Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Daddy truck rhymes with what the fuck: Women in science at Harvard

You know, I wasn't going to weigh in on the winter hit, Bell Curve Revisited: Lawrence Summers Talks about Gender. I couldn't quite get past my denial that we were even confronted with this discussion again. I was feeling a little like writing about it makes it real; if I just ignore it, maybe I will wake up and it will have all been a bad dream. Sigh.

But this morning they were talking to Nancy Hopkins on Democracy Now (the woman who walked out of Summers' talk, "saying later that if she hadn't left, 'I would've either blacked out or thrown up.'") and, well, here I am.

If you have been living in a cave this week, let me fill you in: Summers, the president of Harvard (yes, the same one who persuaded Cornell West to seek a spot at Princeton where he need not worry if his behavior is "unbecoming of a Harvard professor"), imputed the dearth of women tenured faculty in the sciences to three possible causes: first, the conflict between being mommy and being Dr. Science Lady (which is to say, that mommy doesn't want to work an 80-hour week); second, girls have lower science test scores than boys, a phenomenon that may well be due to the women's innate inability (because, after all, Summers own daughter calls her toy trucks "baby truck" and "daddy truck"--I am not making this shit up); third, discrimination, which Summers determined not to be a major factor because, in the end, Capitalism will trump all other cards and not discriminating would give schools a competitive edge.

So you see why I just wanted to ignore these comments right? The man is a raging idiot really. Then I read the Boston Globe's coverage, which contains this paragraph:
Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.
?????!!!!! Truly my head is spinning around like the Exorcist kid. What the fuck??!! A guy's gotta work hard to find a statement offensive on so many levels. Being a woman is like being autistic. It's not your parents' fault that you're a dimwit and want to call trucks "daddy" and "baby." AAARRRGGGHHH! I defy anyone who has ever been to a Toys R Us to tell me that the force of environment can be under-estimated in gender roles. Does Summers' daughter live in a plastic bubble? No, she lives in a culture where buying toys for children amounts to a "pink plastic oven or well armed action figure" choice. Is this not obvious to everyone by now? Get a fucking clue, Summers. You're president of Harvard. You're not supposed to be a moron.

And then there's this:
The organizer of the conference, Harvard economist Richard B. Freeman, described Summers' critics as activists whose sensibilities might be at odds with intellectual debate.

. . .

"We are lucky enough to have a president who is capable and willing to have these discussions rather than talk in bureaucratese," Freeman said. "I predict he will get more things done on women and faculty issues because he's a straight-talking, no-baloney president."
What the fuck is wrong with these people?? If I suffered from high blood pressure, I would need to take a pill or something. First of all, since when is activism incompatible with intellectual endeavors? (Admittedly, holding public office seems to be increasingly incompatible with intellectual thought, but that's a whole different matter.) What's really being said here? If a guy is a racist, sexist fuckwad he's "straight-talking, no-baloney." If you're a woman who doesn't want to be defined in terms of her baby-making capacities or your genetic handicap, you speak "bureaucratese" and you're an activist. My head is fucking exploding folks. Right here, on the flat screen. Chunks of brain and pieces of skull bone.

Do I sound hysterical? I'm sorry; it must be my wandering womb. Forgive me.

Anyway, I'm going to burn some bras when I go home tonight.

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