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In which I form the suspicion that I am not Nature's intended audience.

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Without the benefit of lots of time for reflection or analysis, my off-the-cuff reactions to Ed Rybicki's piece "Womanspace" in the "Futures" section of Nature:

  1. It suggests (incorrectly) that I, as a middle-aged woman, might not be so interested in electronic gadgets or classic rock.
  2. And that I, as a woman, have some innate (or socially conditioned) "gatherer" approach to shopping, which I don't; I'm more of the "hunter" Rybicki describes, which I suppose makes me masculine.
  3. As well, being a "hunter"-style shopper does not get me out of primary responsibility for acquiring clothes for my children. (Indeed, while I have been lectured by a teacher about how worn-out knees and art-related stains on my child's clothes might erode that child's self esteem, no teacher has ever taken up this issue with the male parent of that child. It's clear whose job the teachers think it is to clothe the children properly.)
  4. Also, "a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes" is so far off my shopping radar as to be in some other universe within the multiverse. Again, does this mean I'm not a proper member of the category "women"?
  5. With regards to Rybicki's question, "Have you never had the experience of talking to your significant female other as you wend your way through the complexity of a supermarket — only to suddenly find her 20 metres away with her back to you?", my mind is drawn not to gendered differences (whether innate or learned) in movement through space-time but rather to differences (likely learned, likely variable within members of genders) in how people engage (or don't) with those with whom they are trying to have a conversation.
  6. Even given my fairly low level of shopping-fu, I would never expect to find underwear ("knickers") in a supermarket. Perhaps this is because I have been responsible for buying my own clothing (and food) for my whole adult life, which has given me at least a passing familiarity with what items are stocked in a supermarket and what items are stocked in a clothing store.
  7. If presenting as male in society would mean that someone else would take on responsibility for buying my clothing, I would seriously consider it. Even though I can't grow facial hair worth a damn.
  8. Demonstrating incompetence once again is demonstrated to be an excellent strategy to avoid being asked to take on a task a second time -- unless, of course, it is a task that is deemed a "natural" area of competence for members of your gender, in which case you're pretty much out of luck weaseling out of it. (This is why I have to buy my own damn clothes.)
  9. Once again, I am frustrated that science fiction seems focused mainly on rethinking our technologies and the physical structure of our reality, rather than on imagining new social structures, relations, and expectations about human diversity.

Maybe all this shows is that Rybicki, in his piece, was not talking to me. If so, I hope that Nature is consciously adopting the strategy of being a "lad mag" (albeit a geeky one), else they are unwittingly alienating a good portion of their potential audience accidentally, which seems foolish.

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For a bigger-picture response, read Christie.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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