Fallibility is not a failing

I’ve been thinking about why I started this blog, and my initial reservations: firstly, that I would run out of material once I had finished translating my original talk into blog posts.  The more significant concern was that I would end up overwhelmed and discouraged by the whole business – as rereading my first post has just reminded me.

So I thought I should write an update on progress, since it’s been about six months: writing this blog has made me feel much, much better about the stupid business of sexism in science.  Yes it is there, and it is real, and it does bad things.  So I do get grumpy about it sometimes.  But I also think that there is something hugely positive in spending time thinking about why science is sexist, and trying to understand what is really going on – it may be no coincidence that my favourite thing in all of science, is a well constructed thought experiment.  What would science look like, if the sexism were entirely eradicated?  It’s actually quite a nice thing to ponder.

More pragmatically, I have found that it gets easier to call people out on casual sexism, and to do this without labelling them as sexist.  It turns out this is a really helpful thing to be able to do! It also appears that people are getting used to me bringing these issues up, and even anticipating my comments before I make them.  This is no bad thing.

So what is my conclusion?  Own your biases, people!  It makes everything much easier, from deciding what coffee to order when out of town, to understanding that men who have worked in a male-dominated environment all their lives may not be choosing their language with the intent to exclude you. And it is kind of nice, explaining, and seeing them get it.

If there is such a thing as a tenet of faith in science, it has to be that fallibility is not a failing. Just something to learn from.

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