Episode 15: The Search For Male and Female Brains

Episode 15: The Search For Male and Female Brains


Hosts: Anna Reser, Leila McNeill, and Rebecca Ortenberg

Producer: Leila McNeill

Music: Careful! by the Zombie Dandies

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In this episode, the hosts dive into science’s search for differences in male and female brains, attempting to uncover women’s inferiority. And to end the episode on a positive note, in lieu of One Annoying Thing the hosts share One Delightful Thing that is helping them get through the dark times.



Transcribed by Rev.com

Rebecca: Welcome to Episode 15 of the Lady Science podcast. This podcast is a monthly deep dive on topics centered on women and gender in the history and popular culture of science. With you every month are the editors of Lady Science magazine.

Anna: I'm Anna Reser, co-founder and co-editor in chief of Lady Science. I'm a writer, editor, and PhD student studying 20th century American culture and the history of the American space program in the 1960s.

Leila: I'm Leila McNeill, the other founder and editor in chief of Lady Science. I'm a historian of science and freelance writer with words in various places on the internet. I'm currently a regular writer on women in the history of science at Smithsonianmag.com.

Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Ortenberg, Lady Science's managing editor. When I'm not working with the Lady Science team, I can be found writing about museums and public history around the internet and managing social media for the Science History Institute in Philadelphia. Before we dive into the episode, we’ve got a little bit of housekeeping to do. By the time this episode drops, we will have published the first essay in our blog series about technology, feminism, and libraries. And over the next few weeks, we're going to be sharing three more essays that are all about information technology and the library and all that good stuff. So be sure to check those out, and I hope you all enjoy our little end of year library extravaganza.

Leila: I also want to thank everyone who's been tweeting their support and comments about the show. We don't advertise the show anywhere, so every time you spread the word, you help us get new listeners. So if you do like the show, we want to ask that you please rate and review us on iTunes. That really helps us get bumped up on iTunes, whatever algorithm that they've got going on.

Leila: From now until the January episode, if you review us on iTunes, you'll be entered into a raffle to win a Lady Science tote bag with the logo of your choice. We have the oil lamp logo and the burning bra logo. You can see both of those on our website donation page at ladyscience.com/donate. We'll announce the winner on the January episode. We did this back in the Spring, I think, so we'll do it like that. We'll just announce it on the episode. So you'll actually have to listen in to the January episode to know if you won. But anyway, yes, please, please get to your listening device and subscribe on wherever you get your podcasts and then also review us and rate us on iTunes, please.

Rebecca: Yay! Onto the episode, today we're going to talk about braaaaaiiiiins. Okay. But for real, we're specifically today exploring the study of “male and female brains” — please imagine my air quotes) — and the sexual science that just won't die. So scientists have been studying this idea of male and female brains for centuries. For whatever reason, researchers just keep coming back to it and trying to show once and for all that women are inferior to men.

Anna: So we were interested in dedicating an episode to this topic after Cambridge recently published a study that claims they have shown that male and female brains are inherently different. The study is called testing the empathizing, systematizing theory of sex differences in the extreme brain theory of autism in half a million people. It looks into the demographic variables in people with autism, including sex, and they conclude that, “Females on average, are more empathetic. Typical males, on average, are more systems oriented and autistic people on average show a “masculinized profile.” And that this study “underscores the importance of brain types in autism.”

Anna: So as Dean Burnett points out in his critique of the article, and we'll post that in the show notes, the study didn't actually look at any brains. They instead collected all the data through questionnaires, largely made up of agree, disagree type questions, which already that sets up a binary framework that influences the data collection from the get and the interpretation of that data. Of course, this type of study is really nothing new. Historically, scientists have used various tools and methods to search for biological differences in the brain between men and women. So before we spend some time talking about current research, we're going to talk about the history.

Leila: So we're going to start with our good friends, the Victorians, the 19th century. And there's something that me and Anna have always joked about that, like, we didn't really have to guess what the Victorians were thinking because they wrote it all down. We didn't have to really guess that Victorians hated women because they wrote it down. We don't really have to do a lot of theorizing or cultural analysis here. I do want to note though, that studying the inherent differences between men and women didn't actually start with the Victorians. Since ancient times, natural philosophers, physicians, and men of science in the West had been looking for sex differences that manifested in the body. But what sets the Victorians apart is that they were looking for it in the mind as well. In the 19th century, women started to become increasingly disruptive, making unreasonable demands for things like access to higher education and voting, and just going out of doors more generally...

