|"Oh, Beaver! I LOVE to shop!"|
The author, Ed Rybicki, purports to compare the shopping styles of men and women. Thanks to passages like the one below, I was transported back to a time when men were men, women were women, and Hugh Hefner had just published the first issue of his groundbreaking new magazine, Playboy, which men like these read only for the articles. Rybicki writes:
At this point I must digress, and mention, for those who are not aware, the profound differences in strategy between Men Going Shopping and Women Going Shopping. In any general shopping situation, men hunt: that is, they go into a complex environment with a few clear objectives, achieve those, and leave. Women, on the other hand, gather: such that any mission to buy just bread and milk could turn into an extended foraging expedition that also snares a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes; a useful new mop; three sorts of new cook-in sauces; and possibly a selection of frozen fish.Stereotype much? Let me help you gain some clarity: I detest shopping. I hate the grocery store. My least favorite day of the week is Monday, not because it's MONDAY but because it is grocery store day. I purchase clothing about twice a year in 10-minute microbursts of laser-targeted selections, primarily because I so very much hate shopping. I own clothes that date back almost to the era from which this writer appears to hail, because I so very much hate shopping. As a woman, I am not alone in that--about 50% of my sex (warning: more sexism at link), it seems, joins me in the repulsion.
The writer goes on to draw out a strained discretization of women as Gatherers and men as Hunters--perhaps he's not familiar with the fact that some of us are more Neanderthal than others and that Neanderthals didn't do that whole hunter-gatherer thing--and uses it as a springboard for an epiphany about parallel universes. It strains to the point of shatter, but it's along the lines of, "Women have mysterious ways of finding mysterious things in mysterious spaces while shopping, spaces men seem incapable of finding," extrapolated to "Women reside in a parallel universe." He then discusses having consulted other men to "observe such phenomena," collecting their observations about how women shop.
Playboy writing, this is not. Sexist writing, it is.
It goes on:
Women can access parallel universes in order to find things, whether they do it consciously or not. They have probably always been able to do this, and now there is fierce speculation as to whether this constituted the evolutionary advantage we had over other primates: the presence of bulbs, grains and nuts on the table that had been retrieved from parallel universes when the hunters came home empty-handed was probably a major factor in the survival of our species."Probably always been able to do this"? While the idea in itself isn't without support--see "Neanderthal lack of division of labor may have contributed to their extinction"--to connect this to some 1950s conception of Women-Shop-Gatherer vs Men-Shop-Hunter is sexist and a metaphorical failure. Has the writer ever been hunting? Far more than gathering, hunting involves finding--and taking--elusive food in places that themselves can be elusive. The parallels posited in this piece aren't parallels. The acts of hunting and gathering intersect in any number of complex ways that defy easy categorization, including division by sex.
Continuing with the "Take my wife...please" banter, the writer states that the difference between women's capacity to find things in a parallel universe in Ye Olden Tymes and our ability to do it today is that today, "they (italics mine) know they can do it." This knowledge, it seems, means "things have changed." I'm a touchy feminist, and when I see men bemoaning that women have become empowered through knowledge, I turn into a somewhat stabby feminist.
The stabbiness became extreme when I reached the penultimate graf of this sexist anachronism:
Because groceries aren't all they go looking for. It turns out the next item on the shopping list is better-looking versions of us.
Follow on Twitter: #womanspace
- Comments on the piece at Nature. Some blithe. Some angry. Some dismissive.
- A letter to the editor of Nature, "Women: Sexist fiction is alienating," taking issue in much more sober fashion than I with what the piece said and with the effect of countenancing this kind of sexism.
- And another letter to the editor, "Women: Latent bias harms careers," doing the same.
- From Janet D. Stemwedel, a member of the Scientific American blog network (a part of the Nature Publishing network), "In which I form a suspicion that I am not Nature's intended audience."
- Also from a Scientific American blogger, Christie Wilcox, "The Charismatic Misogynist."
- A letter that appeared in the Nov. 4 issue of AASWomen, addressing Nature's editor-in-chief, nothing that he is not the EIC of Cosmo.
- A post from Dr. Isis: "What Womanspace really looks like and why Nature can suck it."
- From Alex Wild at Scientific American: "Nature Publishing Group's New Journal: Womanspace." Now that's tongue in cheek.
- From Paul Anderson, who points out that the "Womanspace" piece in fact violates Nature's own comment policy.
- From Stages of Succession: NPG WTF.
- Anne Jefferson makes the point in her title: "Dear Nature, you got a sexist story, but when you published it, you gave it your stamp of approval and became sexist, too."
- And the smart Kate Clancy, also blogging at Scientific American (again, part of NPG), invites us to Occupy NPG.
- Matthew Francis at Galileo's Pendulum has a warning from Galileo himself.