An environmentalist group, March for Science, posted a tweet asking “female[s]” who had changed their minds about engineering careers to offer suggestions for how to make the field more welcoming to women — only to end up having to apologize for using the word “female.”
“Are you a female who thought about doing engineering but decided against it?” the apparently offensive tweet, which was posted February 23, asked.
Although some women did respond with their earnest suggestions, the replies to the tweet were flooded with people who were upset about the use of the word “female.”
Some were upset for grammatical reasons, arguing that “female” was an adjective and not a noun.
(Note: Both Merriam-Webster Online and Dictionary.com state that the word can be used as both an an adjective and a noun.)
Others were upset because the use of the word “female” to mean “woman” reminded them of what a “Ferengi” would do:
@ScienceMarchDC How about calling women women and not “females”? You sound like a Ferengi.— Toni♦️ (@offbyoni) February 23, 2017
(Note: I googled “Ferengi” and it apparently has something to do with Star Trek, which is apparently a show that some people actually watch.)
Others went so far as to say that the tweet’s use of the word “female” suggests that the folks at March for Science do not see women as actually being human beings:
@ScienceMarchDC This community could start by acknowledging the humanity of women scientists by not just referring to us as “females”.— G Johnson (@Galen_A_J) February 23, 2017
@ScienceMarchDC stop using “female” as if we’re lab specimens.— Heather Van Aelst (@hvanaels) February 23, 2017
Apparently, the outrage was so significant that it prompted the March for Science to issue a five-part apology, begging for forgiveness for its “problematic tweets” and any “harm [they] caused.”
Thanks to everyone who pointed out some problematic tweets we made recently. Language matters, especially when it comes to inclusion.— March for Science (@ScienceMarchDC) February 24, 2017
We are grateful to have had folks both inside AND outside the march providing useful feedback about why these tweets were wrong.— March for Science (@ScienceMarchDC) February 24, 2017
We’re sorry for any harm we caused. We’re listening, and we’re learning.— March for Science (@ScienceMarchDC) February 24, 2017
Science is strong when we listen to each other, and make space for our many voices. We’re in this for the long haul.— March for Science (@ScienceMarchDC) February 24, 2017
Mistakes happen, and this probably won’t be the last one. But we’re in it for the long haul, and we’re listening.— March for Science (@ScienceMarchDC) February 24, 2017
Now — as I sit here typing this with both of my feet on my desk chair at the office — I can willingly admit that I’m not the best resource when it comes to manners. So, although nothing about March of Science’s tweet bothered me personally, I can recognize that the people who identified it as being “rude” probably had a point. After all, when it comes to “Victorian etiquette,” I know absolutely nothing other than that a situation where I’d be expected to adhere to it sounds terrifying to me.
But still, I kind of feel like making the jump from “rude” to “dehumanizing” is pretty absurd — especially considering that the March for Science’s intent was very clearly a feminist one. It’s almost (almost!) as if this falls under the category of “There’s just no pleasing these people.”
This story was previously reported on in an article on Heat Street.
-- Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.