Well, you have come to here to read this blog about that Womanspace story that was in Nature.
Here are some things that you could be doing instead:
1) You could make a donation to the original Womanspace. It is an organization that helps women trying to escape domestic violence.
2) You could sponsor a Kenyan high school girl so she can live at boarding school and not get raped on her way to school. (Not sure where the link to the Kenyan program is, but e-mail them. The program is beyond fantastic.)
3) You could take action to ensure that women's rights in Afghanistan will be preserved, or support any of the many other very good causes Amnesty fights for.
4) You could read a more substantive post on this blog.
5) You could a read a much, much better blog by a mother with cancer who is fighting to improve the U.S. healthcare system. From hospice.
6) You could go do a science demonstration at an elementary school, especially if you are a woman and want to show the girls what a woman scientist looks like. (Hint: Ones involving exploding Pepsi bottles are a big hit. Chicken genomics, not so much.)
7) You could advocate for graduate students to be protected under normal employment laws. I do not even have a legal right to maternity leave because graduate students are not considered employees and are not protected under the Family Medical Leave Act.
To me, these things all represent real social action and real feminism.
The level of ire, the amount of academic navel-gazing discussions, and petition signing that have arisen around this silly story are a caricature of both, and indicative of the sad level of fluff that is currently passing itself off as meaningful social dialogue in our world.
So here is the original blog post if you really want to read it.
Or you could direct your energy to something substantive.
Or you could just go outside.
So I have a friend who writes satire, which is good because sometimes I read something and I'm like, "Is this satire?" and then I send it to her and she says, "No. He's serious." Which is helpful because it's so hard to tell these days.
Anyway, this happened today. This guy Ed Rybicki wrote a story in Nature that was meant to be a humorous look at the differences in the way men and women shop.
It centers around a situation in which he had to help his friend shop for his friend's daughter's knickers. The cause for the knicker emergency was unexplained, but I'm assuming it involved a tornado or something.
Anyway, the central premise of his story that got a lot of people mad was that he said that men and women behave differently when they are out shopping.
At this point I must digress, and mention, for those who are not aware, the profound differences in strategy between Men Going Shopping and Women Going Shopping. In any general shopping situation, men hunt: that is, they go into a complex environment with a few clear objectives, achieve those, and leave. Women, on the other hand, gather: such that any mission to buy just bread and milk could turn into an extended foraging expedition that also snares a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes; a useful new mop; three sorts of new cook-in sauces; and possibly a selection of frozen fish.
And some people got a little mad because they said it wasn't very funny and other people got really mad because they think he's propagating a bad stereotype about women.
But I don't think it's anything worth getting upset about.
First of all, the idea that men and women shop differently isn't a sexist stereotype. In the retail industry it's generally considered true. And it is actually something that has been looked at quite a lot because there's a lot of money involved in understanding your shoppers. I remember my brother telling me in extensive detail about research his company did into the roles that males and females in couples take when they decide to buy a toilet. (Which I can't reveal due to the fact that there's a lot of money involved in understanding how people buy toilets and also I wasn't listening.)
In fact, if you google "Gender differences in shopping" the second hit is an article called Evolved Foraging Psychology Underlies Sex Differences In Shopping Experiences And Behaviors by Kruger and Byker that uses ~40 references to suggest a theory that's pretty similar to what Dr. Rybicki said (he could have cited it).
And second of all there isn't anything inherently worse about the female shopping strategy he describes. So he said women like to buy nice shoes at a good price? Well hell yeah. That doesn't mean you can't do math or are ignoring the gels running in your lab because you were distracted by a pair of Mary Janes. And things like objects for the home should not be devalued because they are traditionally female. And women scientists aren't judged as better by their displays of joyless shoelessness. In fact, I find it is very important to have a work/shoe balance in my life. As well as shoes that are difficult to balance on. Because I always say that if you're going to wear heels, wear heels. Which I will do as soon as this plantars fasciitis clears up. (Sorry, I got a little distracted there.)
And third, it's just not all that important. This was a small and pretty innocuous article published in the fiction section of a science journal. That not many people read anyway because they get the science articles they need for work on the internet. By comparison, there is a man running for president that was quite likely going around committing borderline sexual assault on women looking for jobs. AND HE'S LEADING IN SOME POLLS. And there are real workplace problems that women in science have to encounter (like lack of on site day care) that are much more important than whether or not someone wrote a humorous essay extrapolating on the essentially TRUE idea that men and women shop differently. And I'll add that when I told the satirist friend that a guy got called sexist for speaking about a woman's "Womanspace" she was kind of surprised that it turned out to be about be shopping.
The article itself is of course really, um, retro in its style of humor. If it was done as satire (or a troll as the kids say) of that sort of humor then it is of course brilliant. If is, um, well, accidental satire then I would say that humor is really subjective and I bet some people think it's really funny.
But cut Ed a break, for Heaven's sake.
BTW, the satirist friend is Linda Keenan and if you were offended by Womanspace, don't buy her book Suburgatory because then you'll be REALLY offended. <--This is an ad.