Race and gender play a role in how people are treated in almost every aspect of society. Banu Subramaniam’s Snow Brown and the Seven Detergents is a story that is meant to shed light on the issue of how women and more specifically women of colour are treated within the scientific community. It is intended to help create understanding of the challenges facing women of colour who attempt to enter the sciences. The author describes a world which is intended to be an allegory and parallels the actual reality of scientific exploration. Subramaniam uses the template of the fairy tale Snow White to show the hierarchy that exists within science. This story works better as a vessel to help foster understanding in individuals who are already interested in learning about the disparity in the experiences of women than it does at creating understanding in those who do not see or query the lack of women of colour in science because what they do not see they do not question.
The language of the story shows the stark contrast between Sneha and her surroundings. She is surrounded by white men who all want to be patriarchs, which is a position of male dominance. Not only is she completely alone based on her race but she is also the only woman. In addition to this “The Building of Scientific Truth” is filled with white imagery. The floors are white and so is the mirror from which all wisdom supposedly flows (Subramaniam, 40). The mirror is also found in “The Room of Judgment” which is not a very encouraging environment. All of this combined is meant to create sympathy for Sneha because she is a stranger in a strange land far from home.
The story uses stereotypes and non-inclusive language which is meant to show how difference is treated as inferior. The main character’s name is Snehalatha Bhrijbhushan which is immediately supposed to indicate to the reader that Sneha is different. It is instantly clear that she is foreign even without the subsequent description of her origins. By giving her this name the author hopes that the reader will associate her mistreatment with the white patriarchy and realize the fallacy of dismissing someone and her or his ideas based on physical characteristics. Subramaniam also throws the title patriarch around liberally. For example, there is a “Supreme White Patriarch” and students are referred to as “Budding Patriarchs” (Subramaniam, 40). All of these patriarchs are there to symbolize the generations of men who formed the modern conception of scientific study. It is meant to show the struggle that anyone who doesn’t fit the mould might have when trying to fit in. However people reading this story with no other background in gender studies may focus not on the allegorical style of the story but instead narrow in on the absolutely unredeeming features of every single man in the story and in its place see a story demonizes men without exception.
As Sneha transitions into Snow Brown at the urging of the mirror, she makes several...