How to write about scientists who are women

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Now all we need is a film about scientists, some of whom are women, that passes the Bechdel Test.


Like this lady, who is leading the research in tampon bluing.


“Scientists who are women” is a mouthful, but it seems better to me than “women scientists,” which always sounded to me like they can only research ovulation and maybe fertility.


We can call them “scientists”, too!


Didn’t we just have this discussion?

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Come to that, could this be broadened to just, “How to write about people”?


You really couldn’t even talk meaningfully about Marie Curie using this method. Her husband was her colleague, and she raised her child to be a badass. Also the death of her husband had a profound effect on her as a person.

Actually this test is moronic. I’ve read hundreds of science biographies, and the best touch on all of these “taboos” regardless of the gender of the scientist. These are aspects that make us human, and that make scientists relatable.

I agree with “the first woman to…” As being idiotic though.

Biographies of Feynman and Oppenheimer come to mind, these men’s stories would be much diminished by excluding the same aspects.


Why isn’t she wearing a lab coat? Is naked sciencing a thing now?


I think it’s the spirit of this law, not the letter, that should be followed.

If someone’s gender is relevant to their achievement, there’s no reason to leave it out. Same with gender-related attributes. (The Curies’ work together is a good example.)


Didn’t you get the memo? Women are supposed to be sexy and sexless at the same time because overcoming double standards are what we do best.:rolling_eyes:


I agree, to a point. If you are reading something about strictly the science, then most of gendered aspects are irrelevant. But, on the other hand, most biographies are about the person, and to an extent, the times. Gender roles are important to understanding the times that a person was working in, and often the obstacles they had to work around. Ignoring them is a bit of a trap, I understand why we would, but I also think that doing so diminishes things.

I recently read a bit on Curie and her daughter, it was inspirational as hell. Both because both of these people were about as hardcore as a person could get in science, and in life. But also because a lot of it was hard fought because of the times. These women were badass both because of their internal attributes, and because how they reacted to external adversity. Their story would lack impact if we de-gendered them, or declawed the times in which they lived.

I hated the recent Turing movie, since they completely removed his sexuality from it, and worse, how society reacted to it. It is a major part of his story, as it touches on who he was, and not just what he did. Identity, be it gender or sexuality, are part of us, and part of our story. Science isn’t a mechanical process, it is something done by humans, it is affected by who we are, what we believe, and the times we live in. We do a disservice to education, both in the understanding of how terrible society can be, and in how science actually works, when we glaze over the humanity of it all.


This. Because when the Imitation Game left out that Alan Turing was gay, and all the destruction and pain that brought into his life, that was really off.


Making idiotic crap up about him being blackmailed by Cairncross was stupid too.


Totally agree. The acid test should be relevance to the story.

If I’ve interpreted her comment correctly, Aschwanden seems to agree, too.


Yes I was thinking of that, but I wasn’t sure if the Panel came down with a definitive ruling.

It’s definitely interesting in biography type writing. I got the impression this was more about science writing though. If someone was to profile me in Science Magazine (haha wishful thinking) I would want the article to be about my research, not my work/life balance. If they made a movie about my life, however, I’d be pissed if they left my family and friends out.


I’m not sure why I’m replying to your comment, and I realize that this isn’t strictly about scientists, but are there any fans of Blechley Circle here?

Loved the series, and wondered how other BB readers felt about it.


OMFG Y.E.S. Love it!

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In the terms of pure science writing, then this is 100% correct. Outside of very rare moments when life events, or personal traits had a bearing on the actual science, it is irrelevant in a science journalism context.

I think I was thrown off by the photo of Curie in the article, if this is the case. Speaking of, I just noticed that the photo credit contained both Pierre and Marie… But the photo was of just Marie Curie…