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

By Sue V. Rosser | Go to book overview

Introduction

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chronological Section- Changes in Myths of Gender over Time 1
  • Antiquity 3
  • Medieval Era 17
  • Renaissance 31
  • The 18th Century 43
  • The 19th Century 61
  • Early 20th Century 79
  • Thematic Section- Concepts of Gender in Different Contexts 93
  • Disciplines - Chemistry 95
  • Physics/Astronomy 103
  • Mathematics 109
  • Computer Science 115
  • Biology 123
  • Psychology 129
  • Medicine 135
  • Technology 141
  • Aspects of Human Biology and Behavior - The Brain 149
  • Cognitive Abilities 155
  • Mental Illness 161
  • Personality/Rationality/Emotionality 167
  • Endocrinology and Hormones 173
  • Menstruation/Menopause/PMS 177
  • Early Modern Health 181
  • Gender/Sex—How Conjoined 187
  • Homosexuality 193
  • Race 201
  • Nature/Nurture 207
  • Institutions - Women’s Education 213
  • Motherhood 223
  • Religion 229
  • Universities 235
  • Federal Agencies 249
  • Industry 259
  • Professional Societies 263
  • Discrimination 273
  • Women Scientists as Leaders 283
  • Nobel Laureates 295
  • Gender and Occupational Interests 319
  • Other Perspectives on Gender and Myths and Beliefs in Scientific Research - Feminist Philosophy of Science 325
  • Biologists Who Study Gender/Feminism 337
  • Historians of Science and Technology Who Focus on Feminism 347
  • Primatologists Who Focus on Females/Gender 357
  • Critiques of Science 365
  • Marxism/Socialism and Feminism/Gender 373
  • Ecofeminism 381
  • Cyberfeminism 387
  • Race, Postcolonial Gender, and Science 393
  • Feminist Science Studies 399
  • Women’s Health Movement 405
  • Science Fiction 419
  • Conclusion 427
  • Appendix of- Statistical Tables 437
  • Glossary 445
  • Bibliography 469
  • Index 481
  • About the Editor 501
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