The so-called March for Science is a social justice movement planning a major demonstration next month to oppose President Trump’s policies on science and the environment. Its promoters have courted the progressive crowd, and now they’re reaping the consequences. Namely, they recently came under fire for using the word “female.”
In late February, the organizers tweeted out a question: “Are you a female who thought about doing engineering but decided against it? Why? What can the science community do better? #ScienceMarch”
This seemingly innocuous tweet was intended to ask supporters—especially young women—why they were supporting the March, soliciting suggestions to address gender inequality within STEM fields.
With their penchant to be readily outraged, progressives following the account completely missed the point and took it to task for using the word “female.”
Michael Oman-Reagan, a Canadian anthropologist best known for demanding the “queering” of space travel and fierce critic of the Oxford Dictionary’s “sexist definitions,” asked in apparent reference to Star Trek’s “females” meme:
“Are you a Ferengi who thought about doing Twitter but decided against it? Why? What can the science community do better?”
Alessondra Springmann, a self-described “anticolonial intersectional feminist” told them to “delete your account you colossal waste of carbon.”
Other accounts echoed the remarks, telling the March for Science to stop referring to women as females. Rachael Tatman, a Linguistics PhD candidate at the University of Washington stated: “I don’t love ‘female’ as a noun to refer to women. Makes you sound like a Ferengi.”
The criticism is fair enough—even Victorian etiquette manuals suggest against using “males” and “females” when you can easily say “men” and “women.”
In response, the organizers issued a profuse apology in a series of tweets, writing:
“Mistakes happen, and this probably won’t be the last one. But we’re in it for the long haul, and we’re listening.”
“Science is strong when we listen to each other, and make space for our many voices. We’re in this for the long haul.”
“We’re sorry for any harm we caused. We’re listening and we’re learning.”
“We are grateful to have had folks both inside AND outside the march providing useful feedback about why these tweets were wrong.”
“Thanks to everyone who pointed out some problematic tweets we made recently. Language matters, especially when it comes to inclusion.”
By getting outraged over the account’s harmless use of the term instead of addressing the question it asked, progressives showed where their priorities lie. Some are more interested in having academic arguments over identity instead of dealing with the pertinent issues. After all, what harm does using the term “female” actually cause?
To paraphrase Sayre’s law, it’s easy to get worked up over nonsense because the stakes are so low—in any dispute, the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake. After all, working to address any real issues would take far more effort than tweeting angrily about it.