Editor's Picks of 2016
As we wrap up a truly miserable year, it has been important for us to reflect on any shred of good we can find. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite pieces from 2016.
Afton Lorainne Woodward’s “The Eighteenth Century Lady Scientist” is one of our favorites for its breezy humor and wit. Afton examines an obscure Restoration comedy that features a woman scientist. The Basset Table grapples with the social impediments to early modern women who were interested in science, while maintaining the agency of the woman investigator. Afton’s piece is a fantastic introduction to the ways science was explored in early modern drama.
Lydia Pyne’s article “Writing About Fossils Found By Men” is a first-person reflection on writing her book Seven Skeletons. While writing Seven Skeletons, Pyne confronts a traditional historical narrative that centers men and the fossils that they discovered. She gives us a glimpse inside the choices that writers and historians make when deciding which stories to tell and how to tell them, and she offers some suggestions about how women can feature more prominently in the history of paleoanthropology.
Anna’s article “Romance and Radium: Emotional Histories of Science” is a personal look at Lauren Redniss’s graphic history Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout. Anna shows that emotion and feeling can play an important role in telling history, as they cultivate an empathetic connection to the past. Instead of trying to strip the feminine qualities of sentiment and passion from history and science, Anna insists that we embrace these characteristics in our understanding of the past.
Leila’s “Monsters, Myths, and Constellations,” is a thoughtful meditation on the importance of language and the power of naming in patriarchal cultures. The myths that condition our understanding of nature and the science we use to examine it are bound up in oppressive systems that continue to exclude and exploit women. Leila’s piece asks for more careful consideration of the naming traditions our scientific establishments use as a step toward equality.
In “Visitation and Violence: Gender and the UFO Phenomenon,” Anna looks at the problem of abduction narratives and the use of scientific evidence in the field of Ufology. Within these narratives, Anna finds disturbing and dangerous ideas about women and sexual violence-- ideas that have also been embedded in mainstream science and reproductive medicine.
In “Anthropos-cene,” Leila shows how our growing understanding of anthropogenic climate change reveals that the ambitions and reach of the patriarchy extend even to the state of the planet itself. Embedded in the term “anthropocene” are clues to the patriarchal, capitalist, and imperialist underpinnings of unprecedented global change. This planetary anthropic order, tailor-made by and for a white, male capitalism, disproportionately threatens marginalized people.