Singer article

S L Forsburg notmyaddress at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 17 03:17:52 EST 2000


Thanks, Mike, for giving us the URL for this article.  

I was quite interested in reading it because of the conversation here.  
Dr Singer makes some good points, about the state of affairs, but I'm
not happy with her solutions.

> We have to stop expecting that our male colleagues will change. The
> fact is, many of them are, understandably and appropriately, much
> more concerned about their own research than about the status of
> women. We need to face the reality of our colleagues' ambitions,
> recognize our own, and acknowledge that ours will not change theirs.
> ......
> We can wait around for a while longer in the hope that progress will
> slowly continue. In the meanwhile, a lot of money that could be used
> for good science will be spent on studies that try to determine why
> affirmative action has not worked more rapidly, and why young female
> scientists disappear somewhere between their Ph.D. or M.D. degrees
> and the assistant professor positions. 

But shouldn't we publicize the problem?  Silence just perpetuates it--
by implying consent.

> Ultimately, all the "old
> school" men who still call us "honey" will age sufficiently to retire
> and maybe, just maybe, the younger men will be different.

Don't count on it, especially if you STOP making it an issue. 
Look at the MIT report.  The Dean at MIT didn't get on the bandwagon
until he was convinced there was a problem.  Does anyone really think the
lot of women at MIT would have changed, if (a) they hadn't fought it
and (b) the Dean wasn't willing to change his point of view?

> We need a strategy that depends on women. One that assumes we will
> expend our energies on improving the opportunity for women to succeed
> in biomedical careers, not on complaining about the failure of others
> to do so. 

This is true--but women have to be in positions of sufficient power
and authority to make a difference.  And I don't think I'm wasting my
time  
complaining.  I'm trying to run a vigorous, successful, and yes, competitive
research program.  If I comment along the way about the problems I observe,
well, you can't fix them or avoid them if you don't see them.

> We cannot expect that our male colleagues will become more collegial,
> less ambitious, or less competitive to meet our needs, and it is
> probably not desirable from the point of view of science.

I disagree.  I think science proceeds better if we season our natural
ambition and competition with the spirit of collaboration. I don't need
to engage in the worst aspects of backstabbing aggression to do good
science, and I don't think we should teach our students that the take-no-
prisoners approach is appropriate.  Yeah, I have my share of scars in
the back,
but why should I have to act like the worst of the men to accepted as a serious
scientist?  Just because that way of doing science has served others well
doesn't mean it is the only way to do good science.  Do the ends really
justify the means?

But it is in Dr Singer's prescription for change that 
bugs me--the tacit assumption that there are women's issues and women's 
science to be done, where we should work.  YEs, there are areas that
are important and underserved.  But one way of reading her paper is that
women should work only in such areas--which would result in
 a feminized ghetto of science with little power or support, and more 
excuse to dismiss us.

Far better IMHO to do the best science in our areas of interest, to
fight 
to change attitudes by our example and by aquiring power and position.  And
as a (no doubt, idealistic) believer in the potential of people and 
attitudes to change, I think that we benefit more by our inclusion and 
participation.  Those of more subversive casts of mind could call it
infiltration.  :-)



-- 
-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 
http://pingu.salk.edu/~forsburg/lab.html

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