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Posts Tagged ‘Women in Science’

I was thinking about Dana Scully this morning while getting ready for work, and what an inspiration she was to me when I was a teenager. I was reminiscing about my teenage years and my daily bus ride home from the coast to my home in a small town among rainforest on a mountain. And thinking about those times, Scully popped into my head. Her character on the X-Files inspired me to pursue science, and specifically forensic science (and forensic pathology) as a career. My career path took an alternative path and headed towards microbiology, research and now administration in scientific and university environments. But I still credit the figure of Scully – analytical, scientific and strong, for me being a scientist. And as a teenage girl who knew she didn’t look like and was not like everyone else, she was an inspiration – a pretty redhead who wore suits, carried a gun and used her intelligence and knowledge, and not her looks and sexuality, to succeed.

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I borrowed a book from the university library entitled, Science, Technology and Culture by David Bell. And I was pleased to see a few mentions of the X-Files. I was even more delighted to see a short paragraph about Dana Scully and what her character represented / conveyed. The paragraph read, “…. one aspect of the show that was seen positively, at least by some people, was its depiction of a female scientist in the central character Dana Scully (Wilcox & Williams, 1996). In playfully upturning the association of males and scientific rationality, Scully was the show’s sceptic and scientist, a foil to Fox Mulder’s ‘irrational’ belief in alien abduction and government conspiracy. An extratextual effect of this narrative commented on at the time was that it reopened the door to science for girls and women who had previously been excluded or had themselves from education or employment in ‘male’ science.’ For myself, seeing Scully as a female scientist and being rational and analytical spoke volumes to me. It was an affirmation of being a female scientist and showed to me that I too could do it. And Scully provided inspiration and a career path at the time – forensic science (which I didn’t end up pursuing). For me she was a great role model and the X-Files greatly stimulated my interest in science and my own rational thought and critical thinking. Book – Bell, David (2006) Science, Technology and Culture, Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education, Maidenhead, UK.

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I’m a red lipstick wearing, pin-up girl loving alternative feminist, scientist and writer. I’m out and proud about my sexuality. I am engaged to my wonderful girlfriend of fours years. I love pin-up girls of the 1940’s & 1950’s, particularly the alluring mixture of beauty, subtle sexuality, femininity and confidence. I also admire burlesque (including retro style burlesque) and the Rockabilly culture. I like also the fashion and style of the 40’s & 50’s along with alternative fashion. I’m also a feminist who stands for many ideals including – equal rights, human & civil rights, animal rights, socialism, environmentalism & conservation, social justice, acceptance of all people, the end of war and violence and encouragement of scientific, health & medical research. Professionally I am a scientist and former research student (in medical/health research) and I aspire to become a fully fledged science, health and medical writer. My dream is to write about science for a female audience and specifically a lesbian/bisexual/queer/transgendered audience. In this blog I wish to explore being a lesbian scientist along with my other diverse interests.

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As an original and retro styled pin-up girl fan and a scientist, I think it would great to have scientist pin-up girls. Empowered, intelligent, lady scientists with retro styled fashion and make-up. Oh, red lipstick would look a treat with a crisp white lab coat and funky sneakers! As a sex positive feminist, lesbian and an empowered woman who is proud of her female and lesbian sexuality and her intellect and scientific abilities, I think this would be so fun, empowering and a chance to express science and sexuality. I’d promote this and join in. Maybe this would also help get a lesbian audience interested in science and the achievements of female scientists, all but in a kind of around about way. Bring on the retro styled lady scientist pin-ups!

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It’s a simple fact – sex sells and promotes. You pick up a lesbian magazine and there is a certain amount of ‘sex’ and sexy women (including real lesbians) used to promote and symbolize and ‘speak’ to a lesbian audience of an event, movie, book or sex toy. But i also think that young lesbian women view this in a certain way – from an empowered, feminist, sex positive, non-exploitative way. They recognise the sexiness of the woman, but also see her as a fellow woman, not just an object of sexual gratification. I do think there is fine line between objectification & trivialization and empowered sexuality in making science sexy (in the form of sexy female scientists) for a lesbian audience. But I believe it can be done and be used as a tool to encourage more women, and particularly lesbian women to be interested in science. Could an image or a number of images of sexy, intelligent, empowered young female (including lesbian and bisexual) scientists be all it takes? Female scientists in lab coats, latex gloves and closed in shoes (the slightly uunsexy stark reality of working in a lab)? As a lesbian scientist I’d have to say this would spark my interest and I’d want to read more.

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Although I am a trained scientist and a former research student, I work in administration in a calibration lab. In Australia this field is known as Measurement Science and Technology – the science of testing and adjusting an instrument to ensure it is measuring correctly and determining the level of error for these measurements. My company has a number of branches around he country and all admin staff are women. And I find it quiet interesting communicating with other calibration company’s female admin staff also. But even more inspiring was finding out about other women with technical and quality control positions. I think it is fantastic that women hold and are taking on technical roles in a male dominated field. I used to say to my former boss that we should get more female technicians. I was even tempted to get to know the process. With a growing requirement for NATA accredited laboratories to test customer’s instruments, a change in ratios of women to men in these fields and the subsequent changing of attitudes I think this is all very encouraging.

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As a reader of lesbian magazines, websites and blogs I don’t see many, if any, articles by science journalists or writers. Why isn’t there coverage of science in the lesbian press? Is it because it is seen as being boring or nerdy? Or is it just because the readership would not be interested? I am of the opinion that this should change. After all scientific discovery has contributed a significant amount to modern society.

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