Colorado College Astrophysics Prof Claims the Study of Space Is Racist, Sexist
Colorado College astrophysics professor Natalie Gosnell says her field is engrossed in “white supremacy” and sexism, adding that language used to describe the cosmos is “very violent and hyper-masculine.”
Gosnell, who is dismayed over society separating “math” and “creativity” into two categories, says dichotomizing these two characteristics is rooted in systemic racism and sexism, according to a report by Colorado College News.
“As an astrophysicist, I’m a product of institutions that are steeped in systemic racism and white supremacy,” Gosnell told the student newspaper.
“The tenets of white supremacy that show up [in physics] of individualism and exceptionalism and perfectionism… it’s either-or thinking, and there’s no subtlety, there’s no gray area,” the professor added. “All of this manifests in the way that we think about our research, and what counts as good research, what counts as important research?”
Colorado College News concurred, adding that “most of Gosnell’s career has been dictated by the hyper-masculine world of astrophysics.”
When a star transfers its mass to an orbiting star, for example, this process is discussed “through a violent, hyper-masculine lens,” the student newspaper said, noting that the phenomenon has been referred to as a “Vampire star” or “Cannibal star,” with Gosnell adding that these stars are also viewed as the “bad boys” of the universe.
“I think because science and art have been so separated, and there’s — systemic issues within science, the metaphors that are often chosen [to discuss science] are very violent and hyper-masculine,” the professor said.
Gosnell added that in 2010, when she was featured on the Discovery channel’s How the Universe Works, she “totally played into [the hyper-masculine stereotypes] while talking about her research on the mass-transfer phenomenon.
“I totally played into [the hyper-masculine stereotypes], because, ooh, snazzy. I get to be on the Discovery Channel,” she said. “Of course, like, the price was too high.”
“It felt like I was masquerading, essentially, as what an astrophysicist was supposed to be like,” Gosnell added.