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As we saw in Chapter 4, historically there has been a close association between views of women as being “naturally” incapable of engaging in science or engineering and the use of metaphors of nature, or knowledge, as a woman to be wooed or controlled by male scientists. This association continues to be made even today. In 1965, for example, at the beginning and the end of the address he gave after receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics, Richard P. Feynman (1972) referred to the theory for which he won the prize in the following terms: I fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you do not know much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to her. . . . So what happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a youth? Well, I would say it’s become an old lady that has very little attractive left in her, and the young today will not have their hearts pound any more when they look Chapte r 1 4 R Developing a New Culture in Science, Engineering, and Technology 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 235 16/11/09 6:19 PM 236 THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE at her. But we can say the best we can for any old woman, that she has been a very good mother and she has given birth to some very good children. Remarkably, few commented at the time on this distinguished physicist’s use of such ancient stereotypes. Eighteen years later, however, there was understandable controversy when Vivian Gornick (1983, pp. 36–37) reported the views of another Nobel Laureate in physics, Isidor Isaac Rabi (who had won the prize in 1944): he told her that women were unsuited to science because of their nervous systems, and declared, “Women may go into science, and they will do well enough, but they will never do great science.” It is not difficult to infer that Feynman and Rabi each felt comfortable making these remarks because they knew that many male scientists would agree with them. When feminists and social critics speak of the dichotomies of gender, they are in part referring to the stereotypes that arise from, and feed into, just such comments, uttered throughout the centuries by men and even by some women. Evelyn Fox Keller (1985) has pointed out how science and “higher,” abstract thinking have been generally associated with everything on the list of masculine attributes, and taken to be the exact opposite of what are claimed to be feminine attributes. Linda Jean Shepherd (1993, p. 5) has noted how society still tends to perceive gender attributes today (specifying western culture, though many non-western cultures are marked by similar attitudes): In western culture, the successful man is considered to be objective, intelligent, logical, active, rational, independent, forceful, risk-taking, courageous, aggressive, competitive, innovative, and emotionally-controlled. . . . Western society expects women to be nurturing, receptive, emotional, irrational, intuitive, subjective, compassionate, sensitive, kind, not aggressive, and uncompetitive. 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 236 16/11/09 6:19 PM Developing a New Culture in Science, Engineering, and Technology 237 Shepherd also suggests (1993, p. xiv) that this is one reason why women scientists are reluctant to express feminine qualities in their work, fearing loss of credibility, and that some women scientists are nervous about being labelled as “feminine” because of the potential attachment of the adjective to the concept of biological determinism. Forms of Exclusion The belief that certain specifically “masculine” attributes make good scientists, while “feminine” attributes form an obstacle to scientific achievement, has been transmitted century after century, contributing to the persistence of the male-dominated culture of science and engineering to this day. Linda Jean Shepherd (1993, p. 52) cites the interesting work of Ian I. Mitroff and his colleagues, who presented lists of paired attributes to scientists and asked them which attribute in each pair best described their activities. Most of the respondents affirmed that the ideal scientist would be aggressive, hard driving, self-serving, power oriented, authoritarian , sceptical, diligent, and precise, and 31 percent of them refused to choose between the attributes “warm” and “cold” because they felt that these terms were irrelevant to science. The male domination of science and engineering may even have been reinforced after the industrial revolution, when these activities, formerly dismissed as crafts or pastimes that women or lower...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780776618845
Related ISBN
9780776607252
MARC Record
OCLC
864851766
Pages
366
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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