Last week I sat down with a group of journalism students and they asked what we can do to make math cool for girls. “We simply need to make math cool in general, not just for girls,” I replied. The same goes for science. Science is portrayed as the only field that uses big words (it’s not like law is any better—have you ever tried to read the terms & conditions for Facebook?) and thus intimidates many to think one needs to be a rocket scientist to be well, a scientist. So when scientific studies are printed in the media that “prove” that working moms are happier than stay-at-home ones, or vice versa, or that feminism is to blame for the rise in women alcoholics, most people are unprepared to question the findings.

This lack of skepticism is scientists’ fault. Far too often we, (even though I haven’t been a practicing scientist in over a decade, I’ll lump myself in), don’t explain things in a simple way. It takes a long time to tackle those big words and we need to use them…when we talk to each other. But basic knowledge of science is a must in today’s society. Scientific literacy should be just as important to our education as knowing how to read and add together two numbers.

More and more I find that this scientific literacy is a must for women and girls in particular. As we have seen in the eight long years of the Bush administration women and girls health care has been politicized. Yes, most of the Bush administration has been politicized, but health care is especially touchy. I just heard a story of a friend whose pregnancy was going badly and instead of offering a termination immediately her doctor referred her to labor & delivery to birth the dying fetus. She said she couldn’t believe that she had the will to stand up at the time and tell the doctor he had better find someone to perform an abortion. This friend is one of the most vocal feminists I know and yet she knows that she almost folded under the cloak of “Doctor Knows Best.”

When the Bush administration says that climate change has nothing to do with polar bears dying, we have photos of dead polar bears. When the Bush administration says that the morning after pill is an abortificant we don’t have a photos to counter. That’s the tricky thing with science and health care.

Our only defense is to educate ourselves. We should know how to spot when the science is bad or when the reporting is bad. Debunking is a science and often our bodies are a battlefield. Ladies, suit up.

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