Women "ought not have any sex, but they do" and other tales of Gender in Science


Contributed by Kimberly Baker

Women's Studies will be hosting a colloquia by Alexandra Rutherford, Associate Professor of Psychology at York University.  The colloquia will be held on March 26 at 5 PM in the Six Mile Creek Room. Light refreshments will be served. 

Prof Rutherford's current research seeks to analyze the ways that science becomes gendered. Her talk will focus on 1949, when prominent Harvard psychologist Edwin Boring wrote to a female colleague “I do not know what to do about women any more than you do. On committees they ought not to have any sex, but they do.” By way of advice, he insisted that she suppress her self-reported aggressive tendencies so as to avoid making “a nuisance of things.”

Prof Rutherford will draw on Boring’s personal correspondence with both male and female colleagues as well as his published writings on “the woman problem” in mid-20th-century American psychology to unpack what it meant to have (or not have) a “sex” in science at that time. She shows how this case study can help us enter what Evelyn Fox-Keller has called the “science-gender system” and how it can help us critically evaluate contemporary debates about the causes of women’s continued underrepresentation in certain scientific fields.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Kimberly Baker at kmbaker@ithaca.edu or (607) 274-5122. We ask that requests for accommodations be made as soon as possible.