Sunday, February 20, 2005

After a few years off, the gender wars seem to be heating up again. Harvard president, Lawrence Summers, under the impression that he has freedom of speech, suggested in a private talk that possibly innate ability and family pressures keep women from advancing in the sciences in greater numbers.
On a related front, Susan Estrich is upset because women aren't appearing on the Los Angeles Times editorial page in sufficient numbers. Estrich has guaranteed that she is the last woman on earth who will ever be in the Times due to a series of snotty emails that have been printed in the new Washington Examiner. I am not sure what qualifies her to be so arrogant and condescending towards someone she is attempting to influence. She lectures one of the more distinguished journalists of his generation that, "NO one tried harder to educate you about Los Angeles, introduce you to key players in the city, bring to your attention, quietly, the issues of gender inequality than I did," and then delivers the key remark: "People are beginning to think that your illness may have affected your brain, your judgment, and your ability to do this job."
Kinsley has Parkinson's Disease. I don't know how that effects his mind, but he will have more on the ball ten minutes after he dies than Estrich ever had. In a previously published set of exchanges, Estrich complained about a column that the Times ran by Charlotte Allen arguing that there are no female public intellectuals to follow in the footsteps of the late Susan Sontag:

There are female intellectuals with stellar credentials and bestselling books: Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich, Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, Deborah Tannen, Natalie Angier. But there's a big difference between these women and their forebears. They are all professional feminists. They don't simply espouse feminism; they write about little else.

Perhaps Estrich is upset because she wasn't mentioned by Allen. Whatever her reasons, she has set the cause of women at the LA Times back probably twenty years.
Into the fray comes Maureen Dowd, the New York Time's answer to Chatty Cathy. Dowd accuses Summers of confusing the the "roles society assigns to women with what women might really want," by suggesting that women might not want to be scientists for 80 hours a week instead of being mothers. But perhaps she has it backwards. It's just possible that women don't want what middle-aged feminists want them to want. "Society" has been leaning on girls to be career-oriented for a while now. Remember "take our daughters to work day?" Dowd is also upset about revelations of how jocks treat women, refering to them as "road beef" and the like in Jose Canseco's book, Juiced. Her complaints about loutish behavior are fair, but she naively states that, "at the dawn of feminism, there was an assumption that women would not be as severely judged on their looks in ensuing years . . . It's just the opposite. Looks matter more than ever, with more and more women spending fortunes turning themselves into generic, plastic versions of what they think men want . . ."
She demonstrates perfectly the problem with feminism. They set out forty years ago to abolish human nature, and they failed. Women have completed the long march through the professions into medicine, law and the academy; but men still have most of the power. And that will almost certainly be the case in fifty or a hundred years from now.

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