Week 7 — Objectivity and Heroism

In the article Objectivity or Heroism? On the Invisibility of Women in Science, Naomi Oreskes talks about the two ideas of objectivity and heroism to describe science which is a well male dominated field.

I think Oreskes’ definition of objectivity is related to the individuals’ to be waved towards one side. In the beginning of the article, she explains “women’s invisibility in science might be that women tend to do science in a less objective, i.e., less detached or more contextualized, manner than their male counterparts and therefore have their work misinterpreted, undervalued, or harshly judged.” (Oreskes, 88) In this sense, women are penalized for their ability to be less biased and step back and look at things from more perspectives, through a less detached lens, than their male counterparts. Women are often criticized for being too emotional or too intact with their emotions which is why they are hired at more jobs that don’t leave room for emotion. Oreskes also makes the point that there have been times in history where women have done science in an objective sense but still didn’t receive the recognition they deserved due to scientific heroism.

I think Oreskes was using the term, heroism, in a sarcastic manner. Scientific heroism is the idea that male scientists were risking their lives to further the progress of science by making a new discovery and therefore should be recognized for it. The men involved in measuring the gravity effect at sea water, the S-12 expedition, was seen as heroic because they were risking their lives to discover science but in reality the trip at sea was not dangerous at all. No one was at all worried about the voyagers’ safety because they knew how mundane the trip was. Heroism is gender specific which is why women weren’t recognized or they were undervalued if they were to do the same things the male did. Orsekes uses Elenaor Lamson as an example. She was responsible for all the math used to be able to measure the gravity at sea but she wasn’t allowed to go on the voyage. “Only the men’s work could be cast as a heroic voyage to “conquer the earth’s secrets.” (Oreskes, 100). Because of this “rule” only the men were allowed to appear in front of the public eye.

The movie Hidden Figures, was about three mathematicians African-American women who did extraordinary work for NASA but unfortunately were not recognized for it, at first.During this time race and gender were huge barriers when it came to jobs and accreditation; if you were a female you were undervalued but if you were a female of color the undervaluing was even worse. Much like the arguments in Oreskes’ article, the women weren’t credited for their mathematics work behind the scenes. Since the men were the ones on the front line or the actual astronauts risking their lives for the progress of science, those were the ones who got the credit; heroism.

The choices the filmmakers made led me to believe that they were aware of or educated about segregation in the science field, not just the public. Or the filmmakers did this on accident which I highly doubt. The level of heroism that was displayed in this movie didn’t appear to be an accident.

Oreskes, N. (1996). Objectivity or Heroism? On the Invisibility of Women in Science. Osiris, 11, 87–113.

Watch Melfi, T. (2017, January 6). Hidden Figures [Biography, Drama, History]. Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films.

Fall 2020 LB 492-011