Over the years, Popular Science has strived to answer your questions about the world we live in. What's on the moon? Why don't we have flying cars? How do magnets work? As compelling and relevant as these questions are, though, none inspires as much fury as the age-old debate on whether men and women are equally capable.
For the most part, we answered no. Like it or not, our magazine has always been a product of its time, and for at least the first 70 years of our 138-year history, we held men in higher esteem because science and feminist literature had not yet given us reason to believe that women could accomplish much on a grand scale.
Click to launch the photo gallery.
While the battle of the sexes began thousands of years ago, we began paying extra attention to it in 1920, when women won the right to vote. Women began to matter, and as a male-dominated publication, we weren't sure we approved. We balked women female athletes either broke, or came close to breaking records held by men. We scoffed at women who thought they could drive without getting into an accident. "Men, it seems, are able to beat women in sports just because they are men, endowed by nature with superior qualities of speed, strength, and stamina!" we wrote after arguing why women's sports were a farce.
Still, we couldn't deny the psychology reports demonstrating that male and female students scored equally on intelligence tests. We couldn't deny that the male and female brains donated to science bore the same weight and measurements. A few of our writers conceded, saying that men and women were separate but equal. Their intelligence and temperaments complemented each other.
But this is the pre-Betty Friedan era we're talking about. Calling women equals in the mid-1920s might have been a step forward, but later that decade, we took two steps back after publishing Dr. Prescott Lecky's article on why women can never achieve greatness.
"Women do not count large among the geniuses because they do not want to be geniuses," he wrote. "They want to be women."
Offended? Amused? Or (lord help you) inspired? Click through our gallery to read more about the early 20th century's attitude toward female intelligence, athletic ability and driving skills.
Yes, women can now get a drivers license - but no, they still can not drive. And THAT is a fact Jack!
/end_sexist_comment (a.k.a The Truth) :p
Why would a woman want to drive a car when they could be at home baking cakes?
They don't give good road directions for some reason. Although, they make up for that in other ways.
Well, the smug sense of superiority went both ways. In the 1980s, I was considered a mutant creature by women because I owned a computer. Women swooned over lawyers and rolled their eyes at engineers.
Today of course most women have phones that are a thousand times smarter than my first computer and while lawyers have fallen into scorn, women not only prefer engineers, they more often are engineers.
Interestingly enough, a recent study regarding why there are fewer women in academia for math and sciences validates this statement: "Women do not count large among the geniuses because they do not want to be geniuses," he wrote. "They want to be women." The phrasing is sexist and archaic, but that's honestly the reason there are fewer women in successful positions. The previous belief before, that women faced discrimination in their departments, turned out not to hold up under close scrutiny. Instead, women who may have gone onto strong careers in academia choose their families over their careers. They choose to be women, instead.
"The previous belief before, that women faced discrimination in their departments, turned out not to hold up under close scrutiny."
Source? I'd really love to see the paper claiming that.
I am a scientist, and the most senior female in my research group. My career advancement was held back a bit because I decided to work part time for a decade, while my son was young. The younger generation of scientists I work with are equally represented by both genders. They are all brilliant.