'Gender and Science Reader' a source book for addressing issues related to women, gender, and the sciences

December 03, 2001

BLACKSBURG, Va., - The essays and book extracts in The Gender and Science Reader, co-edited by Muriel Lederman of Virginia Tech and Ingrid Bartsch of the University of South Florida, provide a comprehensive feminist analysis of the nature and practice of science.

In the book, published by Routledge, well-known feminist writers challenge the self-proclaimed objectivity of scientific practice by uncovering the gender, class, and racial prejudices of modern science. The writings draw from a range of media, including feminist criticism, scientific literature, writings about scientific education, and the popular press.

The book is divided into six sections, each addressing an aspect of gender and science. Through both analytical evidence and personal testimonies, the section on "Women in Science" looks at women's access to the study of science and to employment in that field. "Creating Androcentric Science" explores the gendered origins of science at the time of the Enlightenment. "Analyzing Gendered Science" provides feminist methodologies and epistemology for the study of science. "Gendered Praxis" provides examples of the ways gender bias can affect and distort scientific work. "Science and Identity" looks at how science reinforces gender and racial stereotypes. And "Feminist Restructuring of Science" looks at the future of feminist science studies.

According to Sylvie Coyaud, writing in Nature, "The editors nicely balance the different schools of feminist theory." The essays include that of John Lukacs, which looks at quantum mechanics with a religious focus. There are also two essays that, according to Coyaud, provide "comic relief" as they tell "how past research in the life sciences proceeded apparently unaware that human organisms, unlike bacteria, come in two versions, or blinded by an eagerness to assign inferior quality to female cells, genes or brains."

The final section of the book discusses ways that the feminist view of science has already changed some fields, such as medical research, and how equal-opportunities policies in the United States "have improved their {women's} lot in publicly funded research," Coyaud said.

"This book will be a resource for faculty members in both women's studies programs and science studies programs, increasing their familiarity with the feminist analysis of science," said Lederman. "As an inclusive and sophisticated book, Gender and Science Reader will heighten the awareness of teachers and scholars across disciplines with regard to the feminist analysis of science, as well as provide them with useful materials so that they will feel more comfortable including this analysis in their courses."

Included in the book are introductions to each section, plus a comprehensive bibliography of feminist science studies for those involved in the teaching, research, or study of science.

The contributors include well-known feminist writers such as Donna Haraway, Evelyn Fox Keller, Hilary Rose, and Carolyn Merchant, as well as biologists Christine Wenneras and Agnes Wold. According to Coyaud, the research of Wold and Wenneras "showed that women had to publish 2.6 times more than men in order to obtain the same quality scores for postdoctoral fellowship applications submitted to the Swedish Medical Council."

Other authors in the book are Sharon Begley, Lynda Birke, Susan Bordo, Suzanne G. Brainard, Linda Carlin, Margaret A. Eisenhart, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Elizabeth Finkel, Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding, Ruth Hubbard, Gisela Kaplan, E. Anne Kerr, Helen E. Longino, Curtis L. Meinert, Lesley J. Rogers, Sue V. Rosser, Londa Schiebinger, Vandana Shiva, Bonnie Jean Shulman, Edward R. Silverman, Bonnie Spanier, Lisa Weasel, Liz Whitelegg, Helen Sweifel, and Lederman.

"Over the past decade, increasing numbers of institutions of higher education are offering programs in women's studies as well as programs in the social studies of science, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The feminist analysis of science is an integral component of both curricula," said Lederman. "Moreover, the recent Association of American College and Universities and National Science Foundation funded project to 'build two-way streets' between science and women's studies suggests that there is growing support for this concept.

"We envision this book addressing the need for a source book in upper-division undergraduate and in graduate level courses that address issues related to women, gender, and the sciences," she said.

"Practitioners of science could also be impacted by this volume and could elect to add feminist analyses to their science courses," said Lederman. "Becoming familiar with this field may begin to change attitudes, to the advantage of not only women scientists but all scientists."
Muriel Lederman, Associate Professor, Biology and Women's Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA 24061-0406, Phone: 540-231-5702 email: lederman@vt.edu

PR CONTACT: Sally Harris 540-231-6759, slharris@vt.edu

Virginia Tech
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