Anna: ...wearing pants, riding bicycles.

Leila: So women began organizing around these demands for rights and could no longer be ignored. For men of science, women who stepped outside of their accepted gender roles threatened the natural order of things. Many saw it as their job as scientists to investigate this phenomenon. Men of science of all stripes, biologists, anthropologists, anatomist, psychologists, and physicians all took up this study. Paul Broca, the French anthropologist for whom Broca's Area of the brain is named, said that women's disruption to the social order, “Necessarily induced a perturbation in the evolution of races. And hence it follows that the condition of women in society must be carefully studied by the anthropologist.” So the thinking went that if scientists could prove that women's inferiority was based in biology, they could justify women's exclusion from the public sphere and their continued subjugation.

Anna: But I guess what that means is that if you don't keep your women in line, the entire humanity will be irrevocably degraded and will not reach its evolutionary potential.

Leila: Yeah. Basically this is the problem for the scientist because women have the potential to disrupt the entire way of life, like the entire natural order of our ecosystem. They weren't using the term ecosystem, obviously. But yeah, that's the main idea.

Rebecca: I also enjoy the sort of must be most carefully studied by the anthropologist because it makes studying the sound kind of threatening, which often is.

Leila: Yeah, and it certainly was in this case.

Rebecca: Right, exactly. So on that note, what scientists started studying in particular, among other things, but we're focusing on here is the size of people's brains. They became kind of obsessed with it. If you've heard of craniology, that's basically what we're talking about here. Historian, Cynthia Eagle Russett wrote in her book, Sexual Science, the Victorian Construction of Womanhood, that, “By far the greatest amount of ink and the largest number of pages in the literature were devoted to measuring the brain in the firm belief that bigger was better.” By the way, of course, that's what they believed.

Leila: I was going to make a dick joke. Go on.

Rebecca: It's right there. Yeah, insert a dick joke here that was. Anyway, prevailing belief was that since on average, quite helpfully and coincidentally, of course, male skulls were larger than females' skulls and male brains were heavier than female brains that men were naturally inclined to develop higher intelligence than women. In fact, Paul Broca who had accumulated the largest collection of male and female skulls in Europe, which I feel like we need to know more about how that happened, he wrote that, “Other things being equal, there is a remarkable relationship between the development of intelligence and the volume of a brain.” This argument on intelligence was particularly useful in keeping women out of higher education and preserving it as an all male institution.

Leila: So I will point out that the skulls that anthropologists and anatomist were collecting were most likely from long, long dead people. So they weren't even conducting their experiments, their quote-unquote experiments, on living human beings.

Anna: In addition to gender, craniology was also applied in the often overlapping categories of race, class, and criminality. Those who subscribed to craniology believed that all of these things left empirical and definitive traces on the brain. In fact, scientists believe that issues of race and sex were intricately connected, that white women shared more physiologically with black people than they did with the white European men. German biologist, Carl Vogt wrote that, “The female skull resembles much more the negro skull than that of the European man.” So on an evolutionary hierarchy, both black people and women occupied the lower rungs closer to animals and then white men are at the top.

Leila: Convenient.

Anna: Indeed. In The Descent of Man, ch’ya boy Darwin, voiced this comparison saying that, “It is at least probable from the analogy of lower animals, which present other secondary characteristics.” Good old Darwin always there to, I don't know, affirm some racist theories about brains.

Leila: Yeah. It's really amazing that the high regard in which we still hold this man. And again, he wrote all of this down, and it's still like he's science god. We still get these laudatory, glorifying profiles of him all of the time without any critical mention of these things that he used his science to do to people, like Jesus Christ. Even if scientifically, the oppression of black people and white women were connected, their liberation was not. In the late 1890s to 1902, mathematician and eugenicist Alice Lee investigated intelligence and sex difference, and published her study titled “A Study of the Correlation of the Human Skull.” And she showed conclusively that cranial capacity had no relation to intelligence and gender. So I do want to tell how she did this study. Up until this point, a lot of the “studies” and “experiments” involve taking the skulls of people who were dead and like filling them with stuff. What they were filling would change from person to person, so they could be filling it with a liquid, they could be filling it with a solid. So all of these things that when you actually weight them, it changes. So the-

Anna: Like irregular objects, like seed pods or like peppercorns, things like that. They could pack differently, if you fill the same thing twice, you'd pack differently.

