We know that being a woman implies a prejudice regardless of the area of activity. Throughout history, we have seen women being discredited and ridiculed for their choices, explaining sexist forms of relationship. But that’s a topic for another post. Here, we will talk about women in science, their struggles, achievements and challenges. And, of course, inspirations! After all, we also know that we can be anything we want.
Why weren’t women part of science?
It is no secret that, for cultural reasons, women have been removed from public positions, places of study and power throughout history. Great scholars contributed to this, following the example of Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who stated that women would be unable to exercise power and should be “controlled” by men.
The article “Why talk about the subject of women in philosophy?” it shows the machismo not only of Aristotle, but of other thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant and more. But she also mentions thinkers who have gone the other way, defending the position of women as a social being and their rights.
This shows us that the field of scientific knowledge does not promote absolute truths, and all knowledge can be questioned over time. Still, we perceive the existence of a historical debt in relation to the delegitimation of women as researchers and scholars – and in several other areas.
“Many do not understand the importance of affirmative actions like simply reading more women and analyzing the literature produced by them, and that comes from this historical prejudice against women as well.” – Gabriela Fonseca Tofanelo, Professor, Master and PhD student in Literary Studies.
When did that change?
There were scholars at all times in history, but little read and valued. Proof of this is the term Matilda Effect, coined by Science historian Margaret Rossiter for cases of sexism in Science, explaining work done by women in which men received recognition.
With the passage of time and with the advent and growth of the feminist movement, the production of knowledge by women has gained more respect and notoriety – but it is clear that, up to the present day, we suffer prejudice in the academic environment.
What is to do Science?
In his book “What is Science, anyway?”, Alan Francis Chalmers tells us about the philosophy of Science having a history, that is, different authors tried to formulate a theory about the nature of Science. This is the case of Francis Bacon, Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn and others, which proves that there is no unanimity on the method for defining what does and what is not part of the scientific endeavor.
“The lack of understanding of scientific processes is part of the social crisis that we are experiencing.” – Francine Marcondes, Pedagogue, Master in Education and PhD in Education for Science and Mathematics.
We can then take into account that doing Science is producing knowledge. Therefore, we enter into another relevant topic for discussion: the plurality of areas of knowledge. Humanities and other areas are often devalued to the detriment of subjects in the area of Exact or Technological, being seen as “less scientific”. However, it is worth remembering that research in all sectors is relevant to the scientific universe. It is the plurality of knowledge that enriches Science every day!
“The great challenge in this career is the devaluation of the professional biologist, the lack of incentive to culture and Science in Brazil and, in this context, to continue in your career is already a great achievement!” – Dimila Mothe, Biologist and PhD in Paleontology.
“When you belong to the field of Humanities and Social Sciences, it takes a lot of effort to make someone believe that you are carrying out scientific research (rs). Making this venture recognized as work is even more difficult. Today, temporary professors at the State Universities of Paraná cannot work on an exclusive dedication basis. The work of these teachers is essential to support the university tripod (teaching, research and extension), but does not receive due recognition. Perhaps we can say that, little by little, the question ‘do you only study or also work?’ has been institutionalized. ” – Francine Marcondes, Pedagogue, Master in Education and PhD in Education for Science and Mathematics.
“What I see most is the prejudice against the Humanities in general. Many do not consider Science and do not even think about Humanities when they talk about scientists, even though there is a lot of research in these areas. ” – Gabriela Fonseca Tofanelo, Professor, Master and PhD student in Literary Studies.
What is it like to be a female scientist?
Next, you know the answer of 3 women to the brief, but complex, question: what is it like to be a female scientist today?
“Being a female scientist today is still quite challenging because common sense still recognizes as a representative of this profession generally a man, older and white. Added to this, the issue of the scientist profession not being regulated in the country, so it ends up being an ‘extra’ activity of the teaching profession… Rare are the cases in which professionals work only with research. But I believe that the tendency for the future is to deconstruct the image of the scientist as a ‘different’ person and distant from society, showing that it is possible to be a scientist, young, Latin American and with great competence. Science is also a woman’s thing! ” – Dimila Mothe, Biologist and PhD in Paleontology.
