As I see millennia of discrimination and suffering sink their teeth further into our wounds, I wonder what I'm doing five thousand miles away from home.
I don't know that I'll ever overcome this guilt of being gone when there's so much to do at home, but I'm hoping that in creating art and offering a marginalized perspective, I'm prioritizing and making space for more good in this life.
During my first weekend as Wigtown Artist in Residence, the town hosted Big Bang Weekend-- a lecture series celebrating female scientists and their work. I didn't expect to relate to any of the content but appreciated that this tiny rural town had made space to provide female scientists a platform to share their experiences and findings.
While I wouldn't dare any attempt to reiterate what I'd learned from Dr. Amy Hofmann, Dr. Pippa Goldschmidt, and Dr. Maya Tolstoy in their respective fields of planetary habitability, science fiction writing, and deep sea exploration, the humanity in their perspectives resonated with me the most. During the first panel, all three women gathered on stage to give teasers on their lectures to come.
When the inevitable subject of science as a male-dominated field came up, former astronomer/fiction writer Pippa elaborated the importance of having different perspectives. Not only for representation (because that should be a given), but because your findings as a scientist can only be improved by having more eyes and backgrounds look at your work. Diversity is key.
Amy spoke of her lifelong love of astrobiology (even before she knew what it was called), how she was discouraged from pursuing the field in high school, and how her love of science eventually won-- all tied to the beauty of studying science for the sake of mere curiosity.
And Maya gave the striking yet not surprising statistic that 25% of female field scientists have reported being assaulted on the field, while 75% have reported being harassed. We can acknowledge and applaud the small steps in progress we're making, but there's still a long road ahead.
So where do we go from here? We continue to make space and prioritize these conversations. We actively seek knowledge from women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, and other marginalized communities.* We keep going.
*I am not the first to point out that this panel featured only white women. I whole-heartedly believe we need to hear from other marginalized communities, and applaud the Wigtown Festival for coming this far. That said, this is just the minimum-- there is still a long road ahead and I'm optimistic about their events to come.
"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." - Carl Sagan