Longtime science writer Ann Finkbeiner wrote a terrific piece this year swearing off writing patronizing articles about female scientists, and it has been boiled down into what is being called “the Finkbeiner test.”
Finkbeiner advanced her manifesto in January in an article titled “What I’m Not Going to Do” on the blog The Last Word on Nothing*.
“To pass the Finkbeiner test, the story cannot mention
- The fact that she’s a woman
- Her husband’s job
- Her child care arrangements
- How she nurtures her underlings
- How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
- How she’s such a role model for other women
- How she’s the ‘first woman to…’
“Here’s another trick,” Aschwanden writes. “Take the things that are said about a female subject and flip them around as if they were said about a male. If they sound ridiculous, then chances are good they have no business in the story.”
I think it’s all about context. If you’re writing a breezy lifestyle story (or maybe even an obituary), the personal stuff is OK. But if you are writing essentially about your subject’s work, the Finkbeiner test should be pressed into service.
*“Science says the first word on everything, and the last word on nothing” – Victor Hugo