I was confused by a hashtag I saw on Twitter recently, especially among feminist scholars who I follow: #womanspace. Was it something about astronomy? Women in space? A space for women?
Curious, I looked further. Apparently Nature published an article titled Womanspace, which is about a male scientist’s revelation that women are such better shoppers than men because of their ability to bend time and space. This apparently explains why men are Hunters and women are Gatherers in, like, every prehistoric society (note: sarcasm was used in this sentence, as not every society follows the same gender lines). The basic idea is that “women can access parallel universes in order to find things, whether they do it consciously or not.” Seems harmless enough and kinda funny, right?
Well, no. As one blogger points out, “The result of Womanspace is that women in science feel alienated.” By promoting outdated sexist stereotypes, the journal essentially states that women don’t belong in science, discovering things like men do–women are born gatherers, relegated to domestic tasks and shopping. Another blog response dissects the sexist rhetoric at work, as multiple commenters remarked on how pointing out the article’s sexism hurt the original author. She writes: “If it makes you feel bad to have people point out the harmful effect of your action (even if that harmful effect is not intention), think of how it must feel to actually experience the harmful effect that you feel bad having someone point out was caused by your action.”
To see sexist stereotypes endorsed by a respectable scientific publication is a shame; it not only promotes shoddy research and writing, it also sends a message to would-be scientists that women’s place is in the home. And I didn’t need extra-dimensional gathering superpowers to tell you that.