One of the things we assign to science is that there are true, absolute facts. But scientists are human and, it turns out, as prone to blind spots in their thinking as the rest of us, especially when cultural assumptions and biases get in the way.
& Richard Cone
In this episode, biologist Christina Agapakis explores ways these blind spots, especially around gender and sexism, have affected research and women’s careers in science. She talks with one of her heroes, anthropologist Emily Martin, and her husband, biophysicist Richard Cone, about Emily’s 1991 article “The Egg & The Sperm.” Reading that article about the ways cultural romantic assumptions limited scientists’ understanding of human reproduction was a turning point for Christina as a young scientist who considered her feminism as something separate from science.
She also talks with anthropologist Kate Clancy who has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about the ways women’s careers in science are different from men’s. Kate offers some thoughts on what science needs to consider to truly bring in more underrepresented voices and perspectives. New perspectives and voices in science may be key to science seeing blind spots for the first time.
Episode Extras — Your Transistor producers have picked out some further reading on this topic and how it affects both men and women:
- The Egg & the Sperm by Emily Martin
- The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction by Emily Martin
- Subverting Sperm & Germs by Michael Purdy (April 2002)
- Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault by Kathryn B. H. Clancy, Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford, Katie Hinde, PLoS ONE, July 16, 2014
- Kate Clancy’s Context and Variation blog
This episode was produced by Kerry Donahue and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and mixed by David Herman.
Hauschka: “Cube” from Salon des amateurs
Anna Meredith: “Bubble Gun” from Jet Black Raider
Four Tet: “As Serious As Your Life” from Rounds
Not Waving: “Two-Way Mirror” from Intercepts
Laurie Spiegel: “Patchwork” from The Expanding Universe