By Phil O’Dendron
Implicit bias has poked its ugly head throughout each and every field of biology where human beings have been studying and naming living organisms. This has been the case ever since Adam, the first taxonomist, named all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
Plant biology is no exception. Not recognizing the lived-experiences of the other, Theophrastus (372/371 BC-287/286 BC), “the non-birthing parent of botany”, categorized all plants into trees, shrubs, under-shrubs, and herbs, as if vines and giant kelps did not exist.
This discrimination based on size and/or appearance is offensive if not hateful. Plant should be described with botanically neutral terms.
Theophrastus, who is a dead white male, was also insensitive when it came to using gender neutral terms. He distinguished female from male trees by their ability to bear fruit. Theophrastus’s description marginalizes non-binary and gender-fluid plants.
We suggest ending discrimination based on body type and gender by ensuring that at least one faculty member and one student in the CALS School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University be people who identify as a plant in a human body.
Plant-identified people call themselves by a variety of names, including greenkin, plantkin, and phytanthrope. Plant-identified people are rare, and this low number is proof of systemic plantism.
The removal of systemic barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to ensure a future in which scientific discoveries are valued and trusted by the general public and this goal cannot be achieved without greater inclusion. It goes without saying, the general public deserves the same when it comes to discoveries related to animals, fungi, eubacteria, and archaebacteria. Let’s work together to achieve equity for plant-identified people.