Where are the women in math/science?

Every now and then I’ll have a conversation where the topic flows into women throughout history. The conversations can become frustrating because according to some, if women were in fact equal by nature then history should reflect their accomplishments. The oppressions of the patriarchy are always dismissed as a minor obstacle that the truly great women of history should have been able to overcome. The specifics of the conversation generally go something like this:

Man (it’s usually a man; I am not trying to be stereotypical): If women were really just as good as men we would hear more about women in those fields through history. If women are just as good why don’t we hear more about women scientists and mathematicians?

Me: Those fields are historically dominated by men because men were the ones to have education in math and science. Or education at all.

Man: But there are always the cases where a woman is a genius. Why don’t we hear about those women?

Me: We do, they’re just not talked about as often as their male counterparts because the fields are incredibly sexist and gendered. Women are not naturally worse at math and science.

Man: But they are, otherwise we would hear about more of them.

By this point I don’t know what else to say. it’s enough that the conversation is working from the starting point that women are not equal, but it continues to degrade women by talking about ‘special cases’ where a woman is a genius. Apparently only geniuses are good with math and science. Women in male dominated fields are barely talked about because women’s history is designated to one month of the year and that’s good enough. The patriarchy considers women to be another minority to be designated to second class status. This might be a news flash to some people, but women are half the population and have talents just as widespread and immense as men.

To paraphrase a quote from Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, women are given ‘trifling employments’ and therefore are ‘triflers’. This was true in 1792 when the text was written and it is true today as well. Girls are raised to play house and  play with dolls, while boys are building lego cities. Is it surprising then that more men are architects and engineers? That more men have developed the critical thinking skills of math or science? Historically speaking, when women were not allowed a proper education outside of the home and family life, is it surprising that women scientists and mathematicians were a rarity?

My room mate is a math major. I know tons of brilliant women majoring in the hard science. They are not exceptions to the rule that men dominate in math and science because that rule does not exist.

What do you say in a conversation where the opposing party is so set in his or her ways? I’ve had this conversation with my brother before and it is perhaps the most frustrating topic to dig into. If you have any incite into how to handle these sexist discussions or would like to share your own stories about how ‘men are logical’ and women are ’emotional’ I would love to hear from you.

 

The Men of Dragon Ball Z

*note, I am back in college and no longer have access to my copies of the manga, any references to the series will be paraphrased quotations and is no longer a direct quote from the text. If I miss anything or you feel I taken too much license on the information I provide feel free to talk to me about it.

I’ve been getting a lot of comments by UnderwolfYamcha on my blog Women in Dragon Ball Z and I wanted to more fully address some of the issues that came up.

The comment thread began with an explanation that Akira Toriyama treats his male characters poorly as well as his female characters. My first point is that yes, this is true. Akira Toriyama is constantly playing up stereotypes of both genders, but in the Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z Universe, you earn respect of both fans and the characters in the show by being the toughest and the strongest. Each character’s worth is hinged upon their ability to hold their own in a fight. If you cannot compete with that arc’s big bad then your character is shafted to a more minor role. It’s very convenient that the stereotype for men is to be a tough, strong badass.

While there are exceptions, which I’ll get into later, these are the stereotypes Akira Toriyama presses. There are too many male characters to go person by person like I did for the women of DBZ, but in Toriyama’s series men are the epitome of typical masculinity. They are incredibly muscled (which is fine as the show is so action based and requires them to be so) and they do not show serious emotions other than anger. If they do then the audience knows something is serious. The male characters don’t cry very often. I can count the number of times a male character cries on one hand: Vegeta cries when Frieza kills him, Trunks cries when the androids kill Gohan in The History of Trunks movie, and Gohan cries when Piccolo dies and when Goku sacrifices himself to destroy Cell.  It is rare for someone to cry; it is not manly. Goku doesn’t cry when he realizes Vegeta and Nappa killed Yamcha, Tien, Piccolo, and Chiaotzu; he gets angry. Vegeta doesn’t cry when Cell kills his son Trunks; he gets angry. Unless the character is young, as in the case of both Gohan and Trunks, or the situation is incredibly serious, the more acceptable response is anger.

This becomes a problem because although the series is so deeply rooted in action scenes, almost all of the plot arcs are character based. It is severely limiting to the characters when the emotional responses are kept within a neat box of what’s acceptable for men. I do understand that this is Japanese culture and the cultural norms are bound to be different, but no matter what culture it comes from sexism is still sexism. Boys should not be exposed to the idea that men can only solve problems through violence. This is the first way Akira Toriyama treats his male leads poorly: he doesn’t let them be fully developed and provides a poor image for young boys.

