Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present

Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present

Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present

Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present


This encyclopedia surveys the scientific research on gender throughout the ages-the people, experiments, and impact-of both legitimate and illegitimate findings on the scientific community, women scientists, and society at large.


Sue V. Rosser

Both gender and science represent pervasive, powerful, and determining factors in 21st-century U.S. society, just as they do in most countries today and have in most cultures since antiquity. a number of myths and beliefs surround both gender and science.

Everyone has a gender. Typically the first question asked about a healthy baby when born is the sex, assuming that the parents don’t know this already from prenatal tests. One of the myths is that biological sex determines gender. As the entry in this volume on sex/gender describes, it need not do so, since many opportunities occur for disconnections between sex and gender. Because biological sex typically correlates with gender roles, expectations, and stereotypes in the particular culture, the response to this question sets off a series of reactions and behaviors in parents, relatives, friends, health care workers, and others to the newborn baby.

If the baby is a girl, in addition to receiving a pink cap and diapers with different reinforced padding than that given to boys, the adults will talk more to her and describe her as smaller with finer features than they would the same baby if told he was a boy. These responses suggest the initiation of a series of behaviors, expectations, and stereotypes that will determine parameters and norms for whom that baby is likely to marry, what career she is more likely to have, and a probable series of other likes, interests, and outcomes for her life. If the baby is a boy, he’ll be described as larger, be talked to less, and be given more visual stimulation. the adults will also anticipate gender determinations based on his sex such as falling in love with a woman and being more likely to become an engineer than a nurse. These determinations result from the beliefs that masculinity and femininity are associated with particular roles and behaviors in a particular culture, time, or society.

Just as everyone has a gender that exerts a powerful influence in determining social behaviors, career choice, and choice of life partner, science also exerts a powerful and determining influence on most people’s lives. in our society, for most people, science provides the explanation for why the physical . . .

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