The People that Could have Done Science, but Didn’t..

September 30, 2018

In 2017 I had the privilege of camping and working on the Greenland Ice Sheet with a majority female science team.  It’s something that I hope we see more of, but there is a long way to go, culturally before women are welcomed and accepted in the science world.

There is a lot of anger and frustration among female scientists in all fields, who have all the same complaints that are high on the public discussion agenda this week – harassment, being ignored, and flat out being attacked.
Below, Dr. Kate Marvel, climate scientist at Columbia University and NASA, weighs in.

Kate Marvel PhD in Scientific American:

The person who could have solved the problem stopped taking math in the sixth grade. She was good at it, but it was hard, and she didn’t want to seem too aggressive. It hurt the boys’ feelings when she was better than they were, and no sixth grader wants to upset the boys.

The person who could have designed the experiments dropped out of physics in college. It was uncomfortable being the only girl there. She had many talents; why be stared at, sneered at, and belittled when she could do so many other things just as well?

The person who could have developed the theory never finished graduate school. It takes a certain amount of confidence to turn six years of work into several hundred pages and call it a new contribution to knowledge. She’s spent those six years turning down dates and having the dearth of women in her program explained to her. There are, she heard, few women at the low end of the IQ spectrum, but none at the high end. It’s just science, she was told (with no citations or data). No one has ever told her she’s a genius. She didn’t seem like one.

The person who could have led the team isn’t senior enough to do it. She was prepared for a brilliant career in leadership, but it just didn’t pan out that way. Her intelligence and hard work meant she never lacked for male mentors, whom she reminded of their daughters. But as she aged, they avoided her. They realized she never wanted to be their daughter, she wanted to be their boss. And now, she was no fun: strident, bossy, and most of all, ungrateful.

The person who might have presented the results turns down the opportunity. She’s insecure about her appearance because she’s too young to be taken seriously and too old to be anything but invisible. She struggles to find time to cut, dye, and style her hair, book appointments for brows, nails, and waxes, and to buy and apply skincare, foundation, powder, eye shadow, liner, mascara, blush, bronzer, lipstick, lip liner, and highlighter to achieve the “no-makeup” look. She loves makeup, but not when it’s mandatory. She loves clothes, but she doesn’t know how to choose something demure but attractive, professional but unintimidating. She hasn’t been to the gym often enough to have no body fat, but she’s been too often to have no muscles. No one wants to look at her, and she knows that means no one will ever listen to her.

The person who could have explained it to the public isn’t going to write anything. She’s funny and smart, but it never occurred to her before she tried posting on the internet that jokes could have explanations. Better explanations, though, than the death and rape threats she’s seen others get.She tells herself that it isn’t her,personallyIf George Orwell himself had been a twenty-first century woman, she, too, would have gotten messages and emails and tweets telling her pigs can’t talk, you stupid bitch.

The person who could have spoken up about all this isn’t going to. She’s rational, and she’s seen what happens when difficult women complain. Once she hesitantly raised a concern and was told to toughen up by people who will never experience childbirth or menstrual cramps or have an IUD shoved in their bodies. It strikes her that fixing things would be tougher and braver than silence, but she doesn’t want to be branded bitter or a whiner or a man-hater. How could she hate men? She works with them and loves some and perhaps is even raising a few. She’s not the one saying boys will be boys and men can’t help themselves, as if all men were violent and selfish at heart. That, she thinks, would be truly hateful.

The person who has made it this far, despite it all, finds it hard to concentrate. She still shows up to meetings, advises others, maintains her standards of excellence. But sitting at her computer, her mind keeps wandering to that night, or those nights, when it happened. She remembers how her skin felt clammy when he touched her, the dirt under his fingernails, the taste of fresh alcohol and sour meat on his wet breath. She still wonders, even now, if she said no loudly or clearly enough. Maybe she wore the wrong thing or smiled in the wrong way. It doesn’t matter, because there will be no consequences. For him, at least. She thinks about it almost every day. She feels anger and shame and the urge to vomit. She does not feel like doing science.

The people who could have done science, didn’t. All of us who could have benefitted from their discoveries and insight will have to do without. But the person who could have written this? She did. And so did many others, and still more will. Listen to us, believe us, change with us. It could be so much better than this.

30 Responses to “The People that Could have Done Science, but Didn’t..”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    The person who got the majority of votes didn’t become president because…

    • lracine Says:

      Of the electoral college.. a left over system designed to appease the slave owning states….

