Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

The Finkbeiner Test

Leave a comment

A while ago I wrote about the Bechdel Test for helping determine sexism in popular culture, particularly movies.  Movies however are not the only medium with a trend toward biased depictions of women.  Science reporting, and indeed reporting in general, can tend to talk about women as if female participation in the great wide world is a bit of an anomaly.

Writer Christie Aschwanden was asked to write a piece for Nature magazine about astronomer Ann Finkbeiner.  Aschwanden was tired of writing pieces that basically said “this amazing person is ALSO a WOMAN” and which then went on to talk about the “unique” challenges of being female in whatever field.  (Really, does anyone ask a man how he manages as a single father, or whether he finds it difficult to balance his family with the demands of a career?)  So Aschwanden made the decision to treat Finkbeiner as a scientist and write an article about her work without discussing her personal life.

Aschwanden determined that there are 7 basic topics she wanted to avoid.  In applying those guidelines to other science reporting, she dubbed these standards “The Finkbeiner Test” in honor of the scientist she was sent to interview.  So if you want to talk about a woman who has reached a high achievement in her field, and you are concerned that you may be talking a little too much about her gender, ask yourself if you have touched on any of these issues:

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child-care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”

Those may be important topics to discuss in certain circumstances.  It may help women to know how other women balance their lives, or that they are not alone in facing institutional sexism in the workplace, or even that it’s possible to have a career and a home life both.  However, if the publication has a general topic (Nature magazine, for example, covers science), then there is no reason to mention someone’s personal life.  Gender is not germane to scientific discovery therefore it is unimportant in that context and does not merit a mention.

We can recognize sexism and institutional sexism, and we can move forward away from it.

 

for more information:  http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/finkbeiner_test_gender_gap_fem.php?page=1

Author: Allison Leonard / Kiss5Tigers

I like sci-fi movies, and I noticed that I like the noir ones best. They are almost universally set in a sort of post-apocalyptic dystopia. I later realized, I find them comforting and familiar, probably because I live there, at least in my inner life. Perhaps things are not as bleak as they seem, or perhaps I am simply learning to keep a better attitude. This is the chronicle of my adventures. May you find something valuable here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s