I announced recently that I had been trying to publish an op-ed and that I would post it here if no newspaper would have it. No newspaper would have it, so here you go (and please imagine it were still the end of December, when this was all more recent and it still seemed a fitting time for new year’s resolutions):
As the year in which President Trump reinstated the ban on
trans* persons from military service is coming to a close, many of us are hoping
for a less transphobic new year. But the current year of sickening transphobia
isn’t quite over yet. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling just made headlines
by expressing support for Maya Forstater, an openly transphobic researcher who claimed
that sex was unchangeable and had nothing to do with identity. Anthony Ramos
from the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD referred
to Forstater’s view as “an anti-science ideology.”
The disturbing truth is that some scientists hold similar views as Forstater. A recent publication in eNeuro, an open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience, proves this point. Author Stephen Gliske, a nuclear physicist by training, proposed a novel theory regarding the neurobiological underpinnings of gender dysphoria (the distress that some trans* individuals experience because of the incongruency between their bodies and gender identities). Much of the argument relies on data from previously published rodent studies.
Today I want to share Emily Willingham’s excellent article “The Non-Binary Brain.” The subhead makes the article’s politics clear: “Misogynists are fascinated by the idea that human brains are biologically male or female. But they’ve got the science wrong.”
There’s much more to this article than debunking the myth that there are male and female brains. For instance, Willingham connects the ideology of the binary brain to sexist theories about autism, and she compares doing neuroscience to being a blind person who only explores one part of an elephant—the trunk or the foot or the ear. Most importantly, the post features one of my greatest heroines: Daphna Joel.
I suggest you read it if you get a chance. Although I’ve long been familiar with each individual argument, I found the combination of topics and epistemological critiques refreshing.
We are finally, as a country, publicly acknowledging that men have been treating women like shit for ages. Now, even the science that lends support to our iconic gender stereotypes—the science that reinforces the idea that men are biologically programmed to be sex-crazed and that women are basically sex objects—is coming crashing down, too.
You might have already heard of Grace Pokela’s pointed facebook post that dismantles the “science” of transphobia. But just in case you haven’t—and chances are you haven’t, because I myself only learned about it through my brother—you should totally check it out.
It’s important to remind ourselves that “science” can be used quite easily to essentialize socio-economic injustice and culturally specific stereotypes. But it’s not only the misrepresentation of scientific “facts” that is the problem (e.g., denying that there’s more than XX and XY). Sometimes it is the bare attempt of scientifically classifying individuals that is already problematic. Typing humans secures the basis for discrimination, regardless of how fine-grained the categories are. Continue reading →
The below essay was at the same time my favorite to write and my last one for my list with Susan Lindee. Concluding my readings in Cold-War Science and Feminism also brings me one step closer to my oral exams on May 6: this was the first one out of three lists that I completed reading. As of yesterday, I have finished all my lists (more essays to follow on this weblog soon).
I have some training in Gender Studies, most importantly through taking classes with Anelis Kaiser, Sabine Hark, and following the NeuroGenderings network, but taking time to (re)read and discuss the below works gave me a new perspective on my own work. I used to have problems calling myself a “feminist,” because I’ve seen a lot of unproductive deconstructivism in the public discourse. The below scholarship, however, together with my teachers and the NeuroGenderings network, offers a glimpse into the development towards productive feminist science critique that does not forget intersectionality—a scholarly project that I want to contribute to. Continue reading →
The items below do a fantastic job in connecting the “private” with the “public” spheres—and show that they’re not actually separate spheres whatsoever. Many of these works, I already utilized during a research project on a statistical review of the Kinsey Report. I haven’t had time to revise the research paper that grew out of this project in order to get it accepted at a journal, but I’m positive that this will be easier as soon as I don’t have to read 13 books per week anymore. Just like the reading list on post-WWII US science and second-wave feminism, from which the following items are a part, I worked with Susan Lindee on this research paper. Continue reading →
The book summaries below are from my European History list with Heidi Voskuhl, a subsection titled “Bodies and Sexuality.” Since reading towards oral exams is not (only) an initiation rite, but also supposed to prepare me for my dissertation, I thought I’d post my current dissertation abstract before I provide the reading summaries. After all, hypotheses.org is for project-related blogs, not blogs of individual scholars. And this IS a project! Five to six years in grad school in preparation for this dissertation:
My dissertation traces and compares handedness and sex/gender as categories in the mind and brain sciences in Europe and the United States since the late nineteenth century. I inquire into the extent to which sex/gender and handedness were treated as unchangeable, innate qualities that originate from and impact the brain and mind. I also examine the interaction of changing conceptualizations of handedness and sex/gender on views of brains, selves, and groups of individuals sharing these characteristics. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which changes in scientific institutions and in society at large altered the understanding of the two categories. My work thus contributes to the historical scholarship on scientific classifications in different contexts: scientific laboratories, public policies, as well as social and cultural life more broadly. Since handedness has been largely neglected by historians, scientific publications as well as archival collections are crucial to this project. Combining close reading with large-scale digital text analyses will illuminate the practice and impact of scientific classifications. The dissertation will thus draw awareness to the continuities and ruptures in the meanings of two of the most pervasive categories in contemporary societies and to the relations between them.
Now you know what I’m talking about when I make statements about the ways in which these readings relate to my prospective dissertation topic (as I try to do more and more, as you will see even better in later and not-yet-posted essays). Continue reading →
I have done many more readings. The following essay from my Cold War science and feminism list with Susan Lindee is already 1.5 months old and I can read faster and type more efficiently by now. As a colleague of mine, one year ahead of me in the same program, tells the grad student applicants who come in every Monday these days: If we were able to start over grad school with the knowledge and strategies we have now, we would need to get a hobby! We’d be so bored reading only four books a week. Continue reading →
Today, I’m posting my first summarizing essay for my “History of the Skull, Mind, and Brain Sciences” list for you. I’m reading the items from this list with John Tresch, who is my main advisor. Be warned: it’s 14 single-spaced pages in Palatino Linotype 11p with 1-inch margins. Continue reading →