When former Harvard President Larry Summers asserted that women lack the scientific mettle to compete with men, he provided only the latest example of misogyny in the sciences. Women continue to face real obstacles, even at research institutions like WISELI (Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute). Unfortunately, the occasional appointment of women to high-ranking positions at technical universities (such as MIT and Lehigh) does not offset these cultural hurdles, which draw so much of their weight from film and television.
Ranging from early the book-to-film successes of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Diane Fossey’s “Gorillas in the Mist” to the solution-seeking documentaries “The Gender Chip Project” and “Women Who Walk Through Time,” from sexed-up television fantasies featuring bionic women, crime science investigators, spaceship personnel, and aliens to the questioning heroine embodied by Marlee Matlin in “What the Bleep?!…,” this area will examine the portrayals of women in the sciences or science fiction. How has the feminist movement been incorporated, represented, revised, or rejected within these constructs? Are there other social, cultural, or ideological movements that have served to undermine or support the female presence in science? Does the future for women appear to be brighter through these lenses?
We welcome papers that explore these and other questions concerning women and the sciences. Topics are not restricted to American media representations.
Sally Hilgendorff, Chair, Women in the Sciences Area Principal Historian Show Me History! 43 Wakefield Street Reading, MA 01867