Leila: Yeah. Some of them were using buckwheat, rice, all of these things, when you put them in there, they fill differently.

Anna: Very precise.

Rebecca: Oh my god, you guys are blowing my mind, I did not even know this. Oh, my god.

Leila: So the results were, as you would expect from these types of rigorous scientific studies, wildly  imprecise. What Alice Lee did was she devised … she was a statistician, first of all … and so she created a formula to measure the skulls of living people. What she did, she went to the gentleman over at the Society for Anatomists or whatever they were called and asked to measure their skulls. They were like, “Sure,” confident, I guess, in their large skulls. She compared their size using her formula to that of women at Bedford College. Not only were some of these men having wildly, unremarkable sized skulls, some of the men who were the most renowned anatomists at the time had smaller skulls than the women at the college. So her study showed that these things don't correlate at all.

Leila: There were attacks on craniology before Alice Lee, but what Russett says in her book is that this was the most sophisticated actual rigorous investigation of that idea. While she did show that cranial capacity had no relation to intelligence and gender she did, however, continue to study the craniological and biometrical difference between non white people and white Europeans. While she worked to overturn beliefs that disenfranchised women, she used that same work and the same tools to uphold the same ones that justified the colonization enslavement of non-white people. And it wouldn't be until 1909 that race would get the same treatment.

Leila: Franklin Mall expanded Lee's methods to include studies of the frontal lobe and fissures on the brain, not just the actual cranial size and expanded her scope to include race. And he ultimately concluded that neither gender nor race left empirical impressions on the brain. I guess that's it, then we put it all to bed in 1909.

Rebecca: Sure.

Leila: Thanks for listening today, everybody!

Anna: We did it!

Rebecca: We did it. It's done, we did it. We solved all the things. Before we do go on, I just got … I mean, this is nothing that we don't all know, but sometimes it's like white supremacy is a hell of a drug. It's just like so many white women who read all this stuff that white men create saying, “White women and all black people are all inferior.” Instead of saying, “No, we're not inferior.” Say, “No, we're more like the white men and less like the black people.” Because God forbid, we just lift everyone up.

Anna: Right I think, again, it's important to say also that these theories that are being constructed in the 19th century, they are not the engine that generated this sexual or racial hierarchy. That already existed. So what they're doing is doing these experiments to confirm their already accepted social view of the world, which is that black people are at the bottom of the hierarchy and white people are at the top, and it's all part of the great chain of being. It's like the entire cosmology of how Western science understood the world at this point.

Leila: Yeah. And these tools that … she's using these ideas of measurement like biometry and craniology, whether she was able to use those tools against craniologists, yes, but also those tools are inherently eugenicist. Those were created by eugenicists, used for eugenicist means. That's what they were there for.

Rebecca: It's not like she's saying measuring brains is stupid. She's saying, “Oh, it just it's that you are measuring-

Anna: You are measuring them incorrectly.

Rebecca: And I have measured them better to prove my point.

Leila: Yeah, exactly.

Anna: Okay. Well, at the top of the section we talked about a study that was published recently. That I think has been well and truly debunked. And as I said, we linked to a particular critique of that. Another thing that you should read is Angela Saini's book, Inferior, which is about how science has classified women as inferior in various ways using bunk science. I kind of leave it to her to do that debunking. But what I wanted to talk about in terms of these ideas, spoiler alert, we didn't put them to bed in 1909, they're still here, they're everywhere.

Leila: Well, shit.

Anna: Sorry.

Leila: Thought we're going to wrap this up in a 20-minute episode.

Anna: I wanted to talk about less about the content of those ideas, because they're bad and wrong, and more about how they sneak into our discourse, in our public consciousness. Sometimes they are forcefully injected into our public conversation by people like that dude from Google who wrote a really long memo about how women don't have the proper brains to work at Google. As we said, because this other study about autism, it seems like there's always somebody willing to spend their grant money on a poorly designed study to prove once and for all that lady brains are inferior. And then Google dude can dig that up and dust it off and try to get all the women off of his team at Google. So yeah, let's talk a little bit about how these ideas, how we see them circulating around and infecting our day to day conversations about sex and gender work and things like that.

