Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gaillard vs Ferrara 1981: are these discussions sane?

A sickeningly direct perspective into the feminist manipulations within the Academia

A month ago, the achieved phenomenologist Mary Gaillard (Berkeley) released her book "A Singularly Unfeminine Profession: One Woman's Journey in Physics". As you can imagine, the title has a similar effect on me as a red towel has on a bull. I am even inclined to think that the title – and probably much of the content – is considered repulsive by most of the potential readers. only offers two short reviews – one five-star review (saying "great read" and "fantastic") and one one-star review which says that the book is boring and at one point, it talks about skiing trips and getting a new credit card. Nothing interesting to be found in the book, we hear.

Gaillard has collected more than 16,000 citations and has worked on things like superstring phenomenology – after she was deriving masses of heavy quarks from grand unified theories and similar things. There could be many interesting physics things to explain.

Instead, most of the book seems to be about whining, boasting, feminism, and similar crap. At least that's how I understand the review in Nature titled Physics: She did it all. No, I don't believe for a second that "she did it all".

Val Gibson, the reviewer, tells us quite some details about the purely personal stories that this book is full of. When she was starting the graduate school, her husband (or soon-to-be-husband) Jean-Marc Gaillard (so far a postdoc) got a job in Orsay. Such "two-body problems" may be difficult but it was natural for her to move to Orsay, too. She complains that for a year, she had to do some work at home. What's wrong with that? Most people – and especially women – do some work at home. And a graduate student who moved from a different continent just can't be offered a professor job just to save her from household chores.

Later, she complains that she had to deal with three children and also face "gender bias". What's wrong with children? And didn't she have to answer "Yes" to a question before they were born, anyway? We learn that she forgot to pick her son from a music lesson in a cold weather, gave him insufficient money for a bus so he was fined. But she also thanked him (when he was 9) for some calculations in the acknowledgements of the "penguin diagram" paper (I am pretty sure that this acknowledgement was bogus).

The framing of the stories seems to make it obvious that for this lady, the career and the credit were always above the scientific truth.

The greatest injustice apparently was that she wasn't offered a job by the CERN theory group in 1981. Peter W*it at the notorious far-left anti-science website, "Not Even Wr*ng", even complains that Sergio Ferrara was probably hired instead of her. Even if this story were accurate, we must say: What a crime! You may check that the number of Ferrara's citations is twice as high as Gaillard's but close to 40,000 according to Google Scholar and 32,000 according to INSPIRE. Especially because of Ferrara's pioneering contributions to the newly born supergravity, I think that Ferrara is ultimately a more important and more original physicist.

Someone may disagree. But are these people serious when they try to attack the 1981 CERN admission committees just because they didn't hire a female candidate from a list of similarly fit candidates? Aren't these critics ashamed for their staggeringly obvious "gender bias"?

And I am not even mentioning the sociological issues that may have played a role in those decisions. The CERN theory group was employing both Jean-Marc Gaillard, Mary Gaillard's first husband whom she divorced in 1981, as well as Bruno Zumino, her second husband whom she married soon afterwards (and who died in 2014).

Whatever the exact relationships and justifications of the divorce were, can you imagine the tension of a workplace that would employ both the wife as well as the two husbands? And I think that the intense mixture of the physics and personal topics makes it obvious that Mary Gaillard worked hard to entangle the hiring decisions with her decisions in the personal life in many convoluted ways.

It seems plausible that in 1981, she demanded CERN to fire her first husband so that she may stay there happily with the second one or something of the sort. At any rate, something like that would probably be needed if they wanted to hire her. Such considerations shouldn't be primary but they may still be sufficient. It was much healthier for Bruno Zumino and his new wife to leave.

Even if there were a hiring mistake of CERN in 1981, and I don't see any evidence that there was one, it was simply a decision that was made by some people who had the power to decide about these matters in 1981. You can't rewrite the history. You are not the director general of CERN from 1981.

As the previous paragraph suggests, the top villain of the book is Leon Van Hove (yes, the Van Hove singularity in crystals), a former director general of CERN, who subjected her to the "determined antifeminism". What a sin. In reality, every decent person is a "determined antifeminist". Like fascism, feminism is a totalitarian ideology that has to be firmly opposed, especially in the workplace where some people attempt to achieve certain things by combining this ideology with their being female.

The book apparently mixes the picture of her being permanently suppressed and her being a "grande dame". This mixture of pride and victimism sounds kind of inconsistent to me.

We learn that she was a prolific member of assorted feminist task forces as early as in 1980 when she complained that 3% of CERN staff were female. We hear that Gaillard became a "feminist out of the necessity". Well, right, if you're female and so obsessed with your career that you are willing to do any dirty thing one may imagine, you will probably become a feminist. It just happens that the first female appointed to a CERN senior position afterwards (in 1994), Fabiola Gianotti, will become the director general from January 2016. Nothing against her – I think she's great – but if you claimed that this promotion has had nothing to do with reverse sexism, you will leave me deeply skeptical.

Pretty much every scientist – and perhaps every human being – has been facing similar hurdles and enjoying similar successes. The idea that these human stories prove that there was some systematic harassment against the women is just plain dishonest. The main difference is that most men wouldn't whine about such common things so much.

I think that if I wanted to viscerally hate her, I would buy and read the book. At the same moment, I probably feel nice about this book's being so extremely far from the bestseller status.

No comments:

Post a Comment