Mom&Sci, An Efficient Patriarchy Deflection System

Combining parenting with a career in science is an issue worthy of discussion. But your typical mom&sci piece implies this is the single most important issue affecting women's careers - and rarely mentions the P-word.


  1. My twitter ranting was inspired by a great post from @emckiernan13:

  2. When your grant application or journal submission is being evaluated more harshly than that of the dude's lying next to it, it's not because you have kids. It's because you have lady bits. And because every one of us harbors implicit biases against women. We just automatically downgrade the work and achievements of women right from the get-go. That's before any of you get around to stopping the tenure clock for a year to have a baby, or before we notice that you didn't publish so much in grad school because you had a baby. Whatever you did, whenever you did it, it wasn't enough and it wasn't nearly good enough. If it's known you had a baby, that just makes it worse, because it shows you aren't serious. On top of not doing enough bad work.
  3. Nevertheless, there are scads of articles telling us all about mom&sci. How motherhood is a problem for women scientists. Or for this particular woman scientist, is not a problem at all! Or it was a problem, but no biggie, she just hacked a solution and voila! science success! Or, she was clever enough to have all her success first, and now her carefully planned baby is on the way! Why didn't you think of that? Or she was smart enough to procreate somewhere that has decent daycare and maternity leave, and to have a baby with no special needs! Or it is kind of a problem but she is uber-confident she can work her way around it just like she works her way around a lab bench! Whatever, it is her problem and she is going to solve it herself! Naturally, we wish daycare was more plentiful and affordable, and that science careers were more forgiving of the demands of motherhood, but no one wants to lower our standards, least of all our power-researcher mothers, who want to be respected for their work and worry that any special exceptions granted to them will make people question their skill and so in the end it's best to do nothing so that we don't risk harming their careers. Remember, it's motherhood that's the problem. Not gender bias. Or dysfunctional work systems. Pay no attention to that patriarchy behind the curtain.

    Mom&sci isn't there to help you figure out how to make it in science. It's there to show you that whatever problems you might be having, they're all yours, because look here! these women are doing just fine! and we didn't have to fix science at all for them to succeed and have babies! Mom&sci is a suck it, bitches genre. The women profiled don't necessarily mean to be used so (though some of them do). The writers of the articles may not even realize they are doing the work of the patriarchy. But every time we devote words and energy to discussing How Women Can Be Mothers And Scientists Too! we are not discussing What The Hell Is Wrong With Science And How Can It Be Fixed.