Rebecca: A really good example of this is a recent opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal called, “Sorry, feminists, men are better at Scrabble.” Which argues that because there are no women in high level competitive Scrabble … side note, I didn't know until I saw this article that there was high level competitive Scrabble. Anyway, the point being, since there are no women there, men must be better at it. And obviously according to this article, their absence can't be due to social barriers to entry because supposedly, there aren't any. This is supposed to be proof that men's and women's brains are wired differently, and we just succeed at different tasks. So that's not anyone's fault. It's certainly not sexism, it's our braaaaiiiiiins are just different. I don't know why I keep saying brains in a wacky voice, but it just seems appropriate to the situation.

Leila: Well, yeah, you have to keep doing it for the rest of the episode.

Rebecca: I'd like to point out also, and this kind of gets to Anna's point, that we're not really talking about science at all. This article isn't citing any studies or anything like that. Not even any weird studies of the volume of a brain. They're just sort of these half realized observations, which can sort of be made to confirm something the author already believes, and there's no further empirical examination. So this has been placed in the opinion section rather than as a reported feature, but he’s still stating some things as though they are just obvious. This vague idea that the science exists is often enough evidence for people to make crazy claims like this one. We're not even really dealing with scientific research itself, but like the idea of the scientific research.

Leila: Also, that was a woman who wrote that piece.

Anna: I was just going to say...

Leila: Let's assume it's a man because … but it's super disappointing that was written by a woman.

Rebecca: A reminder that women can be terrible too.

Leila: One of the things that this was article said was that she called it a “natural experiment,” as if it was like watching out in the wild, like watching some lions mate, or something. But it's not a natural experiment. Like, it's an-

Anna: It’s an op-ed/

Leila: Right. And it’s like you coming to a situation with a certain lens, looking at a situation that has been cultivated by norms. That's not natural. It's just not.

Anna: I do want to come back to the point about a natural experiment, as one of the ways that science gets weaponized to ensure that we're still talking about these ideas. It portrays, I think, first of all, like a pretty serious misunderstanding of both how modern research neurology works and also how the social sciences work. In that, even our boy, Darwin, didn't just go to the Galapagos and look at a finch. That's not the extent of an experiment. So there's definitely this, you're kind of weaponizing the rhetoric of science with no understanding of anything coming close to a methodology or like how science is supposed to even control for things, at all.

Anna: You can't just waltz out into your yard and look at some grass, and then draw some conclusions about the biology of grass. There's just more to it than that. But by calling it a natural experiment, I think what the author is saying is here’s thing that we all already believe. We all believe that men are better at this kind of thing and that their brains are different than women brains. Look at Scrabble, it's happening right in front of your faces. It's infuriating. Also, I cannot imagine, if there are really no women in competitive Scrabble. Can you imagine trying to get into competitive Scrabble and being in a room with 40 men whose sole passion in life is competitive Scrabble? Sorry, but-

Leila: Another example of a natural experiment that she used was Wikipedia, the gender disparity of male versus female entries for people on Wikipedia. Just do a simple like internet search to find tons of articles that have actually studied and have actual data. I know that we always say data is a neutral, but at least they have something to back up that these aren't because women are less than men. It's about how content creation is gendered and how history is gendered, and that's why these disparities exists.

Anna: Also, Wikipedia editing communities is generally very hostile to women and is mostly male dominated. I've read about women who tried to edit Wikipedia pages and just gotten wired in horrible blame wars in the back end chat about changing things because some dude who wrote the page didn't want anybody to change his Wikipedia page. Like exactly what you said, Leila, there's information about exactly why this happens. And you know what, I bet there's some studies about competitive Scrabble as well. But why do we need to do that when we can just say things like, “It's a natural experiment, and we're all citizen scientists going out in the world, learning about brains.”

Rebecca: It goes to show sort of how powerful just using the word science or experiment or science experiment is. The Wall Street Journal is not the best publication in the world by a long shot, and it's known for its conservatism [crosstalk 00:28:06]. And it's the Wall Street Journal, but also it's The Wall Street Journal, they're legit. They're not some like weirdo fly by night internet.

Anna: Presumably they have an opinion editor who read that piece at some point.

Rebecca: Exactly. And there was something along the way where someone, either consciously or subconsciously, was like, “Yeah. Yes, science. Science shows the thing, let's put it in there.” And, of course, it's also perfect for something like the Wall Street Journal, itself is very serious and empirical, and all of these things. If the argument had been the same, but hadn't like gestured towards science, it probably would have had a slightly different reception. Or someone would have said, or maybe someone did say, “Hey, maybe you should put some science references in here to make it seem more like logical.” It just goes to show how, again, how science can be weaponized. And it's such a powerful idea that we don't even need a science experiment that they're talking about. We can just say, “This is sciency.” Then suddenly, it becomes reality.

