A new story from Science Magazine Podcast


Women to task for thinking about the problem in terms of choice rather than in terms of rights because as she points out for an awful lot of women, there is never any choice. There's not a decent healthcare system they don't have access to doctors. They live in medical deserts, metaphorically speaking. And historically, of course, black women had no reproductive rights from the time that they were gentle slaves until the present. And that's a legacy she believes people are still living with. And, of course, this isn't just an issue in the U.S.. We're also seeing abortion bans being brought into countries like Poland and we're seeing this wider pushback on LGBTQ freedoms in many parts of the world. How important is the scientific literature in those debates? In some ways, it's not important at all because the arguments really are about power, but both sides site scientific literature or at least the side I'm sided with often site scientific literature because there's always the hope that the discussion could become rational. And the science could be part of that rational discussion. But in fact, when science is brought into play, it's usually wielded as a kind of cudgel and not as something that the people wielding it really care to understand in depth. But still I obviously, I believe that having clear scientific voices in the discussion is always important. And that she thought issue about sex and gender being a kind of bureaucratic issue or a governmental issue more than anything else, a political one is brought out really nicely in one of our books Paisley Cora's sexes as sex does, which again you are very keen to have on the list. I was very keen to cover Paisley Cara's book because he looks at the law and looks at how sex and gender from the point of view, especially of trans people, is defined very differently, say by a health department by a marriage bureau by someone giving driver's licenses and comes to the conclusion that in each of these arenas, it's a practical question, a functional question for the law and for government, as to who they're going to call mail and who they're going to call female and who's going to let changes that are birth certificate and not. And it's much more based on the functionality of government bureaucracy than it is on some belief in a particular biological definition of sex or gender. And what other themes were you keen to draw out in this series? So, I mean, the whole question of sex and gender. You know, when I first started being involved in it when I was a young scientist, the question was, and it was generally in the university, why aren't there any women? And we bring the problem as women in science, not gender and science. And that's still remains an issue in a particularly it remains an issue in the United States, but also worldwide. So I thought the contribution of the book lab hopping, which looks at efforts of women scientists in India to become important parts of the scientific workforce or who are, but have to do it in odd and devious ways sometimes. So that's still an ongoing thing that I think one needs to keep track of, which is, how are women working as scientists? And it is useful to see that cross cultural perspective because actually the situation of women is very different depending on which country you're in. Absolutely. To the extent that the situation is different solutions are different, both policy, solutions, but also just the ways in which individual women or small groups of women band together and navigate a situation. It's going to differ from one country to another in one culture to another. And maybe we can give each other ideas. And kind of looking even more forward than that. We have everyday utopia. Which is the left field choice in this list by Christine godsey, but it really does imagine a world in which we can just see things completely differently. If we could start from scratch, how different the world might be. Yeah, I think she and every day utopia, she does a great job of sort of giving us a very cross historical look at different utopian attempts at things like how to construct a family, child rearing, education, sex, or decisions, not to have sex. And what I really appreciated about it is that she didn't just start in the 18th and 19th century where some people are more familiar with some of the utopian societies that existed, but she reached way back into Greek society and to some of the archeological digs where the architecture suggests that there may have been different kinds of group living and family arrangements. And talking about history, then we also have envisioning African intersex, which is a very new book just out this year, looking at colonial and racist legacies in South African medicine. I think the books that deal explicitly with the race that is particularly Dorothy Roberts book and this book that the ways in which the colonial regimes intermingled race and sex and gender really come to the floor. And the way in which intersex was wrought as it were as a white phenomenon by John money in the United States looks so different from how it existed and exists in South Africa and also how it's part of a political activist movement in South Africa, particularly around some of their big name runners, Lancaster semenya. So that book really brings a much needed different angle to the question of intersex. Yeah, it does feel like we're in a very exciting time. You and I have both written on this subject. You, for much longer than I have, but it does feel right now. We're in a very exciting time for literature on sex and gender in the sciences. Yeah, I think we are. And I think one of the things that's fun for me since you mentioned that I've been around longer than you. Which I am. Is to see how efforts that we started in the 70s and 80s have blossomed and now it's a moment for a reconsideration of them. And I think this is particularly exciting and mallon of king's book, the female turn, where she looks at how evolutionary science looks at the female animal. And the push to make animal behavior studies, but from an evolutionary point of view, less male focused and to remember that females who are part of the action really started in the 80s and when you had, you had Donna hare always work and you had the female primatologists, the whole bunch of them doing really interesting work and studying the females instead of just the males and giving them agency and changing the line that somehow female mis meant to be tiring and coy. And monogamous, then you had this whole generation of biologists of whom king is now a new one who took those ideas and ran with them. And now there's she's produced or summarized a whole second generation of stories about how we view sex and gender or sex anyway in the animal kingdom through the eyes of feminists who became behavioral biologists. So you see one or two more generations of work and what it's produced. And that's pretty exciting. It is exciting. And fausto Sterling, thank you so much. Thank you very much, Angela. I'm Angela seni, and I hope you will tune in for the interviews with the authors of these books over the next 6 months. That starts on 25th May and maybe you'll even be inspired to read alongside us. And that concludes this edition of the science podcast. If you have any comments or suggestions, write to us that science podcast at AAAS dot org. You can listen to the show on our website, science dot org slash podcast. Or search for science magazine on any podcasting app. This show was edited by me, Sarah crespi, Megan Cantwell, and Kevin mcclain. With production help from prodigy, special thanks to Angela sani for all her work on the upcoming book

Coming up next