How Science Has Consistently Gotten It Wrong About Women

Natalie Slaughter

Because science is sexist.

I remember being very young and watching videos in school about how important it was for us to wear seat belts.

They featured crash dummies who would chat with each other and show by example what would happen if you didn’t strap in correctly. They’d fling through the front window and flail about the inside of the cab, before the video capped off with a catchy phrase to bring the point home.

All of these crash dummies were flat-chested men.

I found out decades later it wasn’t until recently that these crash safety ratings we see on cars are based on these all-male dummies. Women aren’t factored in at all.

This means women are 47 per cent more likely to have a serious injury in an auto accident because seat belts aren’t meant to accommodate a woman’s chest.

I know when I drive, my seat belt ends up pressed against my neck, offset from my torso by my chest size. Having gotten into an accident with my belt pressed against my neck before, I absolutely believe the this percentage.

This is part of a greater trend in science, one where women are omitted or underestimated continuously.

We like to think of science as impartial as it ideally should be. But scientific procedures are performed by perfectly fallible human beings, and more often than not, these people are men. This bias shows up in all sorts of ways, like a recent study supposedly showing the reason women are attracted to other women is because other men think it’s hot. Unsurprisingly, only heterosexual men were included in this study. As a woman attracted to other women, I can guarantee men’s opinions of my sexual preferences make up exactly zero pre cent of my motivation.

While we’re finally slowly allowing women to be considered experts in this field, we’re still performing studies based on the old misogynistic views of men like Darwin. Darwin infamously believed women were inherently less evolved than men, and Darwinism is still a cornerstone of our evolutionary theory.

We need to be constantly reevaluating who we’re holding up as scientific experts. What’s supposed to make science great isn’t it’s infallibility, but its readiness to correct itself. When we discover bad science, we shouldn’t cling to old, outdated theories. We shouldn’t continue to make mistakes simply because we’ve spent so long making them. We should leap at the opportunity to correct them.

When science tells us the earth isn’t flat, we should embrace this truth and admit we were wrong. When science tells us the earth revolves around the sun instead of the other way around, that’s what we put in textbooks.

Re-evaluating the way we treat women in science is a must now that we’re moving away from the old model of believing our sex determines who we are or who we can be. There are a lot of old threads to unravel, and it will take a lot of time to redo, but any scientist worth their salt will be eager to discover what sexism has made us miss over the years.

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Comment: Do you think science has been guilty of sexism?

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