I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. I can perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. There are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women in a white male dominate society…
When I look at — throughout my life — I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Anytime I expressed this interest, teachers would say, ‘Oh, don’t you wanna be an athlete?’ I want to become someone that was outside of the paradigm of expectations of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest of the universe was so deep and so fuel enriched that everyone of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reach for more fuel, and I just kept going.
Now, here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I wanna look behind me and say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this,’ and they’re not there! …I happened to survive and others did not simply because of forces of society that prevented it at every turn. At every turn.
…My life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.
So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation.
"What’s up with chicks and science?"
Are there genetic differences between men and women, explain why more men are in science.
Oscar de la Renta, Bridal Spring 2015
In California, prison doctors have sterilized at least 148 women, mainly Mexicans, from 2006 to 2010. Why? They don’t want to have to provide welfare funding for any children they may have in the future and to eliminate ‘defectives’ from the gene pool.
The sterilization procedures cost California taxpayers $147,460 between 1997 and 2010. The doctors at the prison argue it is money well-spent.
Dr. James Heinrich, an OB-GYN at Valley State Prison for Women, said, “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
In 1909, California passed the country’s third sterilization law, authorizing reproductive surgeries of patients committed to state institutions for the “feebleminded” and “insane” that were deemed suffering from a “mental disease which may have been inherited and is likely to be transmitted to descendants.” Based on this eugenic logic, 20,000 patients in more than ten institutions were sterilized in California from 1909 to 1979. Worried about charges of “cruel and unusual punishment,” legislators attached significant provisions to sterilization in state prisons. Despite these restrictions, about 600 men received vasectomies at San Quentin in the 1930s when the superintendent flaunted the law.
Moreover, there was a discernible racial bias in the state’s sterilization and eugenics programs. Preliminary research on a subset of 15,000 sterilization orders in institutions (conducted by Stern and Natalie Lira) suggests that Spanish-surnamed patients, predominantly of Mexican origin, were sterilized at rates ranging from 20 to 30 percent from 1922 to 1952, far surpassing their proportion of the general population.
In her recent book, Miroslava Chávez-García shows, through exhaustively researched stories of youth of color who were institutionalized in state reformatories, and sometimes subsequently sterilized, how eugenic racism harmed California’s youngest generation in patterns all too reminiscent of detention and incarceration today.
California was the most zealous sterilizer, carrying out one-third of the approximately 60,000 operations performed in the 32 states that passed eugenic sterilization laws from 1907 to 1937.
Although such procedures may seem harsh, they are not illegal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1927 that women can be forcibly sterilized in jail in Buck vs Bell. Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Lara Stone, Natasha Poly, Meghan Collison, Lily McMenamy, Iselin Steiro, Mariacarla Boscono, Arthur Gosse, Hana Jirickova, Suvi Koponen, Karmen Pedaru, Soo Joo Park, Ola Rudnicka, Daisy Lowe, Anja Rubik & Daphne Groeneveld for Antidote Magazine Spring 2014
Photographed by Cuneyt Akeroglu
Sunbathers run for cover from a summer rain shower in Rio de Janiero, September 1962.
Photograph by Winfield Parks, National Geographic