Fall 1999 Prof. D. deB. Beaver
Bronfman 117; ext. 2239


     To understand the historical and contemporary interrelationships among women, gender, science, and technology,

     Although science is thought to produce "objective" knowledge, some critics claim that the basic assumptions and methods of science are so gender-biased that scientific "objectivity" is compromised.  (Others go further to claim there can be no such thing as "objectivity".)  In part, those critics are moved to such claims because supposedly objective science seems to show that gender and behavior are innately sex-linked.  How much are the critics to be believed?  How and to what extent did gender become embedded in scientific activity?  What consequences have there been for women or men as scientists, and what consequences has  'androcentric' science had for women?
 In similar fashion, it appears that technology is masculine, or so we perceive it in Western culture.  Has technology always been so?  How did it get that  way - did it start with "Man the Hunter"?  What role have women played in the development of technology, and how has technological change affected the roles of women, and the ideas of gender?  What alternatives might there be to how things are?


    Put briefly, in the first two-thirds of the course we study (1) how science defines and has defined "the female," (2) how feminists assess science, and (3) how women do and have done science.
    We begin with a study of gender and science, and feminist theory about science.  We first study how science in the 18th and 19th centuries constructed and defined the "female," and also how those developments gradually led to the virtual exclusion of women from research by 1800.  We then turn to the 20th century, to see how sciences such as biology, anthropology, and psychology look at sex, gender and at women.  We are then ready to consider the "science question in feminism," or how and why feminist theories critique science.
    Our focus shifts to women as scientists, past and present, and to some of the characteristics of women's careers in science.  As women returned to research in the late 19th and early 20th century, we study some pioneers and contemporary exemplars.  Turning from individuals, we look at what sociologists of science have said about women's careers in science, including a recent comparative study of female and male scientists.  Could alternative science and mathematics education make a difference?  Are there differences between males and females in mathematical ability?  Finally, we invite female scientists at Williams to discuss their careers and reflections about science.
    In the last third of the course, we go over the same ground with technology as the focus, rather than science.  This part of the course deals mostly with women and/in technology, because feminist analyses of technology, and attempts to construct a theory of feminist technology are relatively scarce.  [Why should that be so?]
    We begin with technologies viewed through the lens of feminism, and study how microwave technology exemplifies the interrelations of technology and gender.
    We then consider the factors involved in becoming a professional engineer, and finish with a historical look at domestic technology and the changing roles of women as household manager - workers.


     This course will be conducted as a seminar, with students having principal responsibility for reading appropriate materials, and for generating questions for discussion during the class periods.  In large measure, this course will be an exploration of ideas, and the success of that exploration depends upon participation by all.  Because we have only 26 classes [13 weeks] and 9 texts, reading assignments will occasionally be lengthy.  It is advisable to use skimming skills to get through long assignments, and to get a good sense of the reading and its major themes, rather than trying to master every detail.  Have 2 or 3 questions or opinions about the assignment ready for class.

     Partly in contrast to the commonality imposed by the seminar readings, each student is to write two short papers [1500 words or more each].  The topics are each student's choice, and are not limited to topics already considered in the course.  For example, there are a number of interesting topics the course does not cover, such as ecofeminism, women in the workplace, feminist utopias, female inventors, women's technology, girls and boys in science education.

     Principally as a means of reviewing and bringing focus to the course, there will be some sort of final review exercise after Thanksgiving.

   Grades in the course are to be determined approximately as follows:
Class Participation 35%
Short Papers 35%
Final Review 30%

There are 9 required textbooks for this course. They are:
Cynthia Russett,  Sexual Science
Ruth Bleier,  Science and Gender
Sandra Harding,  The Science Question in Feminism
Londa Schiebinger,  The Mind Has No Sex?
Gerhard Sonnert,  Who Succeeds in Science?
Judy Wajcman,  Feminism Confronts Technology
C. Cockburn and S. Ormrod,  Gender and Technology in the Making
J. McIlwee and J. Robinson,  Women in Engineering
Ruth Schwartz Cowan,  More Work for Mother

In addition to the textbooks, there is a packet of papers available as a course packet [445 pages; below cost: $15.00], available from Mrs. Alice Seeley, in Bronfman 189:
Date Needed
Pringle New Women of the Ice Age
Sept. 30
Rossiter Women's Work in Science 
Oct. 12
Mitchell Henrietta Leavitt
Oct. 12
Patterson Mary Somerville
Oct. 12
Brush Drudges or Discoverers
Oct. 12
Et al Contemporary Exemplars
Oct. 12
Astin Citation Classics
Oct. 14
Cole/Zuckerman Marriage and Motherhood 
Oct. 14
Bielby Sex Differences in Careers
Oct. 14
Fox Gender, ...and Science 
Oct. 14
Keller The Wo/Man Scientist
Oct. 14
Cole and Fiorentine Discrimination, Outcome/Process
Oct. 14
Rosser Reaching the Majority
Nov. 2
Campbell/C-Wright Toward a Feminist Algebra
Nov. 2
Sanders Girls and Technology
Nov. 2
Barad Feminist Approach Quantum Physics
Nov. 2
Gross/Levitt Critique of Feminism re Science
Nov. 2
Benbow Sex Differences in Mathematics
Nov. 4
Et al More Commentary on Benbow
Nov. 4
Selkow Male-Female Math Differences
Nov. 4