Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nature's "Womanspace" controversy

As many of you are already aware, Nature published a piece of fiction titled Womanspace. It talks about a wife who sends her husband and his friend to buy knickers for their daughter because she was busy making supper. In the end, the men return empty-handed because they cannot fathom how to complete such a simple task. Their conclusion is that "women can access parallel universes in order to find things."

First, let's neglect the quality of the piece and focus on what it says.

Why, again, is this offensive? What if the roles were reversed and the wife couldn't find the knickers? Would the blogosphere cry about the author portraying women as useless? Nowhere does it say she is a housewife. Cooking may simply be one of her household duties that they equitably split after they both get home from work. As far as shopping, I see it as women being better at multitasking, while men can only focus on the single goal at hand. Honestly, the men seem rather like troglodytes while the women operate in the modern world.

This article essentially pokes fun at men, positing that men are unable to complete a straightforward household task and then having them invent parallel planes as an excuse. Yeah, that's gotta be it. Because they can't just be incapable.

My recommendation: Try to find the humor and be more selective in what offends you. Like crying wolf, you will not be taken seriously if too many things get you up in arms.

Other blog posts on this:
Scientopia, who has her own list of related blog posts
Contemplative Mammoth
Doing Good Science at Scientific American, who makes a good point that sexist stereotypes hurt men, too, and male and female stereotypes are present in this story.
Science Sushi at Scientific American
JAYFK, though I don't think it is appropriate for futures or pasts. Perhaps satire.
Principia Discordia (forum, not blog)
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess


  1. I think you got it it one...thank you!

    Funny thing - negative response was overwhelmingly American. What kind of society are you running over there??

    1. You're welcome!

      I don't run the society. In many cases I think we try to be too politically correct, at least publicly. In private circles where everyone understands the intent of a statement, people are more forgiving that this discussion suggests.