I'm reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I bought it quite a while back, before the Dear Muslima episode and his losing fave with a lot of the atheist bloggers I respect. Mostly I just think it makes sense to read something so many people talk about having been pivotal in their journeys, even if the author has a foot in mouth issue.
In context of recent events, it's certainly interesting how often Dawkins references Michael Shermer as a source.
What keeps making me uncomfortable, though, is something I've noticed before. So often when Dawkins lists sources for something, which is fairly regularly as he recommends further reading for more in depth reading on a topic he has touched on briefly, he lists only male authors.
It bothers me, and it has for a while. A few years ago, I read a book called The Descent of Woman, about evolution and intended as a pun on the book by Darwin, The Descent of Man. The author, a woman, claimed that scientists in their guesses about the past focused attention on the male of the species to the exclusion of the female in ways that might lead to actual error. It was the first book I ever read that treated evolution as a reasonable, factual event, and made it accessible to me, and I don't know whether the author had any good scientific points, but I can't help thinking of her sociological points when I hear people talking about the ancient past now. If you listen, so often the male of the species is the actor and the female is a constant that is acted upon, and evolution of behavior happens based on ancient males trying to work around ancient females, who were immovable, immutable, inscrutable. This author not only made evolution accessible to me as an idea, she gave me the uses that maybe men in the sciences didn't know everything and had some biases no one was noticing that might radically change the picture.
So today, when I see a scientist recommending books about science to a skeptical audience, and none of them, none at all, are by women, I wonder. I winner as a woman where the voices like mine are. I wonder as a feminist how women will get read if no one recommends them in the most common books (the God Delusion was in the opening scene of a rom-com I saw recently, for goodness sake). And I wonder as a newbie to science and skepticism how women's voices and women's input to science will influence and balance the picture if they are quietly shuffled off to the corner and ignored.
I am not entirely comfortable with my own personal solution, that of giving extra weight to women authors when choosing what to read, and making a point of looking for women's work, even though I have found stories that I might otherwise not have found and which fit my inner self on ways others so often don't. I still find the practice uncomfortable, probably in the same way anyone finds affirmative action uncomfortable. I don't know what else to do, and I don't know what else to think of a person who can't recommend any books by women but that they are a lazy thinker, unable or unwilling to see beyond the easy and the popular.
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