Monday, August 3, 2015

MatHEmatics / MatSHEmatics

     Last week at the 2015 BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference in Baltimore I gave a short talk on using poetry to celebrate and inspire math girls and women, to recognize achievements and to encourage speaking out -- and also to encourage staying and building community in what often is now a lonely field.  Through a poem we can open doors that help us to talk about difficult issues -- such as isolation or loneliness or misgivings or discrimination. 
     A time-clock at BRIDGES kept me from saying all that I would have wished --  I would like to have quoted the following lines, spoken by a girl and found in "Hanging Fire" by Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

from   Hanging Fire      by Audre Lorde 

          Nobody even stops to think
          about my side of it
          I should have been on the Math Team
          my marks were better than his . . .  

Lorde's complete poem is available here.

The title for this posting -- MatHEmatics / MatSHEmatics -- can, I hope, remind us to be careful of our pronouns when speaking of mathematicians.  Even though the sequence "he" occurs in the word "mathematics" while "she" does not, this occurrence does not justify excluding females from mathematics and does not justify omitting the female pronoun when talking about math people.

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