have met so far are female.

The way we often practice science in our society may be sexist, and I do recognise that it is still a male-dominated field despite my (admittedly very limited) experience, but science and scientists as a whole are not pushing some kind of manly-man agenda.

I hope you didn't mean to suggest that they were, and that I'm just getting my lab-girl knickers in a twist, because otherwise I'm with you 100% about the actual content of the article.

Clarissa said...

Of course, Gemma, I absolutely did not mean to suggest that ALL scientists are like this. There are tons of scientists who are wonderful, progressive, feminist people. Sadly, good, hard-working scientists and their important research don't make the headlines nearly as often as charlatans who come up with some scandalous interpretation of their data.

I wish you the best of luck in your scientific endeavors! We need more women in the sciences and it's great that you are pursuing a career in research.

V said...

Hmm... I suspect the theory in Science Daily is a back side of a coin with respect to the theory of attraction and partner selection via "chemistry". If one believes in the latter theory, then one has to believe in its biological basis, namely that so called "chemistry" is an unconscious choice based on genetic compatibility and increasing chances to produce a healthy offspring. From this viewpoint that Science Daily idea is not so illogical. The only problem I see with it is that in just 50 years of the existence of the pill the evolution could not possibly teach males to interpret changes of smell caused by the pill in any way, either as more attractive or as less attractive. It is too short a time for the natural selection to kick in.

Clarissa said...

From what I know, the way it was measured that women who don't take the pill prefer domineering men was by having these women look at pictures of random men and say whom they found attractive. And then the "scientists" somehow decided which of these men "looked like" they were domineering.

Tell me that this "scientific" procedure isn't complete garbage.