      The same reason Al Gore didn’t win…

    • dumboldguy Says:

      As Louise says, the electoral system was the reason Clinton lost. Many things behind the Declaration and in the Constitution were designed to “appease slave owning states”, and the original system gave the slave-holding states a big advantage in that they could actually breed “voters”.

      The electoral college was also meant to appease the small states and those who feared direct election (of despots), but it took the 12th and 13th Amendments to “fix” the count-the-slave foolishness. Then we switched to Jim Crow, and now we’re on to more recent voter suppression tactics.

      Don’t think the founding fathers specifically intended for the electoral system to defeat Clinton just because she was a woman—-women couldn’t even vote, never mind hold office back then.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        So you’re basically talking about a system which is over 200 years old.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          229 years old this year. The 12th and 13th Amendments were ratified in 1804 and 1865, and the 19th giving women the vote not until 1920.

          (And it was originally intended to stop people like Trump from getting elected).

        • Sir Charles Says:

          The Irish constitution isn’t even 100 years old and we already debate a total revamp here. The German constitution (Grundgesetz) was approved after WW2 and is indeed a modern constitution. The Constitution of Bhutan was enacted ten years ago. Amongst others it states:

          “The State must provide free education to all children of school going age up to grade 10, ensure that technical and professional education is made generally available, and ensure that higher education is equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. It must also provide free access to basic public health services in both modern and traditional medicines; and encourage free participation in the cultural life of the community, promote arts and sciences and foster technological innovation. The State must also encourage and foster private sector development through fair market competition and prevent commercial monopolies.

          The State endeavours to apply State Policy to ensure a good quality of life for the people of Bhutan in a progressive and prosperous country that is committed to peace and amity in the world. It strives to promote conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Can we assume your point is that the U.S. Constitution needs revamping? Something that many people in this country are well aware of, and we don’t need to be reminded of that by a denizen of a pipsqueak country that could sink into the ocean and not be missed (except for Guinness and pretty red-haired lasses).

            And the German constitution is an example of what? The one that was imposed on Germany by the allied powers, designed to make another Hitler impossible, wasn’t ratified until 1990, and has never been voted on by the German people? Maybe the U.S. needs to adopt the “Never again Hitler (Trump)” provisions, otherwise LOL.

            And isn’t it wonderful that a country of less than a million and barely half the size of Ireland (like Bhutan) is able to come up with a constitution that has lasted TEN whole years! And is pursuing Gross National Happiness and “peace and amity in the world”? Yes, among other things by sending peacekeeper troops to the UN—-Bhutan ranks 76th of 124 nations in 2018—-right behind the U.S. and ahead of Canada at 75th and 77th.

            Get serious, Chucky!

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Well. I was expecting your rant and that you would continue trying to masturbate on me.

            The German Grundgesetz was drafted at the Constitutional Convention at Herrenchiemsee, a meeting of constitutional experts nominated by the minister-presidents of the Western States of Germany. So far to your history knowledge.

            And of course I forgot that, in your view, it’s only allowed to US Americans to tell other countries what to do and what not, to invade, bomb and leave chaos… I forgot all about your typical arrogance. That’s why you are so beloved in other countries.

            I forgot that Dumb Old Guy stands for DOG…

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Scratch a low-IQ narcissist and viciousness and stupidity usually erupt. And in Chucky’s case, strange references to masturbation and another assholish posting of the video of the dog humping a pillow. Makes one wonder about the normality of Chucky’s sex life and sexual identity (?). Ah well, in this rainbow world, all is permissible, even of most everyone finds it offensive.

            I won’t bore everyone with the story of the German constitutions—it’s irrelevant to the topic of climate change (as is too much of what Chucky posts). Suffice it to say that Chucky is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and I was correct. Look it up if you care to.

            Chucky once again displays his anti-Americanism (and again raises the question of whether he’s a Russian troll) with “…it’s only allowed to US Americans to tell other countries what to do and what not, to invade, bomb and leave chaos… I forgot all about your typical arrogance. That’s why you are so beloved in other countries”. It’s rather ironic and interesting that he worked around into that from a beginning that was based on the depredations of Hitler and Nazi Germany and the need to keep that from happening again by the allies.

