Today’s xkcd strip reanimates the corpse of famed scientist Marie Curie in order to serve up a clever statement about women in the hard sciences:
I’ve always thought that, while academics and activists are busy blogging about social justice and bias in the classroom, the real feminists are the women who are out in the trenches: the computer science classes, the medical labs, the engineering projects. They’re not making a career of giving talks about pay gaps and sexism. Instead, they’re saying “eff that noise, screw convention, I’m going to do what I like.” As Clay Shirky brilliantly said last year: “To put yourself forward as someone good enough to do interesting things is, by definition, to expose yourself to all kinds of negative judgments…” So get out on the field and represent, ladies, damn the consequences.
In case I haven’t made myself absolutely crystal clear: the world needs few women’s studies PhDs.* All the hard battles – coverture, suffrage, body autonomy and sexual harassment – have already been won, and aside from that pesky framework-of-consent issue, we’re standing on solid ground. What the world needs, in addition to nurses, teachers, and caregivers, is engineers, scientists, programmers, and math geeks (I don’t want to hear anything about how men are innately better at math than women. IIRC, there may be more male outliers at the high end of the bell curve, but women are otherwise as capable as men). It may be the case that these career paths have an institutional bias against women, although I’m skeptical it’s as bad as some claim; during my three years as a computer science student, I never once received any negative attention from professors or classmates. All academic subjects, from English to philosophy, art to psychology, were at one time a big sausage party. If we are capable of parsing Tolstoy or William Burroughs, calculus isn’t beyond our comprehension.
*This point is open for debate, as it’s entirely possible that the world needs no women’s studies PhDs.