What is inherently harmful is suggesting that a soft science is as valuable as a hard science. There’s a reason why biologists go to med school and 80% of gender studies majors work as barristas or some other such nonsense; because that’s an accurate reflection on their ability to contribute to society.
Or they work as baristas due to systemic bias that works against them, limiting their research and policy-drafting opportunities compared to harder sciences.
In fact, the narrative that ‘soft-sciences’ end up working at baristas is really nothing more than a stereotype. In fact, I disagree with the comparison being between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences. I think the difference can be better explained by ‘new’ and ‘old’ sciences.
Biology has been around for a while, from before the eleventh century. So it is no wonder that the theories and research would be more extensive than programs like gender studies, which only started popping up in 1960. Despite the field’s relative infancy, gender studies have seen tremendous enrollment number in recent years, which can be indicative of the important role these fields can play in crafting policies at the national and business levels. To say an entire field dedicated to the study of political and social interactions has no weight when it comes to social issues is to say physics and astronomy have no role in space exploration. It does not make sense.
Moreover, discounting this field because it relies predominately on survey data (and I have no clue if that’s true or not) would imply you must also discount fields like psychology, which was built off even worse forms of data: clinical studies. Only recently has psychology begun collecting empirical data based on surveys of people, but Freud and those immediately after him built their theories from clinics based almost exclusively off observations of patients.
Just because the field is new does not mean it is not valuable. Gender studies has much to inform us on, especially in this day and age when social issues seem to be all we have.