Carl Sagan on why his science organization should stop excluding women (1981)

If membership is restricted to men, the loss will be ours:

Early-1981, following IBM’s withdrawal of support due to the organisation’s continued exclusion of women within its ranks, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan sent the following impassioned letter to each and every fellow member of The Explorers Club — an international society dedicated to scientific exploration since its inception in 1904 — and argued beautifully for a change of policy.

Later that year, The Explorers Club welcomed its first female members.

Carl Sagan’s letter:

Dear Fellow Member of The Explorers Club:
Thank you for the opportunity to write to you about the admission of women to The Explorers Club. The human zest for exploration and discovery is the hallmark of our species and one of the secrets of our success. It is a tradition that goes back much further than the 76 proud years in which The Explorers Club has been in existence. When our organization was formed in 1905, men were preventing women from voting and from pursuing many occupations for which they are clearly suited. In the popular mind, exploration was not what women did. Even so, women had played a significant but unheralded role in the history of exploration — in Africa in the Nineteenth Century, for example. Similarly, Lewis and Clark were covered with glory, but Sacajewea, who guided them every inch of the way, was strangely forgotten. All institutions reflect the prejudices and conventions of their times, and when it was founded The Explorers Club necessarily reflected the attitudes of 1905.
Traditions are important. They provide continuity with our past. But it is up to us to decide which traditions are essential to The Explorers Club and which are accidents of the epoch in which it was institutionalized. Times have changed since 1905. It is very clear that a foolish rigidity can destroy otherwise worthwhile institutions; they are then replaced by other organizations more in tune with the times. IBM’s recent withdrawal of corporate support for The Explorers Club because of our “exclusionary policy toward women” should be pondered carefully by every member. Many other former supporters may follow suit.
Today women are making extraordinary contributions in areas of fundamental interest to our organization. There are several women astronauts. The earliest footprints — 3.6 million years old — made by a member of the human family have been found in a volcanic ash flow in Tanzania by Mary Leakey. Trailblazing studies of the behavior of primates in the wild have been performed by dozens of young women, each spending years with a different primate species. Jane Goodall’s studies of the chimpanzee are the best known of the investigations which illuminate human origins. The undersea depth record is held by Sylvia Earle. The solar wind was first measured in situ by Marcia Neugebauer, using the Mariner 2 spacecraft. The first active volcanos beyond the Earth were discovered on the Jovian moon Io by Linda Morabito, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft. These examples of modern exploration and discovery could be multiplied a hundredfold. They are of true historical significance. If membership in The Explorers Club is restricted to men, the loss will be ours; we will only be depriving ourselves.
The supposed parallelism between our situation and those of other organizations seems to me strained. The Bohemian Club is a resort; The Explorers Club is not. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are for children. Their membership derives almost exclusively from adolescent and pre-adolescent youngsters, who have not yet fully accomodated to the opposite sex. But we presumably are adults, with a special responsibility for interacting with all humans on this planet.
I do not believe that the primary function of our organization is to promote male bonding or to serve as a social club — although there is certain room for both. I believe that the fundamental dedication of the club is that stated on the masthead of every issue of The Explorers Club Newsletter: “To the conquest of the unknown and the advancement of knowledge.” If this is our purpose, then admission should be open to all qualified members of the human species.
Cordially,

(Signed)

Carl Sagan

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Toronto Fail (Link Round-up): Shame, Not Pride, Toronto.

Here is a link round-up of some bad news in Toronto.

  • An Everyday Epic Battle: Pride Toronto, Blackness Yes, Israeli Apartheid and Sticking Together by Thea Lim (June 23, 2010):

    Long story short: Pride Toronto, which is an internationally famous week-long celebration of queer and trans pride, has made conscious or unconscious attempts to curtail the wholehearted participation of queer and trans folks of colour and their allies in Pride. They have attempted to relocate and shrink black-identified spaces, and they [had] banned [Queers Against Israeli Apartheid] from participation in Pride 2010.

  • Photos and Videos of Police Brutality June 26 and 27 2010 by Maysie (June 27, 2010):

    (In this video, G20 protesters finish singing the Canadian national anthem, “O Canada”, and immediately after, a line of riot police charge at them.)

