Written discussion questions
From Monday’s class on
intersectionality and
Subramanium’s “Snow Brown”
Which ending(s) do you think best reflects
the state of science education and
practice in the U.S. today…and why?
Your answers:
• “The second ending asserts a more inquisitive
eye upon the scientific structure and I would
argue is a better reflection of the current state
of science education in the U.S. It asks the
questions that are relevant today and
challenges existing power structures.”
Your answers:
• “I agree that the 2nd ending is more like science today:
there are challenges to the power structure, but it has
not been removed. There is room for many types of
ideas and new perspectives, but science is still limited
within a specific community and to those with the
most education, rather than being something
everybody is able to join in the conversation about.”
Your answers:
• “I believe we live in a society that questions
the patriarchy but does not have the
movement or progress of developing equality
like we should have by now.”
Written discussion questions:
• If an appreciation for intersectionality was
the norm in science, what outcome(s)
would you anticipate for science as a
• (Positive and/or negative)
Your (positive) answers:
• “A new focus on overlooked areas of study…”
• “It would bring us closer to ‘truth’…”
• “It would disrupt the system…[and] conflict is
necessary for solutions…”
Your (positive) answers:
• “I think that it could make science stronger, even by its
own criteria (objectivity, generalizability). Being
allowed to ignore vast swaths of experience, data, and
identities doesn’t improve knowledge; it’s producing
big blind spots, real weaknesses. I definitely don’t
think it would hurt anything, but maybe it would
produce more accurate theories and better, more
inclusive studies.”
Your (positive) answers:
• “Lead to greater access for marginalized
• “could greatly diversify the field & the world’s
scientific knowledge…”
Your (mixed) answers:
• “It is good to appreciate different learning styles
but overall, science should state the facts.”
“I disagree. I think that by welcoming social
issues, science would be viewed from all angles
in every kind of light. By competing as well as
cooperating, scientific knowledge might expand
Your (mixed) answers:
• “I think consensus building and decision making would go
FAR more slowly, and it wouldn’t work in a
consumerist/capitalist society. However, it would be great
to include more versions of ‘the truth.’”
“I agree: it would complicate things and not gel well in
certain societies. It would be much harder to educate…but
I feel it might give us a better shot at the ‘truth’ of science
as well as bring up new ideas and theories in research.”
Your (mixed) answers:
“…could lead science education and research to be more open to what are
considered ‘fringe ideas’ …. But, it could also lead to such a concern for
everyone’s identities, that no real research gets done. The current system
DOES get things done, so if we completely overhaul it in favor of a more
intersectional one, we risk losing some of the conditions that facilitate
learning that we currently have. We have to recognize the positives in our
current system, and not just criticize the negatives.”
“I think that the only risk could be overdoing intersectionality, but I
don’t think that risk is very high. I do think science and objectivity are
valuable; but applying intersectionality might improve science. Within
sociology, it could lead a researcher to considering whether their study is
really including everyone, in the right way, and make for a better study.”
Your (mixed) answers:
• “…Science would become better...however, this could make some
applications of science more difficult: would medical practitioners
in every country…need to learn to practice a culturally-specific type
of medicine? How much of science would be re-written, and how
would that influence current technological advances? Would
engineers in different cultures be able to design similar structures
and machines, or would these be all different as well? These are
just some of the issues science would need to navigate if
Subramanium’s ‘postmodern fantasy’ became a reality.”
Your (negative/cautious) answers:
• “…making the science about the person who
performed it is not what science generally does.”
• “This would create bias …”
• “Adding more variables [in addition to gender] would
only create further basis for discrimination.”
• “political correctness can run amok …”
Your (negative/cautious) answers:
• “If [intersectionality were taken seriously], the science
community wouldn’t get anything done because
financial backers don’t really care about…identities”
“That’s an interesting perspective: you’re saying
that scientific research would essentially collapse?
How does one incentivize financial backers to
recognize intersectionality and place high monetary
value on it?”
Your (negative/cautious) answers:
• “the people with more experience would no
longer be the directors and as a consequence,
everyone would be in charge...”
• “People like to push norms, and if
[intersectionality] becomes the norm, people
might not push the boundaries as much as they
used to.”
“Feminist intersections in
science: Race, gender, and
sexuality through the
Lisa Weasel
Henrietta Lacks
• Rebecca Skloot, author of The
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
(2010) & the Lacks family on CBS
Sunday Morning
“Either ignoring altogether or separating out
categories such as race, class, ethnicity and
gender for individual analysis can lead to
skewed perspectives and fails to acknowledge
important ways in which social categories not
only intersect but overlay one another”
• How do you interpret what Weasel has written
…on “naturecultures”
• What does Weasel mean when she employs
the term “naturecultures”?
• How is this concept relevant to the goal of her
According to Weasel, HeLa cells have recently
been described as “a new species” (186),
“regress[ed],” occupying “an ecological niche
extremely different from that of humans,” and
“the weeds of cell culture” (187).
• Why does she find these characterizations significant?
• Do you agree with her assessment? Why or why not?
Even though Weasel is critical of how
Henrietta Lacks’ cells were taken,
proliferated, and disseminated, she
concludes by discussing the “symbiosis”
between science and society, and science
and feminism (190).
• Why does she describe these relationships in
this manner? How do you interpret it?

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