Authors' Names

Christina BovinetteFollow

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Area of Focus

Social Sciences, Humanities

Abstract

Science and technology, broadly construed, are usually thought to be at least aspects of one and the same enterprise. In a more narrow sense, science is our best tool for describing the “structures of reality” and we readily accept the privileged status of science for doing so. For example, we no longer invoke Dionysus when grapes become wine rather we accept a scientific explanation. Technology, on the other hand, features “infinite transformative possibilities” based on discoveries of science. But we typically make few or insufficient distinctions within or between the sciences and technology. As Albert Borgmann says, “[m]ost of us are only peripherally in touch with the body of scientific theories and with the social organization that undergirds it.” Consequently, technology studies are taken up by social scientists often guilty of this fatal lack of distinction. As a result, critiques of science and, as I will show, of women in science are often mis-located. For feminist scholar, Marilyn Frye, the metaphors and social structure within science is in some measure to blame for women’s oppression, historically and presently. It seems that Frye would have us throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater; abandon science as an ally in liberation from social oppression. If this is her proscription, Frye and I are in union on this point, but with qualification. Frye is correct to point out the sexism within the history of science and to gesture at the continued male-dominance within scientific fields. However, the broader claim of her essay, that sexism is a natural component of the scientific enterprise and scientific theories, is utterly false. By carefully articulating the structure of science through the work of Borgmann I will show that Frye misplaces her critique of sexism in physics to the detriment of her sound claims regarding women’s oppression and social philosophy. I will then strengthen Frye’s point by relocating women’s oppression to its correct place within the structure of science. Such relocation is necessary to properly address discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender and to move towards more just gender relations within science.

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Apr 18th, 2:30 PM Apr 18th, 2:50 PM

“Wave Function” and the Second Wave: Towards a Feminist Theory of Physics or a New Understanding of Physics in Feminism?

UC 333

Science and technology, broadly construed, are usually thought to be at least aspects of one and the same enterprise. In a more narrow sense, science is our best tool for describing the “structures of reality” and we readily accept the privileged status of science for doing so. For example, we no longer invoke Dionysus when grapes become wine rather we accept a scientific explanation. Technology, on the other hand, features “infinite transformative possibilities” based on discoveries of science. But we typically make few or insufficient distinctions within or between the sciences and technology. As Albert Borgmann says, “[m]ost of us are only peripherally in touch with the body of scientific theories and with the social organization that undergirds it.” Consequently, technology studies are taken up by social scientists often guilty of this fatal lack of distinction. As a result, critiques of science and, as I will show, of women in science are often mis-located. For feminist scholar, Marilyn Frye, the metaphors and social structure within science is in some measure to blame for women’s oppression, historically and presently. It seems that Frye would have us throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater; abandon science as an ally in liberation from social oppression. If this is her proscription, Frye and I are in union on this point, but with qualification. Frye is correct to point out the sexism within the history of science and to gesture at the continued male-dominance within scientific fields. However, the broader claim of her essay, that sexism is a natural component of the scientific enterprise and scientific theories, is utterly false. By carefully articulating the structure of science through the work of Borgmann I will show that Frye misplaces her critique of sexism in physics to the detriment of her sound claims regarding women’s oppression and social philosophy. I will then strengthen Frye’s point by relocating women’s oppression to its correct place within the structure of science. Such relocation is necessary to properly address discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender and to move towards more just gender relations within science.