“I believe that few researchers in the current context could answer this question without mentioning wear and tear. Anyone who chooses to work in the academic-scientific field will notice, ‘face to face’, that this is a challenging profession. However, the current socio-political circumstance – in which the rejection of complex and systematized content is amplified – has made this professional activity peculiarly difficult. If this scenario were not enough, the pandemic caused, mainly to women (of all professions), an extra set of tasks related to care. Today, our homes constitute distorted contexts in which the ‘private life space’, the school (of our children) and work compete, frantically, for survival. The female role in making this situation possible has affected our productivity. The pandemic has accentuated gender inequality in several professions. Among them, I highlight the academic performance, although it is necessary to note that we are a privileged group, in comparison with other realities of Brazilian women. ”
“Recorded (superficially) some of the most relevant problems that now occur to me, it is also possible to give way to hope. Even if the setback is announced (blatantly), we resist! The relevance of our contribution to science and to all other professions is already indisputable. As a student, I never set foot in a private school. I am a daughter of the public school, I am a mother and a researcher. This is a delightful profession, and I hope it will welcome many more people, many more women. ” – Francine Marcondes, Pedagogue, Master in Education and PhD in Education for Science and Mathematics.
“I really like being able to contribute to the research, although today I see the great devaluation of the Human Sciences! I believe that there should be more publicity to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of research in all areas! ” – Gabriela Fonseca Tofanelo, Professor, Master and PhD student in Literary Studies.
Nothing like knowing real stories that exude inspiration and strength, right? That is why we continue to value the work of women every day – whether they are scientists or not.
3 scientists who made history and we should praise
The next 3 examples are Brazilian women who were much more than scientists. They were an example of resistance and struggle for spaces less polluted by gender inequality.
1. Lélia Gonzalez
Mineiro Lélia Gonzalez graduated in History and Philosophy, Master in Social Communication and PhD in Anthropology. In addition, she was an activist, activist and one of the founders of the Unified Black Movement (MNU), in addition to fighting against sexism and the male-dominated culture, also criticizing racist aspects of hegemonic feminism. Lélia passed away in 1994, but she never stopped being a great example of a Brazilian woman and scientist.
2. Nise da Silveira
The psychiatrist, the only woman in her undergraduate class, worked with occupational therapy and revolutionized the psychiatry of her time, since she was against the mental asylum movements of patients. It was responsible for many changes in the stigmatization of madness and to this day it is synonymous with resistance and struggle for a humanitarian psychiatry. Nise is a native of Maceió, but died in 1999 in Rio de Janeiro, the city where she worked for almost her entire life.
3. Bertha Lutz
Brazilian, but conquered the formation of zoologist at the University of Paris. Back in his country of origin, he worked at the National Museum and also graduated in Law in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the entire academic trajectory and being a great name in Biology, the activist was a leader of feminist movements in Brazil and had enormous importance in the struggle in favor of the female vote. Bertha still worked in politics and, even after her death in 1976, continues to receive homage by the scientist she was.
It is very important that we seek to know examples of pioneers of Science in Brazil and in the world in order to increasingly value our history and be inspired by women scientists!
Why not give up?
In the face of so much adversity, what keeps scientists in their careers? I let them tell you:
“I really believe that only through education, science and culture do we build a more just, progressive and egalitarian society, so this is what motivates me. Opportunities have become scarcer in recent years (such as public tenders) and, in fact, Science has never been a very high priority in the country, but I believe it is the only way to fight against ignorance, negativism, setback and obscurantism that so much surrounds us society.” – Dimila Mothe, Biologist and PhD in Paleontology.
“What keeps me going in Science, in research, is this, knowing that knowledge is capable of liberating and transforming society, especially so that it is more just and egalitarian.” – Gabriela Fonseca Tofanelo, Professor, Master and PhD student in Literary Studies.
I hope this conversation has inspired you to continue the fight! Surround yourself with women who support you and great examples, such as those mentioned here. And remember: Science is more complete, plural and beautiful with you!