Battlepanda: Why so many female forensic anthropologists


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Why so many female forensic anthropologists

I was listening to NPR the other day (actually, I'm just about always listening to NPR) when I heard a grisly but interesting story about a new 'body farm' in Texas where forensic scientists study how the human body de-composes by leaving them around the grounds and digging them up later. What struck me was that all the interviewees (a professor and three students) are female.

A little googling shows that this is not a fluke:
People are often surprised that in the UK, 98% of undergraduate students, approximately 80% of all postgraduate students, and nearly 90% of professional practitioners in the field of Forensic Anthropology are female. No-one knows why. There are some subjects that are deemed more attractive to women and forensic anthropology seems to be one of them. It may seem surprising, due to the harsh and often unsettling, never mind dangerous aspects of the work, but often the feminine touch is crucial. Forensic Anthropologists work in an area where science, politics and society meet, and they often require a delicate touch of diplomacy.

Now as we all know, there is also a huge phenomenon of crime fiction starring female forensic anthropologists. Kathy Reich's books is probably the best-known example. So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the fictionalization of female forensic anthropologists capture the imagination of young women? Or is there a broader compatibility (as the above quote suggests, between female attributes and forensic anthropology work? And why is the ratio so lop-sided? Are men discouraged from pursuing forensic anthropology now that it is a female-dominated field?

Labels: , ,