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Astronomy Hobby Male dominated, Why?

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#101 roscoe

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 02:57 PM

Well, as an old guy, I'm definitely from the era when science/math/trades was discouraged for women, and in the trades, it's changing, but slowly.
However, Aspergers' syndrome - the closest thing to a geek gene so far discovered, is much more prevalent in men than women, and while I come from a family of geeks - my sister's a programmer, and my niece is a machine designer - as was my Dad, there are very very few women who would admit to EVER wearing a pocket protector....... and while there are some notable exceptions (Even Sue French looks and acts like a normal person in daylight, and both Carols will come over and dope-slap me later today) I do think it's a boy-oriented techno thing. Medicine, while as techno as it gets, is still a healer-oriented thing, and chemistry and biology and the like echo a much more primitive time when women were the keepers of the plant lore.
And, the reason that it's mostly older folks is I think not only because of so many more toys and distractions, but also most of us over 50 could still see stars at night when we went outside when we were kids.
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#102 Tony Flanders

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:21 PM

As as previously been mentioned, the hobby is full of old guys. And back when those old guys grew up, women weren't supposed to be good in math and science.


Interesting point -- I hadn't thought of that. Without a doubt, the disproportionately small number of women in amateur astronomy is partly due to the fact that there are so few young people in the hobby. There's a huge difference in gender expectations between my generation and my daughter's generation.

Reading over the responses, and thinking that most of them ring at least partially true to me, I'm concluding that like so many things in life, there is no simple answer. Many different factors contribute to the phenomenon.

As for nature vs. nurture, no doubt nature plays a part. But trying to tease the two things apart is usually a waste of time.

It's sort of like cancer. Numerous studies prove that both genetic and environmental factors play a role -- together with plenty of dumb bad luck. And in any given case, it's simply not meaningful to ask if the cancer is due to genetics or environment.
 

#103 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:26 PM

Jon, that argument comes up often in this discussion, but you need only look at photos from star parties as recently as the late 80's to realize that the median amateur astronomer age back then was 30-something.



Tom:

One possible conclusion from that bit of information is that the median amateur astronomer age is higher. Another possible conclusion is that younger astronomers do not go to star parties. I think there is truth in both interpretations. I tend to think that astronomy is a hobby well suited for older folks who have the time and a more relaxed life style and at the same time, younger amateurs connect and share in ways other than star parties and clubs.

Myself, I hang out with a younger crowd. Part of this is because I work for a university and part of it is I connect with others amateurs in the ways younger observers do, the internet rather than clubs.

Jon

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#104 csrlice12

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:40 PM

Who's the crypt-keeper standing in the back row with the red shirt? He looks so much more "mature" then the others....couldn't possibly be Jon, could it? :lol:
 

#105 bunyon

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:07 PM

"To be truthful though, didn't our parents/grandparents feel/say the same thing about us?????????? "

Yes. And the kids being disparaged today will do it to their grandkids. It's a time honored human tradition.

I work with a lot of young people (I teach at a university - by the way, I'm only 42, still young by amateur astronomy standards) and I can tell you that today's kids, like most kids before them, get a bad rap. They're interested in a wide variety of things and are finding their path. Some will eventually find their way into astronomy. I think more and more will become imagers due to the computer tie-in and lack of really dark skies but they'll come. Space and personal exploration are fundamental human interests. While the number of people "serious" about the hobby will never be high and may rise and fall cyclically, it will never go to zero.

That is, the hobby will look different 25 years from now than it does today but the hobby will still exist and people will be looking up with wonder. After all, the hobby today looks different than it did 25 years ago and 25 years ago it looked different than it did 25 years before that. Few make their own mirrors today. Few made their own EQ mounts 25 years ago. Etc.

One barrier to entry in the hobby I find is the amount of "advice" to keep doing things exactly the same. You must have this kind of scope, or observe these kind of objects or read this magazine or take these pictures. You must have a scope this big or an eyepiece that costs this much. Any such advice is generally a turn-off and, I think, smacks of machismo (at least when I say stuff like that is! :) ) that may have a greater effect turning away women who, by and large, don't go in for that mirror-measuring BS.

