Only the Brilliant Could Be This Stupid

At Inside Higher Ed, there is much hand-wringing over the fact that women just aren’t that into STEM. They are convinced that somehow, after all this time, the fact that relatively few women go into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers is a grave wrong that must be rectified. The culprit (on top of the usual suspects amongst the patriarchy) has now been found:

Romantic Notions.

Yep. When those silly coeds start thinking of long walks on the beach, their brains turn to mush and they stop caring about tomorrow’s math problems. The Horror.

The solution?

Park said that the first thing to do is to start talking about these issues, and to make clear that talking about them is not a matter of blaming women for their choices. “This is about the cumulative impact of romantic images and scripts for women’s lives” that women are exposed to from very young ages, Park said.

Telling women “to be aware of these subtle influences” is important, Park said.

She has several current projects going on to study ways that colleges might use “counter-stereotypes” to encourage women to stay in science. For instance, she said that she is looking at whether presenting young women with images not only of female scientists but of attractive female scientists may help.

That’s right, girls – don’t be lured by warm, fuzzy illusions of romance, or worse, thoughts of marriage, children or families.

Plus, chicks in lab coats are hot. You could be hot, too, if you were wearing a lab coat.*

Science needs you! Ignore the studies that find that roughly half of those women who put off having a family to have a STEM career end up with serious regrets. After all, there are tons of female role models who manage to happily have both a family and a scintillating career. Hot ones, that guys find hot. They just need to find a few (they must be around somewhere, buried deep in their lab work) and ask them to do public service announcements.

Another area of research she is pursuing may or may not be helpful to her efforts, Park said. Since the assumptions of many women appear to be that men find female STEM success unattractive, she hopes to find out whether this is in fact the case.

Because really, it’s probably the men’s fault anyway.


*Caveat here: I have no problem with women in sciences, if that’s their thing; in fact, I think it’s wonderful. I have a niece – who is both gorgeous and romantically involved – whose driving passion in life as a grad student is studying gene expression in nematodes. Needless to say, she has full support from everyone around her to follow that passion; if it means she has an illustrious career as a scientist and finds her life’s fulfillment therein, we’d all be delighted. Should she choose otherwise some day, we’d still be delighted, so long as it’s the right choice for her, because we love her. Not her career. Her value as a human being is not based on what she does but on who she is.

My problem with the article is the implication that if women can somehow be forced to forget about wanting marriage and children and the things that are most likely to lead to both, there will be more women in STEM, and this will be a good thing; further, that if they package STEM women as being more sexually appealing this will make more women want to follow that path (because the best way to make women forget about getting married and having families is to convince them if they do something, more men will like them and want to practice getting them pregnant).

The implication here is that being a wife and mother is a less worthy way for a woman to spend her life, if she so chooses. It is that the purpose of a life, male or female, is career. That one is defined solely by their profession, and that anything else one does is worth less. Worthless. That if people self-select for different paths in life, naturally and as a result of differences between men and women which are truly hard-wired for the vast majority of people, something is wrong.

Women are hard-wired for romance. You could raise a crop of girls as Amazon scientists, cut off from all experience of manliness and masculinity, and they’d still develop romantic and maternal feelings, just very misplaced. Those feelings would still drive most of them to spend more time worrying about their attractiveness to the objects of their desire than worrying about an upcoming set of math problems.

Park said that the key is to let women “think about their future possible self” not in ways that are dictated by “the script” they have picked up over the years, but by their potential.

“The Script” isn’t the problem. The nature of man and woman is the “problem,” and no amount of social engineering is going to change that essential fact. And more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with men being masculine and women being feminine. Nothing wrong with choosing family over career. Nothing wrong with imagining one’s future as a mother and as a scientist, and finding motherhood more worthy of one’s time and energy. So obvious, it shouldn’t have to be said. But somehow, we’ve reached a place where the truth of the matter is intolerable and unacceptable to those who have invested their whole selves in the idea that if women only knew how much more awesome a STEM career would be than raising a family, they would forget about all the mushy stuff and throw themselves into their lab work. Because that’s what women really want, they just don’t know it.

Only a grad student trying to prove a thesis could be so dumb.

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3 Responses to Only the Brilliant Could Be This Stupid

  1. LeeAnn says:

    I am not involved in anything remotely scientific, technical, engineerable, or mathematical. This is basically because I am dumb as a box of hair. However, this has nothing to do with being female. If I were a man, I’d still be just as dumb.
    Hung like a stallion, but dumb.
    That being said, I’ve never understood that things like that were gender-specific, or even gender-biased. A brain is a brain is a brain. By any other name, it would think as well.

  2. julie says:

    I actually don’t disagree. If your brain drives you to engineering or abstract mathematics, then by all means go for it; I really don’t care about the chromosomes attached, and if you have the aptitude and the drive, then knock yourself out.

    The thing is, in general, women are staying away from these subjects in droves – this in spite of years of being taught about girl power and told relentlessly that they can be anything they want to be. Given that women outnumber men in college, that should suggest that by and large, most women would still rather be doing something else.

    What bugs me about the article is the underlying assumption that there’s something wrong with the fact that they’d rather be doing something else, as though their scientific genius was somehow hijacked by their ovaries. And that something wrong is that romance makes women forget about STEM. So the solution is to make science, tech, engineering and math look sexier.

    Seriously? If the research here is accurate, then good luck with that…

  3. Susannah says:

    Excellent commentary. I’ve had my fill of radical feminist silliness today, and I needed a good antidote. Thank you!

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