Tuesday, May 01, 2007

To borrow the cliche "what's in a name?"

Well apparently one's ability to be a mathematician or a scientist. To be more precise a girl with a girly (!!!) name will shy away from maths and science. No I haven't lost my marbles (not yet). I have scientific backing for this - The Gaurdian published a report recently about a research that concluded thus.

I am not sure if you will click on the link but I have to repeat this part of it

"Parents are being warned to think long and hard when choosing names for their babies as research has discovered that girls who are given very feminine names, such as Anna, Emma or Elizabeth, are less likely to study maths or physics after the age of 16, a remarkable study has found. Both subjects, which are traditionally seen as predominantly male, are far more popular among girls with names such as Abigail, Lauren and Ashley, which have been judged as less feminine in a linguistic test. "

After reading the report several questions have been kicked up by my feminist side but for now I will leave them aside. I am more interested to see how this finding will work in Indian context.

Indian names don't need a linguistic test to prove their gender do they? We have very few names that are transgender (am not sure if this is the right word to use here nevertheless) Like for example Kiran is a very common name in North India for a girls and boys but rarely the case in South India. Even if it is a common name for both men and women there's a difference as in Kamal is a boy and Kamala is a girl (reminds me of my first hindi lesson in class 3. Remember yeh ladki hai iska naam kamala hai?) Anyways so is Kamal a feminine name and hence he will not do better in science or mathematics? Then how do you explain hundreds of men with names like Kamal, Parijaat, Madhu or Mrinal entering IITs and IISc?
And what about names like Radhakrishna or Padmanabha? They will take up science but give it up in later life?
Coming to the more difficult part of applying this theory...in order to produce more women scientists and mathemeticians we will have to name our girls Sunil, Suresh or in keeping with more modern times name them Rudraksh and Govinda? (yes these names are modern since I am meeting a lot of young men round about the age of 5 with such names).
The research also says that people expect girls with feminine names to not do well in these subjects hence building a pressure on the girls to underperform! Now seriously is that a problem with the feminine name or the feminity itself?
Who funds these researchs and more importantly what is the point of such researchs?
PS: I have a name that is as feminine as possible in the Indian context and I did well in science and I have chosen to blame my name for my poor performance in maths.
Disclaimer: There is one! I will let you know of you have a problem with the post.

No comments: