Saturday, November 23, 2002

Well everyone, I pulled a 10-hour studying session on the flight home from SF, and you would not believe how much my eyes have been opened by this Women, Machines and Cyborgs course I'm doing. Ideas you take for granted (what in cultural studies is called hegemony) that fall apart at the first inspection. For example, during the Enlightenment in the 18th century, Carl Linnaeus was one of the first scientists to attempt to classify living things. Looking for a category name that would bind together al those animals that were not fish, birds, insects, worms or amphibians, he picked the name mammalia, because in all species of this category, mothers suckle their young. He could equally have chosen pilosae (mammals uniquely all have hair) or aurecavigae (mammals all have a hollow ear, with three ear-bones, in common). Some people point out that he may have had personal political reasons for deliberately choosing the term "mammalia" from the range of options.

At the same time, Linnaeus classified modern humans as homo sapiens. So the implication is: it's the (uniquely) female lactating breast that provides the common link with animals, but it's the "masculine" quality of reason that sets us apart. Sexism is still alive and well in science!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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