Anyway, that isn't all of it certainly, but perhaps it is some.
 

#106 csrlice12

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:20 PM

Our ancestor's were in awe of the night sky--it contained wonders...and monsters. We study the stars, we view them, take pictures, measurements, etc. Our children...will visit the stars (hopefully).
 

#107 Carol L

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:27 PM

To be truthful though, didn't our parents/grandparents feel/say the same thing about us??????????


Mine certainly did! :lol:

In general, it seems that each generation feels that the ones who follow them are missing out on something - and from 'our' point of view, they are. But consider that kids have things at their fingertips nowadays that was sci-fi fantasy when we were young - how cool is that? :cool: Progress is marvelous and a bit frightening at the same time - makes me wonder what kind of miracles will be commonplace to children born 80 years from now.
 

#108 GeneT

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:53 PM

Why not a scope painted and designed to be Lady friendly?



Now what would you consider for a scope to be "Lady friendly"? Guess I'd better give up my 16" because it's not pink. :smirk:


Guys, be careful. Some might be sent through Cloudy Night's EEO training. :grin:
 

#109 GeneT

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:57 PM

Science isn't as attractive to the ladies as it is to the guys.


Ooh--careful here. :grin:
 

#110 GeneT

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:10 PM

Who's the crypt-keeper standing in the back row with the red shirt? He looks so much more "mature" then the others....couldn't possibly be Jon, could it? :lol:


I like hanging around with young people too!
 

#111 GeneT

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:14 PM

i've endured my share of sexist comments from male Amateurs (who never matured from the neck up


:grin: :roflmao: :grin:
 

#112 BarbMoore

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:54 PM

Actually, those photos were taken on the grounds of the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, NM during the annular eclipse. Those rockets were used out at White Sands Missile Range. The area is chock full of space history.
 

#113 BarbMoore

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 06:00 PM

When my husband first showed me Saturn in our 8" Celestron, I insisted that we purchase a bigger telescope. I also found the Tak FS-102 for sale, bought it, and added it to our collection. We have also acquired an 8" Orion Dob that I mainly use to star hop and collect Messier objects to cross off the list.
 

#114 Tony Flanders

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:36 PM

I asked my wife and daughter at supper tonight.

My daughter is convinced that it's mostly cultural. My wife and I agree, but think that's not the whole story.

My wife's very first word on the subject was "cold." There are plenty of women who do winter sports, but it's easy to stay warm when you're active.

And in the summer, mosquitoes. My wife hates insect repellant.

She also raised an obvious point that all other respondents here missed. Astronomy is done at night, and women with children are generally "on call" at night. Even in a household like ours where we theoretically divide all responsibilities equally, my wife ended up doing more of the parenting duties than I did.

I asked her about gadgets. Granted, my wife isn't necessarily typical in this regard. I remember her carrying on for days about a new drill bit that she had discovered, and all three of us love to visit hardware stores. When it comes to home repair, my wife is the brains, my daughter has the skill, and I get to lift, carry, and hold things.

She suggested that maybe men are more enthusiastic about spending money on gadgets. Then we simultaneously thought of kitchen appliances, and rejected that argument in a jiffy.

But we agreed that the discrepancy between the sexes is much bigger for telescopic astronomy than naked-eye astronomy. Many women are quite interested in and familiar with the constellations. And my wife definitely prefers using binoculars to looking through a telescope.
 

#115 Madratter

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 10:15 PM

But we agreed that the discrepancy between the sexes is much bigger for telescopic astronomy than naked-eye astronomy.




I talked about my nieces earlier. I was really surprised they were that enthusiastic about seeing Jupiter with the naked-eye.

I didn't mention that the one has a science degree and the other is an engineer.
 

#116 aezoss

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 04:55 AM

women with children are generally "on call" at night


My wife said the same thing. We've done fairly well at balancing the on call rotation but let's face it, there is no substitute for Mom.

One thing she did mention was the current generation of girls (15-25) seems more adept at traditionally male activities and is less likely to accept the gender role definitions that may have had an impact on their mothers and/or grandmothers.

