Women Win Prizes

Their names are Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, for fuck’s sake.

Well it’s already something, isn’t it? Women winning prizes, actual Nobel prizes in man-sciences like chemistry and physics, not just in literature and peace and such that can be won by planting trees. Surely women can now be happy with this year’s harvest and stop being feminists because gender equality has been reached. It’s in the newspapers, so it must be true:

Nobel Prize Winners In Chemistry And Physics Discuss Shattering Gender Norm, Redefining Women’s Roles

The above is from Forbes, and continues the long line of similar headlines:

Female Scientists Make History For Winning The Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Womenlovetech.com)

Two women share chemistry Nobel in historic win for ‘genetic scissors’ (BBC)

Two female CRISPR scientists make history, winning Nobel Prize in chemistry for genome-editing discovery (Stat News)

Nobel 2020: two women win 2020 chemistry prize for life-changing genetic ‘scissors’ (The National)

Creators of gene ‘scissors’ clinch Nobel as women sweep chemistry (Reuters)

The New York Times went gender-neutral with “Two Scientists Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry“, but Aljazeera was one of the very few news outlets that bothered to put the winners’ names in the headline:

‘Women rock’: Doudna, Charpentier win Nobel for gene-editing tool

See? Can be done. Not bloody hard.

And really, not to nit-pick, but rarely do I read articles that start with “A man won a prize”, or “Two men sweep chemistry at Nobels”. We are treated with their names. We shall celebrate them as the individual geniuses that they admittedly are, not as representatives of their gender. There are no follow-up interviews in which the nameless man-laureates must explain how the Nobel prize as such was never the goal, but that their slaving away at the petri dishes was done solely to redefine the role of fellow men.

It’s historical for women to win Nobel prizes for these things, because that’s just how life is. I do understand that Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier being women is significant. No reporter can overlook this, because a man winning a prize is not news – they invented the whole thing – except to the extent of announcing the winners annually.

Doudna and Charpentier will be giving many more interviews about how they have managed to combine having vaginas with being world class scientists, and what this means for the rest of the 3.7 billion women. Having role models is important. You can only become what you can imagine, and the latter is made that much easier if somebody has already trodden the path before you.

So yes, a big shout-out to Doudna and Charpentier for agreeing to discuss what their win means for the womankind. It will certainly have an impact for the Marie Curies in the making. The buzz is good. Women win, yay!

But every social media post and news headline that omits Doudna’s and Charpentier’s names reduces them to their gender, instead of being Nobel laureates. It merely keeps normalising and cementing the language that we still use: athletes and women athletes. Actors and actresses. Scientists and women scientists – or just: unnamed women.

Put women’s names out there, always. Easy as ABC.

NB. For the Nobel Prize in literature, the name of the American poet Louise Glück was frequently mentioned in the headlines.


The economics prize went to Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom. To compare statistics, herewith the first five online news headlines reporting on their win:

Nobel Prize in economics awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson for auction theory (CNN)

Nobel Prize 2020 in Economics awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson for improvements to auction theory (Times of India)

Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson (Washington Post)

Americans Milgrom, Wilson win Nobel in economics for ‘improvements to auction theory’ (CBC)

Milgrom, Wilson Win 2020 Nobel Prize in Economics (Bloomberg)

So now it’s basically just a breath away from having Forbes describe Milgrom‘s and Wilson‘s achievement with

Seeing Is Believing: Male Role Models Inspire Boys To Think Bigger

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