The world is yours

Elsevier, The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10171, 9–15 February 2019, Pages 528-529.
Henrik Österblom

“Let me know when you publish in The Lancet!” This is my father's standard reply when I produce scientific publications. His paper in said journal from 1983 is from a time when gender differences received limited attention in science. In 2018, however, things are different. When two white men published a list of 100 important articles for ecologists, I thought “what a nice summary”. 14 female scientists and two male scientists instead evidently thought “wait a minute” and commented on the gendered problems of highlighting 97 articles first authored by white men, and the non-random, structurally biased method for selecting them. Such protest was unlikely in 1983, or even 2 years ago.

Our changing vocabulary is indicating accelerating change. In 2018, we laugh at mansplaining and call it out, rather than staying to listen to it. We are embarrassed on behalf of conference organisers arranging so-called manels, rather than only feeling bored by them. Such derogatory names for normalised behaviour, perhaps soon to be history, illustrate the importance of language for naming and shaming socially unacceptable behaviour.