Anna: The other thing too, what you said about the Wall Street Journal, we see that as a serious publication, so I think there's like some built in understanding there that there was an editor who did look at that, and did fact check something and was like, “Yeah, this is great.” The voice of the newspaper isn't made to stand in for evidence by just saying, “Well, the Wall Street Journal published it, so it's probably legit.

Anna: Another way that I was thinking about how these ideas are kind of allowed to slip into the discourse is just by repeated appeals to the discourse itself. And by arguing that if you don't discuss this science, which we've already shown that people do discuss this, Angela Saini wrote a whole book about it. It's not that people aren't talking about this, but there is this argument that, if you refuse to debate me about lady brains, that you're damaging a precious culture of open debate that we've cultivated in this country, or whatever.

Anna: This is the argument that is used by James Damore and his supporters when he published his stupid memo about how women aren't good at coding and diversity is dangerous, and all that stuff. There's just so a lot of pearl clutching about Google firing him as their refusal to engage with controversial ideas, and how that has a chilling effect on free speech. Then if we're not even allowed to talk about these ideas, and we live in a social justice warrior, police state or whatever. So the like, ‘debate me thing' is another way where you're forced to air out these scientific theories and to bring them up over and over again.

Leila: One of the things about him being fired is that the way that that went down is that he circulated it in back channel Google Plus social network. So this wasn't just something he was sharing with a guy or two around the office. He circulated it to the company. And if I was a woman at that company and there were many, and I would have read that, that creates a hostile working environment. That creates a feeling of being uncomfortable and unsafe around this individual on a mass scale, because lots of women read that. This whole thing about silencing free speech — he created a hostile work environment! You've got to go.

Rebecca: It's like you get this thing from people who consider themselves more lefty. Even that it's like, “Well, we have to debate them to just prove them wrong.” Or like you get like light and heat kill germs kind of metaphors, as though history has shown in any way that terrible people thinking terrible things, and good people telling them they're wrong has ever changed the course of history? I mean, maybe not ever, but that's not how it works. And especially when the question at hand is like, “Does X human being have value as a human being?” Being willing to argue the question is already seeding a certain amount of like, “This is a question worth arguing. This is something that … you could be right.”

Leila: Also like this idea with Damore and the stuff we were talking about the Victorians is like, when we're questioning an entire group’s intelligence, that in a way stands in for their humanity, because we tie so much value as a society to intelligence, that we see intelligence as being a higher form of being, a higher form of interacting. When you can say that entire groups and communities of people inherently don't hold intelligence, you are dehumanizing them. We know what happens when you dehumanize women, that leads to all sorts of things: violence, gender based violence. This isn't something that is just insulated to getting a job or getting into college. It has all of these other ramifications that go beyond just getting that job or getting that diploma.

Anna: I think, if anything, we should be spending more time talking about whether conducting this research in the first place is ethical. Whether posing this question, at all, is ethical rather than discussing these shitty studies in public. But we shouldn't be paying for them, we shouldn't be doing them at all. Like you said, Rebecca, posing the question at all and saying that it's something that we should be debating is monstrous. That's insane. I did want to point out that I saw from like a week ago … you guys know Notch, the Minecraft dude?

Leila: No.

Anna: He goes by the handle @Notch, he's the founder of Minecraft. Oh my God, he's terrible. But he posted six days ago lest you think we have done way. He posted on Twitter, “If we were allowed to discuss IQ differences between populations, there'd be fewer conspiracy theories.”

Rebecca: Oh my God.

Anna: So this idea that if we don't have the discourse, like it's going to somehow corrupt our society in various ways, either by stifling free speech or apparently, by encouraging conspiracy theory. Also if we were allowed, like, “Who is preventing you from doing anything, my dude? Come on.”

Rebecca: There seems to be unfortunately, a lot of people discussing the idea of IQ differences among groups of people.

Anna: It's a real bummer.

Rebecca: Many of them.

Anna: If only we had actually had the chilling effect that these people think we have on them … ‘we' being feminists and leftist or whatever.

Rebecca: Yes, I know. If we had the power that some people think we do, we'd live in a magical world.

