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About Meg Urry…

09/21/2009

Today I booked my flight to the Women in Astronomy conference (subtitle: Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce). It takes place next month. I’m especially excited to meet interesting, brilliant, influential people such as Meg Urry, Anne Kinney (although I saw a talk of hers once), Kathie Olsen, Laurie Leshin, etc. etc.

In my unabashed excitement, I googled a healthy handful of people, and found a story from Indiana University about Meg Urry’s planned talk there earlier this year. In it, the writer mentioned Urry’s role in promoting diversity in science, and that

“Meg Urry is a leading expert in the world on black holes in galaxies, and through her work we’ve learned about the roles black holes play in the origin and evolution of galaxies,” said IU Astronomy Department Chair Caty Pilachowski.

Rightly so. Then, unexcusably, the caption under her picture (which is delightfully natural and lighthearted) says, “Meg Urry, one of the world’s leading female scientists, visits Bloomington tomorrow.” This is like saying, “Look! We found a WOMAN to talk to our department – and she’s a SCIENTIST, too!” I realize that it’s overwhelmingly likely that this was the last-minute attempt by a copy editor to write yet another thoughtless caption and does not represent any stupidly penis-centric view of the department at IU.

That said, I look forward to the day when “female scientist” is not distinguished from “scientist.” Does it really need to be stated that she’s one of the best FEMALE scientists in the world? Isn’t she simultaneously one of the best scientists – period? Is it so much to ask that things like this be eliminated from our vernacular, without whining that people like me are just angry feminists?

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