            As usual, Chucky gets it backwards with “I forgot that Dumb Old Guy stands for DOG…”. DOG stands for Dumb Old Guy, you moron!

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Oh. This time it’s the other way around. LOL

          • dumboldguy Says:

            As usual, you’re the one that “needs help looking up”, Chucky. You consistently give us slightly inappropriate or not-the-best links since you are a sloppy thinker and therefore a sloppy googler. Try this one.


          • Sir Charles Says:

            The usual. Dumbo isn’t even able to read the links he’s posting himself.

            The draft was prepared at the preliminary Herrenchiemsee convention (10 – 23 August 1948) on the Herreninsel in the Chiemsee, a lake in southeastern Bavaria. The delegates at the Convention were appointed by the leaders of the newly formed (or newly reconstituted) Länder (states).

            Wanna ridicule yourself even more? Go ahead, dumb old guy. You’re good craic.

            I suppose there are a lot of people proud of you 😉

          • dumboldguy Says:

            More “demented rooster strutting around the barnyard crowing about his imagined victories” behavior from Chucky—Chucky is getting so puffed up we may have to chip in and buy him a larger rooster suit. All over a cherry picked TWO sentences from a lengthy article that he thinks prove his pointless point?? LOL indeed!

            I will once again point to the link:


            It’s a bit long and some of the words may be too difficult for Chucky to comprehend, but it DOES accurately represent the history Chucky refuses to accept. Yes, he just can’t seem to accept that U.S., French. and British MP’s were ready to clap the delegates in jail if they didn’t do as they were told, and that 1948 was only the beginning of the process.

          • Sir Charles Says:

            So you’re still not able to read your own link, dumbo. Where do we find “jail”, “prison” or anything like it in this article? Zilch. It was a panel of engaged Germans who wanted to create the base for a social and democratic new country after the catastrophe the 3rd Reich had left behind.

            BTW, there were only four women on the 70-strong panel. One woman was eventually successful in a largely lone campaign to gain constitutional protection for gender equality. Kudos to Elisabeth Selbert.

            What you’re exhibiting here is worse than kindergarten, dumbo. Go and see your doctor. Get some medication. Maybe that can help against your craving for insulting other people(s).

            Over and out.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Over and out, indeed.

            Chucky asks: “Where do we find “jail”, “prison” or anything like it in this article?”

            Unfortunately, Chucky’s reasoning abilities have not yet reached the level of using inference—-(that’s also called reading between the lines, Chucky). If it doesn’t have “jail” in it….WHAT? LOL

            Chucky’s analysis skills seem to be stuck at the “google something that looks good and put it out there even if you don’t quite .understand it” level. Seeking attention IS, after all, Chucky’s raison d’etre, and those of us who try to educate him are the ones who get insulted (with low level trite and inane stuff like “kindergarten” and “get medication”, but insults nonetheless).

            Try again, Chucky—-remember—-INFER!


          • Sir Charles Says:

            Must be some stuff dumbo is reading “between” the lines… LOL

            I prefer reading THE lines:

            The Constitution of the German Empire lost its effect in the November Revolution of 1918

            Enough said.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Actually, nothing said that I can see. What in heck are you talking about?

          • Sir Charles Says:

            About David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, the rest of us already know that you are perhaps the best example of the D-K Effect current Crock visitors. Are you finally admitting to that? Maybe you’re not as dumb as your comments make you appear.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            ….AMONG current Crock visitors

    • Zen-fro Sven-dog Says:

      Primarily because many votes were suppressed…

      And many votes were never counted…

      Add gerrymandering, a weak campaign by Clinton, Comey’s last-minute email non-revelations, and, yes, Russian interference and you get the perfect shit-storm that brought us a pussy-grabber in chief.

      Great videos, Peter, BTW.

  2. lracine Says:

    Excellent work Greenman.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Despite Roe’s popularity, Republicans are still trying to push through anti-choice Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. If he gets confirmed, the ruling could be reversed!

    => ADD YOUR NAME: Help elect pro-choice Democratic women in November

  4. smithpd1 Says:

    Excellent and timely post. Thank you!

    Kate Marvel is a very good science communicator. If you follow the link above to her Scientific American article, you will find a few other recent, short articles in Scientific American that are worth reading. Also, the first Scientific American article contains in her bio a link to a TED talk on the uncertainty of model projections caused by clouds. It’s basic stuff, but a very good introduction for the general public.

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