Leila: Yeah. Once all of these ideas make it into the mainstream, and we've all been, I guess, brainwashed and bullied into believing that we need to give them airtime in order to preserve our crumbling democracy, or whatever, I don't know, whatever The Quilette is publishing these days about us. We're then confronted with anti-feminist arguments about these ideas. And if you want to advocate for women they say, “You need to take this biological difference into account in order to level the playing field.” Don't you want to integrate women into male dominated fields? And you'll never be able to unless you account for this difference. As the argument goes, and because of that, your efforts are just punishing men. I think as much as people like to claim that women and minorities play victim cards all the time, I mean, these guys fill their diapers over everything.

Leila: I want to differentiate because … so we've talked about a lot on this podcast about how medicine doesn't take into account women and women's bodies and non-male bodies, and how they don't account for human difference. And we said that a lot and we totally believe that, that the medical establishment does not take non-male bodies, non-cis male bodies into account. And that women and people of color must be integrated more into scientific research and stuff like that. But we're not saying that because we're arguing that there are inherent, measurable, empirical differences of inferiority between white men and black people or women and black people. But we have pathology that manifests differently based on biology, based on culture, based on things like nutrition that are socially and culturally constructed. And not all of it always comes back to, “Well, because black people inherently manifest tuberculosis and white people don't.” I just want to make sure that that's clear, that that's not what we're saying when we talk about the medical establishment not accounting for human difference.

Anna: I think maybe the important takeaway there is that, science and medicine can account for differences between different people, but science and medicine have no place then putting those people into some kind of hierarchy that determines who is more or less human based on differences that might occur. And like Leila said, a lot of the differences that we observed between men and women or between people of different races is cultural, and is actually a consequence of that hierarchy, not proof of it.

Rebecca: Yeah. It's complicated and good to highlight.

Anna: It is complicated. I think that's one of the things that we talked about so much on the show, in magazine, just between ourselves is that like, understanding all of the social and cultural dimensions of this, that's what history and science gave me. Tools to kind of grapple with that complexity, instead of just succumbing to a hierarchy, because it's easy, to fully understand that. But, I don't know, it kind of seems to me that at least people who are still proposing and carrying out these kind of research studies are either so inculcated in this idea, that they feel like that it's unconscious that they want to pursue something like this. Or that we're always looking for a clean answer sort of piece of data that will like tell us once and for all, something about ourselves as humans, as opposed to, it's really messy and complicated.

Leila: Also, I want to know now, I understand what the Victorians were thinking by proving this difference between men and women and black people, white people, because they wrote it down. So I want to know now, if they can find the smoking gun that says, “This is the thing that irrevocably proves that women are different in this way than men and it makes them less than” what are they going to do with that? What's the point of knowing that? Like what are you going to do with that information, my dude? I know what it will do, but they're not accepting that that's the end game.

Anna: Or admitting, I guess.

Leila: Admitting, yeah. Oh, man.

Anna: Because hey, we're just asking questions.

Rebecca: Jesus Christ.

Anna: I don't know, that gave me weird chills. Just the way that you put it about the end game of something like that, and that like we are not … God bless them, the Victorians were explicit about what they wanted to do, which was colonize a bunch of people and take all of their resources. And they needed the science to tell them that they were doing God's plan, because the brown people couldn't take care of themselves. But you're right, we don't talk about what is the end result of this information, and we know what it was used for in the past. So, what are we supposed to expect now? That's really upsetting.

Rebecca: Yeah, it is.

Leila: Sorry, guys.

Rebecca: It's a really good point, because people get buried in their intellectual exercises about just asking questions. And questions have consequences and deciding that some people are inferior to others has serious consequences. You can't say, “Well, I'm a civilized scientist in the lab who would never do physical harm to people,” if what you're doing is, in some ways, encouraging physical harm to come to other people.

Anna: I think it's like this incredible … I guess it's kind of a dissonance, or just this like amazing walling off of the, “I'm just asking questions like blue sky science approach to things.” So much so that you're now … I don't know. So we all agree that Nazi medicine was oh, real bad, like super bad. But like I said earlier, it's 2018 and we haven't come to the conclusion that doing science to determine whether or not women are inferior beings isn't unethical? What are we doing, guys? Oh, man, I'm going down the rabbit hole. Oh, dear.

Leila: All right, let's transition into our last thing because we're going to do something a little bit different.

Anna: Okay, I feel better now.

Rebecca: Yay!

Anna: Typically, at the end of the show, we were talking about an annoying thing in the news that has been bugging us, and it has kind of transitioned from annoying to horrifying in the last couple of years. Well, it's only been a year that we've been doing podcasts.

Rebecca: In the past year, much of the news has transitioned from annoying to horrifying.

