Maths and Girls: Sensible Solutions…

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Reblogged from the Idle Ethnographer’s mathematical blog, mattersmathematical.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/sensible-solutions

 


Categories: Matters Mathematical, The Idle Ethnographer

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2 replies »

  1. I like this…but the problem with comics…is that they can sometimes oversimplify things. It’s not that mathematics is perceived as “unfeminine”. It’s a whole institutional system that promotes and perpetuates the idea that females aren’t good at mathematics, that the “female brain” (not a thing) is somehow inherently incapable or at least inferior in its ability to process mathematics and mathematical concepts. That isn’t “maths is unfeminine”, it’s “maths is not for females”. It’s the internalized idea that because someone is female, they are not “good” at maths. That they shouldn’t enter the field of mathematics and maths-related subjects (i.e. science), not because it’s unfeminine, but because as a female, they cannot “do” maths. (Actually, I wonder about quantitative researchers in the social sciences. Have females in these fields, using statistics, felt like they are not as “good” as maths as their male peers? That their results aren’t as sound as their male peers?)
    It’s also the knowledge that entering mathematics as a female is a hard thing, because it’s a male-dominated field, and because there is institutional and systemic sexism. How many females, considering how difficult it is to negotiate sexism in a non-male-dominated field, would want to try to negotiate that in an almost completely male-dominated field? As social researchers, we (all genders included) have a fair amount of paranoia over research credit, who gets noticed, who gets the kudos. Can you imagine, given the erasure and silencing of the females who ARE already in mathematics and mathematics-related fields, how hard it would be having to negotiate recognition and credit there? As a female, it might be quite rational to want to avoid the stress.
    So, I like the comic. But I think it fails to make the whole point, and I think if comics like this are going to help educate (if that’s the point of the comic), they need to cover most of (because who can cover all?) the bases.

    • Thank you for such an articulate comment. I agree with everything you said – and many mathematicians I’ve interviewed say similar things! So in this case, the comic has been successful in provoking the articulation of a problem and this is great.

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