Feminist embroidery
“Feminine” arts were traditionally undervalued and now they have a feminist spin.

[image descriptions:
1:Embroidery on white linen in an embroidery hoop with a pink and green floral border to the left and right and the words “fuck gender roles” in sky blue thread
Made by Moonrise Whims on Etsy
There’s a pair of gold stork scissors off to the lower right side and a white doily off to the top left of the hoop and a pink linen backdrop.

2: Embroidery on white linen with a lower floral border with tiny pink buds on crisscrossing green stems and the words “you don’t owe prettiness to anyone” in light pink and darker pink thread.
Made by RubyAndJack On Etsy

3: Embroidery on white linen with a lower floral border with burgundy, purple, yellow, and coral flowers and dark green vines and the words “Smash the patriarchy” in dark coral thread
Made by Moonrise Whims on Etsy

4: Embroidery in an embroidery hoop on white linen and a lower floral border with 3 pink pansies surrounded by green grass and the words “don’t tell me to smile” in golden yellow thread
Made by RubyAndJack on Etsy]

Feminism for scientists (and everyone else)

I’ve been told more than once that fighting for women’s rights or even being interested in the topics of feminism and gender equality is a complete waste of time in today’s Western world. There are no more issues to be had, there is no problem, all is well. To test this hypothesis I have made a habit of thinking “Would you act the same way around me if I were a man? And if not – why?” So, here are a few examples of suggested improvements to the treatment of female co-humans, for biologists, other scientist and anyone else.

1) Do not confuse your co-workers with the subjects of your studies!

I know, especially we zoologists know all about animals, their behaviour, their reproduction, the crazy lengths they go to in order to get laid… and in the animal kingdom males and females are simply not equal most of the time. Beetle ladies get their insides crushed or plugged by their male mates in order to prevent insemination by rivals. Female cats ovulate due to the pain inflicted on them by the tomcats’ spiny penis. Gorillas are organised in harem-like groups of several females being dominated by a male. Many animal fathers tend to leave their mate and wander off to inseminate their next incubator and maximize their genetic contribution to the population. Sure, there are also the opposites – matriarchal hyenas, seahorse daddies and free-love-bonobos (those hippies!), but statistically speaking the ones with the sperm tend to have the upper hand. Knowing all of this it makes it seem likely that in human animals, too, there are some differences between the sexes, and there are – hormonally, physically, developmentally. The difference is, however, that we are not limited to our biological traits, so the world we live in should enable us to overcome these dissimilarities and create equal opportunities for all sexes. In this world my ability to be a professor is not linked to my level of testosterone and my being a stay-at-home parent is not dependent on my milk-leaking breasts. We are animals, we are the products of millennia of evolution, but we are more than just hormones and instincts, so just keep that in mind.

2)      Do not invalidate my professional or personal choices! 

a)      Never assume that my job is just a pastime! Yes, I measure ants for a living. Yes, that is an actual job I get paid for. No, I am not just biding my time until the right wealthy inseminator comes along to fill my womb with offspring. And also no, at 27 I am not planning to have kids very VERY soon (tick-tock, ovaries!).

b)      Also, never just presuppose that I am the underling or assistant in any setting including older male colleagues. That is just rude!

c)       Just to prove that you can’t ever get it right: If a woman does choose to have a family, go on a sabbatical or decide to breed poodles, do not dismiss her as “not a real scientist”, as someone who is just not driven, passionate or strong enough for the scientific world. People can have more than one passion, we don’t necessarily have to kill ourselves over our jobs. And if you actually do perceive that as a weakness, please don’t blame it on her gender – men can breed poodles, too!

3)      Do not make my appearance or sexuality any more of an issue than you would a man’s!

We all know the “#distractinglysexy” campaign (or if you don’t, just google it, it is both sad and hilarious) where female scientists call out male colleagues for questioning their professionalism based on their styling or wardrobe. What I wear should not be the basis of how you judge my abilities or my intellect. You would never call a man “slutty” or “unprofessional” because he wears shorts when it’s hot (given the dress code at your workplace is ok with that) or consider his sexuality nullified because he wears rubber boots and cargo pants in the field. On the other hand, I do not wear a lab coat and glasses because it makes me a stereotypical sexy science nerd, but because I am short-sighted and do not enjoy dangerous chemicals on my skin.

4)      Never underestimate the “feminine” fields!

Some people tend to belittle those aspects of science (or life, in general) that draw in a predominantly female crowd. There is hard, manly science, physics, chemistry, and math on the one hand and then there is a flowery meadow full of little girls playing with fluffy bunnies. However, my years at the university have taught me that this trope cannot possibly be based on facts. I have spent most of my lectures in auditoriums with a 60-90% female audience. And that was not “Cute puppies 101”, that was organic chemistry, physiology, genetics, entomology, statistics… all things technical, complicated, full of equations, decay and slimy bugs – and hardly a guy in sight. So, look out, world, and treat your women with respect because there is absolutely no reason why we should not be running the place!

The fight is not over, there is still plenty of work and science to be done!