In Objectivity or Heroism? One the Invisibility of Women in Science, a piece by Naomi Oreskes, she discusses the ideas of heroism and objectivity and how the value of them in the scientific world leads to a male dominated field. She discusses objectivity as the idea that scientific findings are neutral and do not come from a specific viewpoint. She discusses how this could have an effect on the scientists who are recognized in fields of science by explaining how men are usually seen as more separated and analytical. This could be seen in the public as their ideas being more far reaching, or applicable, whereas “women tend to do science in a less objective, i.e., less detached or more contextualized manner” (Oreskes). There are some women, however, that do work that is considered objective, but yet we still see an outstanding difference in recognition between genders. That is where the idea of heroism comes into Oreskes’ argument. Heroism is the idolization of scientists, in this instance, that go out of their way or put themselves in danger in order to achieve success in their work. This characteristic is seen to only be applicable in males. Oreskes says that “only the men’s work could be cast as a heroic voyage to ‘conquer the earth’s secrets.’ Therefore only the men appeared in the public eye.”

In the movie Hidden Figures, three women are followed through their experiences working for NASA. All are incredibly smart, and doing important calculation work for launching spacecraft, but were not receiving much credit at all. This follows Oreskes argument perfectly, as she stated that people who do behind the scenes work, which are typically the women, were the ones who were not seen by the public eye. The astronauts and the men working the front lines were the ones people were interested about. They were risking their own lives, like Oreskes discussed, in the name of science, and that was mostly what the public cared about. There is an additional layer to this movie, however, and that involves race. These women were all African American and clearly were not given the same opportunity as other white women, even. There is still a clear divide between genders, but also between races. These African American women were truly getting the worst end of the deal, having to deal with being treated differently for a multitude of unending reasons.

Hidden Figures itself even falls victim to the idea of heroism. There is a white male character who is the boss of one of the main women, Katherine Johnson. When he discovers, in the movie, that Katherine has not had a bathroom to use in the building of the office, because there was only a white women’s bathroom, he smashes the sign down to the ground declaring that they can all share that bathroom. In reality, though, Katherine actually just went into that bathroom in an act of true heroism. The movie took that empowering moment away from her, one that actually happened, and replaced it to make a white man the true hero. Even in a movie reflecting on the brilliant, unseen brains behind NASA, they praise a white guy for being the hero. It has been so engrained in our minds to expect the man to be the hero that they added that idea into the movie for a certain impact. The woman in the actual, real life story was the true hero, but that’s not what the producers thought the audience would want to see.

Fall 2020 LB 492 011