We see this with our own kids and their peers. There's very little differentiation between boy/girl roles, responsibilities and activities in their social circles. Girls rock as hard, if not harder than the boys. Nothing makes our girl happier than rolling up her sleeves and swinging a hammer, followed by having Dad paint her nails. The things we amateur estheticians, er fathers, have to do to spend time with our daughters.

Curiously, it's my wife and daughter who are enthusiastic about star parties and dragging me out to observatory open houses. Neither are particularly interested in spending more than a few minutes at a scope but love the broader context of astronomy and enjoy just being outside under the stars.

Lee
 

#117 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 06:47 AM

But we agreed that the discrepancy between the sexes is much bigger for telescopic astronomy than naked-eye astronomy.



Certainly if one considers the number of observers, there is significant difference between the male and female observers but if you look at the population in general, that is the percentage of males who are observers and the percentage of females who are observers, the numbers are almost identical, essentially zero. My point is that when it comes to attitudes and interest, the vast majority of men and the vast majority of women are identical, not sufficiently interested.

When percentages are so small, it is difficult to generalize why people do get involved because the obvious conclusion is that very few are actually interested, men or women.

To be interested and involved in amateur astronomy, is a very rare thing. In your household, how much interest would the other family members have if you were not a passionate observer?

Jon
 

#118 Tony Flanders

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:00 AM

In your household, how much interest would the other family members have if you were not a passionate observer?


My wife owned H.A. Rey's The Stars, Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights, and Fred Hoyle's Astronomy long before we met. Like every nature lover that I've met, she was familiar with the major constellations and eager to learn more.

She certainly wouldn't have taken up telescopic astronomy on her own; she has too many competing interests. Given her 'druthers, she would rather be dancing at night.

It's meaningless to ask about my daughter; she wouldn't be who she is if she didn't have us as parents.
 

#119 Meadeball

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 12:40 PM

After seeing Contact and a few other movies, I kind of idolized Jodi Foster as astronomy's poster "girl" ... then a few nights ago ... :foreheadslap:
 

#120 mark8888

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 12:56 PM

After seeing Contact and a few other movies, I kind of idolized Jodi Foster as astronomy's poster "girl" ... then a few nights ago ... :foreheadslap:


Not sure if you're referring to this comment, from an interview this week... but I was a little taken aback by it:

Q: Not many actors have an asteroid named after them. How did that happen?
A: I’m not sure, but I guess it had something to do with this (outer space) movie I did called "Contact." There are a lot of crazy astronomers out there and they loved that movie.
 

#121 csrlice12

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 01:03 PM

"There are a lot of crazy astronomers out there..."

There's another kind????
 

#122 Mary

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:10 PM

I didn't get into astronomy until my son was grown and living on his own. It wasn't until then that I had a hobby to call my own and the time to do it. It is very hard when you are working and raising a family. I would get home from work and there would be dinners to fix, dishes to wash, Scout meetings or outings, music lessons, band practices or performances, parent/teacher conferences, homework, fundraising at football games or bingo halls and other household chores or OT at work. There just wasn't time. However, now looking back, it would have been wonderful to have spent a few minutes in the yard with him when he was younger to just enjoy some one on one time with him and letting him command the scope before heading off to bed. It would have been a great way to relieve the day's stress before begining another.

Mary
 

#123 csrlice12

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:16 PM

"It would have been a great way to relieve the day's stress before begining another."

THAT is what draws me to the hobby. When I'm alone with the universe, I'm at peace.
 

#124 kenrenard

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:42 PM

"It would have been a great way to relieve the day's stress before begining another."

THAT is what draws me to the hobby. When I'm alone with the universe, I'm at peace.



I think we can all agree (Male, Female, Black, White, Young, and Old) Viewing the universe is a very peaceful activity for all.
 

#125 panhard

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:49 PM

Now what would you consider for a scope to be "Lady friendly"? Guess I'd better give up my 16" because it's not pink.

I'll take it off your hands. :whee: :whee: :whee:
 






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