But there are a few characters who do not fit into this masculine stereotype: the male characters who are played as sleazy cads (Master Roshi, Oolong, and occasionally Krillin).

  

So, both Master Roshi and Oolong are clearly established from the start of Dragon Ball as being sleazy and  not particularly upset by the notion. Master Roshi is infatuated with Bulma’s breasts, going so far as to call her Goku’s boingy friend when he meets Chi-Chi and notices Chi-Chi is not nearly as  developed as Bulma.  This is, of course, in addition to reading porn magazines, teaching Goku and Krillin to read through bodice ripper books, and attempting to molest Bulma or sexually harassing her on multiple occasions. Master Roshi only agrees to accept Krillin as another disciple when the two of them bond over porn Krillin brings as a present. To be fair to Krillin, this is minor in his character arc but as it is also one of the first introductions of him in the series it needs to be taken into account of how he is portrayed.

Oolong has similar circumstance to Master Roshi where once he is revealed in his true form (he’s a shape shifter) the audience learns how he was expelled from shape shifting school for stealing the female teacher’s panties. He goes on to save the Dragon Ball crew by wishing for “a hot girl’s panties” and interrupting Emperor Pilaf’s wish to rule the world. Although the accidental hero, Toriyama uses Oolong as another tool to portray Bulma as a sex object. Goku makes a deal with Master Roshi that in exchange for Master Roshi’s help Master Roshi will be able to squeeze Bulma’s breasts. When Bulma learns of this she convinces Oolong to shapeshift into her. Oolong does so and tells Master Roshi he can do a ‘Puff Puff’ instead of squeezing her breasts. Between Master Roshi and Oolong there is no respect for the female characters and the two of them are another poor portrayal of men. Instead of being unemotional and masculine they are dishonorable and it is played for laughs. In this way they are both sexist against men, who in this sense are being portrayed as sexist pigs, and against women because the issues of molestation are never taken into account.

The common thread between these characters are that they are not always honorable (with Krillin as the exception when he gets older) and they therefore cannot be truly masculine. The true stereotype of masculinity is that not only are the men strong but they are also chivalrous (Vegeta being the only one to continually break this trope). It’s no accident that the characters who are portrayed as being less than the ideal of masculinity are an old man, a pig, and (occasionally) the short man. As a side note, as Krillin’s character develops and he grows up, his perverted side is never mentioned and so he becomes more and more like the chivalrous hero of Goku.

The men of Dragon Ball Z are therefore limited on two fronts: either hyper-masculine and unable to express emotions, or sleazy womanizers who are shown to be unmasculine because they are not chivalrous. Both are harmful stereotypes for boys and the only alternative is the characters who do not fit into these two types. Unfortunately they are largely ignored (Yamcha, Tien, Chiaotzu, etc) because they are not characters designed to be in the stagnant DBZ world where strength is the quality that matters. The human characters, except Krillin, lose their importance when they can no longer compete with the main heroes. This is similar to how women lose their importance if they lose their beauty by stereotypical standards.

For all that I love DBZ the portraits of the male protagonists are not progressive and only further distance the ideals that men and women should strive for. By highlighting such different and and harmful ideals for the two sexes DBZ and Toriyama promotes a sexist society.

As a note, this is an overview of the male characters. There are far too many to include in this post. If you would like to request a specific character post please let me know and I would be happy to oblige.

“It’s a Man’s World”

Six months ago I would have denied that statement. I would have explained how the feminist movement of the past generated equality, and even if it wasn’t perfect I would not have admitted that it was a man’s world. Coming to terms with the inequality and sexism around me would have been acknowledging my own ignorance and silence. Two months ago I would have agreed that it’s a man’s world but been too afraid to say so.

Yesterday I told my grandfather that he was right: it is a man’s world. And that’s why the feminist movement is necessary.  So long as we live in a world controlled by one sex and a world that is gendered we will need feminism.

When I discuss feminism with my brother, as I have been doing long before I worked up the courage to call myself a feminist, his understanding of feminists is women who are too ugly to get a man and so whine and complain about the unfairness of the system. To him, and myself for a long while, women had already achieved enough equality that feminism had no purpose.  It couldn’t be a man’s world because that realization was too painful.

But by understanding the truth of the situation that the patriarchy exists is the first step toward building true equality. This post is a reminder as to why feminism is necessary and why being a feminist is such a powerful tool.

My mother has been told in debates that she’s too emotional. My friends have been told the same. I do not want to let this happen to anyone else.

For all the women who have been told feminism is no longer necessary, that your worth depends on your beauty and for all the men who have been told emotions are for women and that real men look like Superman and act like Batman, this is for you. Men and women should not live in a ‘man’s world’ but a world of the people.