Anna: Exactly. We were trying to come up with one today and I couldn't do it and everything is already very dreary and very annoying and horrifying. We wanted to just kind of end on a lighter mood, and we are each going to talk about one just delightful thing that is helping us get through the dark times. And as I have already said, the dark times are here among us. That tweet from Notch was posted six days ago. Let's talk about things that are delightful and are making us feel good. [crosstalk 00:46:01].

Leila: Do you want to go first?

Anna: I'll go first. So my one delightful thing is Blair Braverman and her dogs. Blair Braverman is a dog musher. She's a dog sled racer, and she raises sled dogs. Almost said she raises dog sleds. I don't know if you like grow them or what. She posts about all her adventures doing all of this on Twitter. And it's delightful. She and her husband and their handler are in Alaska right now training for the Iditarod, which is so cool. It'll be her first year doing the Iditarod, she just qualified this year. She's just been posting all this really interesting stuff about a sport I didn't know anything about except for having seen Balto when I was a kid, which is a good movie. I really feel for those kids who needed their medicine. But that is about the Iditarod. It is the same course of that dog sled run to get the medicine to the kids, and it's 1000 miles.

Anna: But anyway, she posts all this stuff and she posts these great, like really long threads that she does as like bedtime stories. So she'll pick something that happened in the last couple of days and she takes lots of pictures. So for example, the most recent one is about one of her dogs, Boudica, came back from a run and she was like moving really weird. She was like really worried that she'd gotten hurt, or that she was sick or something. So she asked one of the other mushers to look at the dog. He said that she had probably pulled a muscle or jammed her shoulder or something like that. All through the thread she's saying like he moved her head back and forth, and she gave him gentle kisses. He felt her tummy and she gave him gentle kisses, and just like so delightful.

Anna: Boudica had to sleep in their tiny cabin and her and her handler were like, sharing the bed, sleeping like foot to head, and they put Boudica in the middle. They both go like, “Okay, we're going to sleep.” Boudica is a sled dog, she sleeps outside, she doesn't like to go inside. And so she didn't do so well. So they were like, “Okay, turn the lights off.” And then Boudica just kept licking them like on their faces and their eyes and stuff, and they had to cover up with blankets. So she posts all these threads and like interesting stuff about the dogs and how they are trained, and what they eat, which is lots of meat. And about how they transport them and how the sleds work and how races are run and various ways they train the dogs. Just lots of really interesting detail and really cheerful and upbeat and lots of cute pictures of dogs and puppies. I don't know, it's just like a very bright spot in my timeline.

Anna: Blair seems like a really awesome person and her husband as well. You can follow Blair on Twitter @BlairBraverman and they also have a Patreon. So if you want to help them … sledding is really expensive, so you help them buy stuff for the dogs and buy the dogs french fries so she can take pictures of them eating french fries and then post them on Twitter. But that's my recommendation to get through this long, long winter, is follow Blair.

Leila: Yes, I agree. I follow her as well. I love all the pictures of the dogs and I like when she has the pictures of the dogs talking to each other, like they have voices. It's really adorable. It's really very precious. My delightful thing is the Monopoly Man who keeps making appearances at congressional hearings for wealthy business owners. Monopoly man is a protester by the name of Ian Madrigal. They dress up like the Monopoly Man and they actually wear a monocle and a mustache and a hat that has a ‘get out of jail' free card on it and sits behind, so that they can get in the shot of the camera, behind these wealthy people and just makes like facial expressions the entire time they're talking and just kind of moves their head back and forth in and out of the camera frame.

Leila: They made an appearance at the Google CEO, Sundar Pichai's, hearing yesterday. At this one they actually added the monocle and added the ‘get out of jail' free card to their hat. I don't recommend like watching the videos of the Monopoly Man with the audio on. It's really just entertaining to watch them respond throughout the entire filming. I just love this type of protest. It's very visual and it's very funny. It's very sharp in a way that, you can't … that's not a crime. You can't remove somebody because they are dressed like the Monopoly Man waving fake hundred dollar bills around behind you. That's my delightful thing. I love this person, and they are just a lovely soul doing the Lord's work.

Anna: I love that. I love what you said about it being sharp. It's so simple and so effective. There's going to be hundreds of pictures, and they're going to go all over the world. It's very clean, very well thought out. I do have to say, every time you … when you were talking about that earlier today, every time you said Monopoly Man, I thought of Marlins Man who's just this dude who wears, head to toe, bright orange Marlins gear and apparently has access to a whole lot of money because he's always sitting like right behind home plate and major league baseball games all season long. He's like a real dick, he's an asshole. Besides, he's like the opposite of Monopoly Man. Everybody hates Marlins Man.

