I've been brooding on something for a while, hesitant to write about it. But it's a quiet Sunday afternoon, so here goes.
Recently our magazine (more specifically, one of its most popular bloggers) was criticized for an anti-female bias. What sparked the criticism was the blogger's post listing the year's most "shocking" quotations about the future. What shocked some readers was the fact that all the individuals quoted were male. The inference from this omission was that the blogger--and hence the World Future Society--was telling women to shut up.
My response, from an editor's point of view, is that it's more appropriate to judge the content of a post than the gender of its author. I extend that courtesy to the author of the blog post, who was excited by the ideas of the people he quoted, all of whom happened to be male.
Yet, the truth is, most of our articles are written by men. (They're also mostly written by Americans. And by people over the age of 50.) Why? Women have the exact same opportunity to contribute to our publications and our conferences as men do. We demand three things:
1. The article must have something interesting, useful, and important to say about the future.
2. The article must be based on facts, even if it is largely an opinion piece. I have no interest in wasting readers' time with material submitted by the Dean of the Department of Making Stuff Up.
3. It must be written in English. Sadly, I have retained little of the Spanish and French I learned in college, and machine translation is yet unsatisfactory.
I'm going to speculate a little here. I think the differences in the way men and women think and communicate parallel our reproductive roles.
Men: Have a lot of ideas, send all of them out into the world, hope as many as possible take seed and grow to maturity, if not immortality.
Women: The gestation of the idea to its birth requires investment of time and emotion. Nurturing a brainchild to maturity needs a supportive environment.
This analogy is certainly oversimplified, but it might explain why fewer women actually submit articles to us. Maybe there is a greater need for reassurance that the outcome of a tenderly gestated idea will ultimately be accepted. Maybe the expectation is that we will provide more collaboration in the development process--an expectation that we don't always have time to meet.
I believe that our magazine's content is, if not "gender neutral," then at least equally of interest and importance to men and women. I find it interesting, anyway. (Pardon my anecdotal evidence.)
Take Lester Brown's article in the current issue, for example: "Food, Fuel, and the Global Land Grab," describing the trend of wealthier nations investing in agricultural production in poorer nations as a way to ensure future food supplies for their own populations.
The article, which is an excerpt from Brown's latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), certainly met our criteria of being future-oriented, interesting, and important. The gender of the author was immaterial to me as the editor who selected it to present to our readers.
And yet, I certainly recognize that the story Brown told could have been told differently, were it told by a female. And differently, again, if told by a non-American. My question then becomes, would these be stories that our readers would read?
Or maybe a better question is, what stories would our future readers read?
As we continue brooding on these questions, our doors remain as open as they can possibly be:
- Check out the Writers Guidelines for THE FUTURIST here.
- Editorial guidelines for World Future Review are here.
- WorldFuture 2013 Poster Session guidelines (final submission deadline March 1) here.
- WorldFuture 2013 video contest guidelines (deadline March 18) here.
Please let us hear your voice.
Cynthia G. Wagner is editor of THE FUTURIST.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is using 3-D printing with multiple materials, proving that additive manufacturing is not just the future of manufacturing, but also the present.
The purpose of the Global Calculator website is to gather evidence about our impact on global climate. An open source tool, its developers are seeking public feedback to ensure that its modelling improves in accuracy over time. They are providing it to the world community under open license.
What happens in the Middle East reverberates across the world. There lie the roots and holiest historical places of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There lies the frontier between East and West. And much of the world’s remaining oil is found in this prized and disputed region.
When we look into space we are actually looking back in time. This is because we are looking at old light traveling towards us at 186,000 miles/second. We already know that if someone is watching us through a large telescope on the Moon, they’re seeing events that happened 1.3 seconds earlier because that’s how long it takes light to reach Earth. Using this as a very crude proof, we already know that information does indeed transcend the here and now, but can we ever access it and reassemble it into a useful form?
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has implications for world health that cannot be ignored. The disease has killed more than 660 and infected almost 1,100 in four countries since March of this year and new cases are cropping up every day.
The images that Curiosity is sending back from Gale Crateris showing soil profiles similar to the ancient soil found in the dry valleys of Antarctica and in the alto-Plano of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The soil images and data indicate chemical weathering and accumulations of clay just as one would find them here on Earth. Phosphorus depletion, associated with microbial activity here on Earth, is evident from the information Curiosity has gathered.
Nikolai Kardashev, a Soviet astrophysicist born in 1932, devised a method of rating advanced civilizations. Technological advances, according to Kardashev, could theoretically create conditions where a society could maximize use of energy. He categorized each of these stages as Type 1 through Type 4. Based on Kardashev's speculations where does our civilization sit today?
Powdery mildew-resistant wheat has been created using a pair of DNA-clipping and insertion tools. These are tools developed by Editas Medicine for editing defective DNA and are being used in the fight against a number of genetic diseases. And with wheat they are proving to be useful in overcoming the devastating impact of mildew.