  • The 20th anniversary of Oka and the continuation of unearthing human rights at the G8/G20 by Jessica Yee (June 29, 2010):

    Video after video, photo after photo, story after story came pouring in this weekend telling us about another friend or another relative who had been unlawfully arrested, beaten, spit on, psychologically, physically, and emotionally abused and relentlessly harassed by the police in Toronto.

Québec wants to make niqabi women illegal.

The creeping racism and eroding of civil liberties of Arizona makes me worry about the Quebec Provincial Bill 94 to exclude niqabi women from social services, employment, health, and education.

If you are Canadian and if you are not, you can take action against Bill 94. If you are emailing or writing to a government official, you can make use of the Non/No Bill 94 Coalition Statement.

Update: There is a Sample No Bill 94 Letter to Premiere Jean Charest

Vancouver 2010 pretends indigenous people have institutional power over Canada.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies were skillfully-done Canadian propaganda. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) did so many things right for the opening ceremonies with respect to indigenous-related symbolism. However, the main problem with the opening ceremonies were that they gave the impression to the rest of the world that the Canadian government respects the rights of indigenous people, when indigenous peoples are the most marginalized ethnic groups in Canada.

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White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities.

Another example of white privilege and othering is when white people assume that racialized people have deeper roots and stronger family ties than white people. The othering is based on the notion that “non-white” people are foreign people, and that “non-white” people have a stronger ethnic identity because we are more homogeneous and monolithic in ways of thought. White privilege allows white people to ignore the ways in which a white-majority society encourages only white families to lay down their roots and blossom, while historically, it enacted laws to extinguish and suppress “non-white” and racialized families.

White Americans envy African Americans for having “roots” in “Africa”, while ignoring the fact that Africa is a heterogeneous continent (like Europe), and that most African Americans cannot trace their African ancestry precisely because of white racism and slavery. It is no accident that African Americans are more likely to find documents attesting to the existence of their white ancestors. White Americans whose ancestors have been in the United States for multiple generations are the ones with the deepest roots, the ones whose histories were allowed to be recorded, the ones who own property passed down from generations, when all this was denied to non-white people.

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Unemployed? You fail at being Canadian.

Are you currently unemployed? According to the new Canadian citizenship guidebook for prospective immigrants, over 8.6% of unemployed Canadians are not fulfilling the Canadian responsibility of having a job, which now comes with the rights of having a Canadian citizenship.

The new Canadian citizenship guidebook was unveiled last week, redefining what it means to be Canadian. After all, new Canadian immigrants are more likely to be unemployed, which must mean—according to the authors of the guidebook—that their economic difficulties are a result of their failure adopt Canadian values. In addition, the new guidebook tells prospective immigrants, “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, or other gender-based violence.”

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“Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning.

german-vs-chinese-opinions
Figure 1. German (blue) versus Chinese (red) opinions, according to a German art exhibit. The piece was created by a German-educated Chinese woman named Yang Liu. Compare this symbolism with the term “Chinese fire drill”.

Excepted from East meets west: How the brain unites us all [HTML] [PDF] by Ed Yong (via MindHacks):

AS A SPECIES, we possess remarkably little genetic variation, yet we tend to overlook this homogeneity and focus instead on differences between groups and individuals. At its darkest, this tendency generates xenophobia and racism, but it also has a more benign manifestation – a fascination with the exotic.

Nowhere is our love affair with otherness more romanticised than in our attitudes towards the cultures of east and west. Artists and travellers have long marvelled that on opposite sides of the globe, the world’s most ancient civilisations have developed distinct forms of language, writing, art, literature, music, cuisine and fashion. As advances in communications, transport and the internet shrink the modern world, some of these distinctions are breaking down. But one difference is getting more attention than ever: the notion that easterners and westerners have distinct world views.

Psychologists have conducted a wealth of experiments that seem to support popular notions that easterners have a holistic world view, rooted in philosophical and religious traditions such as Taoism and Confucianism, while westerners tend to think more analytically, as befits their philosophical heritage of reductionism, utilitarianism and so on. However, the most recent research suggests that these popular stereotypes are far too simplistic. It is becoming apparent that we are all capable of thinking both holistically and analytically – and we are starting to understand what makes individuals flip between the two modes of thought.

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