For the past week the media has been ablaze with the transgender perspective on bias against women in science. Women have been crying out about this sort of rankism for decades, but the public has been largely apathetic toward “ivory tower” issues.
It’s terrific that the media finally found a hook for this. With public attention stretched so many ways, it’s easy to forget that we has a society haven’t done much to alleviate discrimination against women in research areas where we need all the help we can get. If the U.S. wants to remain a world leader in scientific research, we need to throw all available resources at the big problems. The petty old boy network has to go.

I’d just like to shore up the transgender article with a couple of similar, but lesser known, recent news items:

A female neuroscientist was bullied out of a job at MIT.

The University of California system was recently shaken by the suicide of the Chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, one of the vanguard leaders for women in science. This raises the question of how much beating down should we expect women to take? I think women have been placed in a position where they have to prove they aren’t “thin-skinned”, so they end up accepting mistreatment that their male colleagues would never put up with.

It’s easy to mistake the mere presence of women for equal opportunity, and there is already backlash to make sure squeaky boys get the grease. However, women know that they don’t have access to equal resources, much less equal power networks. What gains they have made are fragile, and the reality is that we still live in a world of sexual terrorism.

One of the tenets of the dignity movement is that it would strive to eliminate rankism in general. The science research establishment is one of the main areas that would benefit. If anyone is interested in learning more about the dignity movement, the man leading the charge, Robert Fuller, will be interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED Forum this morning (Tuesday) from 10 to 11am. I’ve been told the interview will rerun at 10pm.


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