Bill Stewart bill.stewart at
Mon Feb 24 23:52:23 PST 2003

At 05:41 PM 02/24/2003 -0800, Tim May wrote:
>Seriously, this flap is old news. I remember about a dozen years ago
>when some feminista professor was teaching "female-oriented physics."
>Actually, she was _advocating_ the teaching of female-oriented physics.

Was she an actual physics professor, talking about her own field,
or some sort of literature/philosophy/sociology/politics professor?
The latter type are definitely old news, but as long as they spend their time
trying to convince female physics and mathematics professors to
think about new ways to structure or teach their curriculum, that's fine.

It's when they start dissing physics and math as "hostile to women"
and thereby discouraging young women from going into the field
that they really cause problems (as opposed to old boring sexist white male 
discouraging women from going into the field, which was the old problem.)

Actually doing a female-oriented physics or teaching curriculum is fine,
if somebody can do a good job of it.  After all, most of these fields
consist of real mathematics, exposure to real materials and their behaviour,
sets of metaphors for understanding how the math and behaviour are related,
and various levels of abstraction and concrete examples to interest students.

The math is the math, and the materials either will or won't cooperate,
but if feminist approaches can provide a set of metaphors or abstractions
that help students (or at least female-culture-oriented students)
understand how the math relates to the real world, then great!
And if they can find a set of examples or problems that are less 
male-oriented than
guns, rocketships, pushing pool cues into objects of various hardness and 
softness, or football
and if this helps female students be more interested in the problems,
or gives them examples that are more familiar to them, then great!
There's certainly no shortage of boring textbooks out there,
and if women who understand math and physics and communications can overcome
Sturgeon's Law and the textbook publishers' mafia or teacher selection 
then more power to them, and otherwise, well, the other 90% will be more 

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