Biologically speaking, women (in general) are built lighter than men and with less physical strength. In the past this has been used to decide that women are therefore weaker in all ways, including in intelligence, and even worse, in worth. Putting aside those people whose brains are wired a little strangely and believe it’s genuinely ok to be racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, etc, society at large, full of good, caring and wonderful people, still has a curious way of putting men first.
It is often by accident and sometimes it’s even in an errant attempt to put women first; for example I recently read a headline that said ‘Top Female Scientist Discovers…’. Great! But if it had been a male scientist, it wouldn’t have said ‘Top Male Scientist Discovers…’, it would have said top scientist. This perpetuates the idea that a scientist is a man unless otherwise stated. Another example aimed at a more general audience is that infuriating feminine hygiene product advert that has a sassy DJ jumping up and down saying ‘As a woman, I can step aside or step up’. Erm actually, men have the choice of whether to step aside or step up too. Being trod down and overlooked is not just for women.
For me, International Women’s Day is about two main objectives:
- Reversing the damage done to any and every woman’s subconscious about what they are capable of, how seriously they should be taken, and how high up the career ladder they should be able to go. To name a few examples. We can do this by celebrating women’s achievements, encouraging our female colleagues to push harder, and mentoring younger generations to succeed.*
- Reversing the gender stereotyping that still leaks its way into the minds of good people, men and women, and alters their subconscious beliefs. A random example, and not to point fingers, is WhatsApp who only recently brought out male and female emoticons for scientists/astronauts/runners, etc. This is a great step in the right direction but up until their release, it was another subtle, if accidental, way in which women are made second best in the subconscious of everyday people.
So, to start/continue the celebrations of International Women’s Day, here is a number of amazing natural history related articles and blogs for your enjoyment and dissemination:
ZSL Celebrates Dr Joan Procter for International Women’s Day, by Zoological Society of London
International Women’s Day; ARKive
IUCN Celebration of International Women’s Day; International Union for Conservation of Nature
Raising Horizons: Portraits of women in science; British Antarctic Survey
RSPB celebrates its female founders; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (from 2014)
Namesake Minerals #3; Pangeology
* Obviously we should all do this for men too!