High schools and STEM departments like to talk about the Englightenment like it was some sort of a good thing. Fun story, if you notice, Newton, Locke, Milton, Hooke, all of these people, were male. All of their political opinions and their ‘logic’ has been biased by their male, dominant perspective. Think about it, why else would there be so few women in STEM? It’s because the laws and logic applied to these subjects were pioneered by males. Women weren’t even allowed to study STEM till early last century (unless you were aristocracy, where you should see the classism right as I mention it).
So, for nearly four hundred (!) years, the West followed, even revelled in the unparalleled superiority that they gained from entrenched male dominance in the society. We didn’t even realize this till a few decades ago, when philosophers like Derrida, Lacan, Doris Lessing, and Kathy Acker, realized that all perspectives are used by people to gain and maintain positions of power. Now you know where the expressions ‘man of the house’ or ‘breadwinner’ or even ‘expert in the field’ come from. These are expressions that allow people to maintain power in society, and oppress those who speak against them. Did you notice that I had to type the full names of the women, but only the last names of the men? Even in our fight against centuries of male dominant patriarchy (that’s what this is, in case you haven’t realized), our female scholars are not as famous and influential as the males.
Let’s take a look at physics and computer science, two of the most notorious fields for women. Almost the entirety of these fields consist of rich, privileged white males who learn about ‘logic’ and ‘formal mathematics’ while at University. Sounds perfectly acceptable, right? Except you should notice that it’s primarily men who talk about the logic and mathematics and ‘facts’ that they learn here. Barely 10% of these fields are women, if even. Why? Because women are ostracized and hounded out of these fields for not adhering to centuries old sexist notions of ‘logic’ and ‘facts’. Sexist, because these notions were created by males, propagated by males, and have been used by males for centuries to stay at the top of the power structure, readily and willingly oppressing those who do not immediately and unquestioningly accept their words.
That brings me to the primary point of the modern academic fight. Fields like feminist politics, women’s studies, and the ethnic studies departments are trying to make a difference in this world. They have detached themselves from dogmatic notions of ‘logic’ and are more open to the ideas and perspectives of people who have been historically oppressed and left without a voice. Finally, women, people of colour, and non-male sections of academia are fighting back against the hegemony of the ‘hard sciences’. People are becoming more open to the interpretations of the world that do not conform to centuries-old ideas that were started off by rich white males with powdered wigs.
We, as women (and men, as long as you realize that you have been in power for the entire history of our species), and members of all other oppressed demographics, owe it to ourselves to reclaim academia. If we can reclaim queer, we can reclaim ‘logic’. We can reclaim ‘facts’. These are words that do not need to refer to rigid, dogmatic ideals projected upon us by males of influence. These are words that can be reclaimed, and given a new, more inclusive meaning that encompasses the hardships and nuances of the lives and workings of everything that isn’t male and dominant. And it’s about time we started taking them back.