McGill Alert / Alerte de McGill

Updated: Fri, 07/12/2024 - 12:16

McGill Alert. The downtown campus will remain partially closed through the evening of Monday, July 15. See the Campus Safety site for details.

Alerte de McGill. Le campus du centre-ville restera partiellement fermé jusqu’au lundi 15 juillet, en soirée. Complément d’information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention

Subscribe to the OSS Weekly Newsletter!

Meet Science Mom, Kavin Senapathy

As a writer covering topics as seemingly wide-ranging as science, health, food, agriculture, parenting, and feminism, I’m often asked how I got into “science communication.” I grew up loving science but, to be honest, was rather apathetic about communicating about these issues until becoming a mom in 2011. The overwhelming anxiety of suddenly being in charge of a new life can be hard for anyone. For me, the fear was worse than typical new parent anxiety—I had postpartum OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

“It’s normal to worry about your baby, I assured myself as I stood in the dark, hand resting on my sleeping baby, carefully counting the rise and fall of her chest in sets of five. I was exhausted and on edge. According to the superstitious creature in my otherwise rational mind, my precious baby might perish while I slept, and it would be all my fault if I didn’t check her breathing.”

-Kavin Senapathy. “Postpartum OCD Is Real and We Need to Talk About It.” SELF (2017)

As a writer covering topics as seemingly wide-ranging as science, health, food, agriculture, parenting, and feminism, I’m often asked how I got into “science communication.”  I grew up loving science but, to be honest, was rather apathetic about communicating about these issues until becoming a mom in 2011. The overwhelming anxiety of suddenly being in charge of a new life can be hard for anyone. For me, the fear was worse than typical new parent anxiety—I had postpartum OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). As I forayed into parenting and navigated my extreme obsession with keeping my baby safe, I also zealously sought parenting information. I encountered only slivers of credible advice in a veritable ocean of fact-scarce but well-meaning blogs, videos, mainstream media articles and even disinformation disguised as consumer advocacy.

The paralysis of postpartum OCD combined with the grip of bad parenting advice from all directions was intolerable, but fortunately the crisis shattered a few months later. As I began to understand that my worry about my baby was pathological, I simultaneously realized that there’s too much fear being targeted at parents. Combined with a culture that miscalculates which hazards we should worry about, and still largely sees women as moms—and moms as creatures who should think with our “mommy instinct” rather than our brains—that targeted fear can be dangerous. Over the next couple years, parenting took me through swaths of the internet I never knew existed as I learned how to separate the credible wheat from the parenting forum chaff. In 2013, I started blogging for Grounded Parents, an evidence-based, progressive parenting site, where I strived to reach other parents before they fell into the myriad rabbit holes of parenting quackery.

As my platform grew, I also met a lot of smart people in the science and science communication arena, many of whom I now consider colleagues and friends (and others whom I’ve watched with awe as they tenaciously engage in discussions about science online over the years). Along the way, I co-founded March Against Myths (MAMyths.org), a grassroots activist organization founded to “take science to the streets” and fight against what we call “pseudoscience injustice.” MAMyths started by combating the pervasive misconceptions about “GMOs,” counter-protesting anti-GMO (and anti-vaccine) groups all over the world. Today, the organization continues its work helping to expose those who perpetuate injustice with bad science and empowering others to do the same.

I got to know (and have been unceasingly humbled by) the women from the Science Moms movie—Alison Bernstein, Layla Katiraee, Anastasia Bodnar, and Jenny Splitter—encountering them time and again between 2013 and 2015 on the internet as we discussed science and especially misinformation about science. We were all passionate about engaging others in these conversations, and bonded over our shared desire to raise our children with critical thinking rather than the fear that’s far too common in today’s parenting world. Soon, we started collaborating on blog posts, campaigns, and other projects. Filmmaker Natalie Newell, a Grounded Parents reader, came across one of our joint projects, the “Moms4GMOs” letter, and we were thrilled to hear that she wanted to make a movie about us. With Science Moms, which was filmed in 2015, Newell gave us an opportunity to share our stories with the world. Though we all have our distinct communication styles, each of the Science Moms share one overarching objective—to evaluate questions about parenting with not only all of the available credible data, but with compassion for other moms (and dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents) who just want the best for our kids.

I have had the privilege of reaching a wide audience via my work in Forbes, Slate, SELF Magazine and other outlets, various speaking engagements and workshops all over the world, and by staying active (sometimes too active) on social media. But my work with the Science Moms continues to be among the most rewarding of my pursuits.


@ksenapathy

Want to engage with this content? Comment on the FB post!


Kavin will be at McGill on Monday, March 26, 8pm, for a screening of "Science Moms" followed by a panel discussion. To find out more about the event, click here.

 

Back to top