Leila: So the opposite of a delightful thing to share on the podcast.

Anna: Just saying, I think his alter ego is Marlins Man.

Rebecca: Yeah, it's Marlins man. It's like the Mirror Universe Monopoly Man. My delightful thing is the thing that is delighting the internet, nay the world, and that is the adorable, charming, terrifying monster known as Gritty.

Anna: Yay!

Rebecca: For anyone who has missed the memo, Gritty is the fairly new mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are Philadelphia's hockey team. You have to. If you haven't seen a picture of Gritty, just go Google Gritty.

Leila: We'll put them in the show notes.

Rebecca: Excellent. Perfect. Wonderful. The best description I've heard was from the podcast Reply All, which referred to it as a mascot that people in prison would make out of other mascots, which seems very accurate. He's giant and orange and has googly eyes, but he has come to represent everything great about Philadelphia in that he is both kind of terrifying but also lovable. We've all decided that Gritty is a socialist, like an angry old school working class socialist, because again, Philadelphia. He falls down a lot. So he's not like great at what he's supposed to be doing, but he does it with enthusiasm.

Rebecca: At various points, there have been protests. There was a Proud Boys demonstration a few weeks ago in Philadelphia in Old City, right near the Liberty Bell. It turns out very … It was one of those things where like the anti-protesters wildly overwhelmed the Proud Boys, which was beautiful, but there were also a lot of signs that were basically like Gritty doesn't want racists in our state. Generally, Gritty showed up to kick out the Proud Boys. There's even been a proclamation by the Philadelphia City Council welcoming Gritty and in particular, it was signed by Councilwoman Helen Gym, who is generally known for being pretty awesome a lefty and showing up at all of the lefty protests and stuff. I feel like that like sealed the deal in terms of yes, Gritty is the anti-mascot as well as the Flyers mascot that we all need.

Leila: Oh, right, and the Flyers.

Rebecca: Also, the Flyers I guess. That was fabulous. Also we should put in the show notes this week at the Science History Institute where I do social media. I got to post about the book tree that are wonderful, brilliant librarians built, in which they got every single orange book from the stacks and made a Gritty tree and it's fabulous.

Leila: We'll definitely include that in the show notes.

Rebecca: Gritty has even become part of the Science History Institute, and it is delightful.

Leila: I think the thing that I really like about Gritty, not living in Philadelphia, so I don't get the full Gritty experience, is the eyes and the unhinged barely contained chaos behind them. And just like perfectly encompasses how I approach the world right now.

Rebecca: Yeah, so true. It's really the eyes that make it. If they were like normal fake eyes, it would just look like a large Muppet, which Philadelphia already has one of those [crosstalk 00:57:38]

Anna: And it's terrifying. I hate that guy.

Rebecca: It's dumb. The Philly fanatic is dumb. But the eyes are really what make Gritty something special.

Anna: I think unhinged is the right word. It's like very close to the edge there.

Leila: And definitely just barely contained.

Anna: A huge upgrade on the Fanatic. I hate that thing. It has a weird tongue that comes out. I don't like it. It's upsetting.

Leila: Well, I guess we can go ahead and wrap up. It was nice to end on a delightful thing for once instead of an annoying thing. If you liked our episode today, please, please, please leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts so that new listeners can find us. And don't forget that between this episode and the January episode, if you leave us a review, we will do a drawing and you have a chance to win a free Lady Science tote bag.

Leila: If you have questions about our segments today, you can tweet us at @ladyxscience or #LadySciPod and for show notes, episode transcripts, to sign up for our monthly newsletter, read monthly issues, pitch us an idea and more, visit ladyscience.com. We are an independent magazine and so we depend on the support from our readers and listeners. You can support us through monthly donation with Patreon or through one time donations. Just visit ladyscience.com/donate and until next time you can find us on social media, Facebook at @ladysciencemag and on Twitter and Instagram at @ladyxscience.

Bonus: Talking Feminist Sociology with Zuleyka Zevallos

Bonus: Talking Feminist Sociology with Zuleyka Zevallos

Episode 14: The Tech Industry and Their Bad Ideas

Episode 14: The Tech Industry and Their Bad Ideas