Ruth Bader Mantis

The fight for gender equality has been a long and rough road for America. Feminism has come to represent a lot of different political and philosophical ideas over the years and if modern debates and academic articles are any indication, there is still a lot more room for improvement. Speaking of academics, many of the most common subjects taught in college now offer an appreciation of the feminist viewpoint alongside more traditional exploration. This even includes some studies that you might not expect to have much crossover with philosophy at all. Recently the world of Entomology was rocked by a feminist reinterpretation of categorization that led to the discovery of a very special bug.

One that has been hiding in plain sight since 1967.

Sydney Brannoch, a PhD candidate at Case Western Reserve University decided to buck tradition in her exploration of the natural world. Historically, insect species are partly categorized and classified according to male genitalia. But, when Sydney decided to start using female genitalia as the focus for classification she discovered a brand new species of Madagascar Praying Mantis that had been miscategorized for decades! Sydney went on to name the new species Ilomantis ginsburgae after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg is only the second female Justice to serve on the Supreme Court and her legal philosophy can best be summed up in her own words: “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.” Given Justice Ginsburg’s strong stances on equality and women’s rights it’s fitting that a species discovered by a woman through a process that focused on female-centric classification be named after her.

What a strange but thoughtful honor.

Hopefully this discovery is just the start. If academics embrace this new taxonomical method it’s possible that new species and sub-species of insects may soon be cataloged.

Plus, who knows who they’ll be named after!

Sydney had this to say about her discovery: “It is my hope that our work not only sets a precedent in taxonomy but also underscores the need for scientists to investigate and equally consider both sexes in other scientific investigations.”

For more in depth information on Sydney’s work check out the video below.


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