[thechat] outburst

Tara Cleveland tara at taracleveland.com
Wed Jan 19 10:53:00 CST 2005

Hey Everyone,

On 19-Jan-05, at 7:53 AM, deacon wrote:

> On 19 Jan 2005 at 8:39, Martin Burns wrote:
>> But but but women 'Lack Natural Ability' in those areas - the  
>> president of
>> Harvard says so
>> http://www.local6.com/education/4090001/detail.html
>> so it *must* be true

> Why is it so unacceptable to recognize that perhaps *some* of the
> differences in aptitude might be biochemical as opposed to being due
> to women's oppression of men?

(I'm assuming you meant men's oppression of women ;-)

Well, it could be because there is a history of *very* strong  
discrimination in the fields of science and engineering.

montreal_massacre/ for an extreme example of this attitude.

Or use my experience as an example. I went to check out the engineering  
school at the University of Toronto in the early 90s (not so long ago  
really) as a part of "women in engineering day" for prospective high  
school girls. Upon walking into a classroom our little tour group of  
women was cat-called and jeered by about 150 guys. The professor  
compounded it by making a joke about us getting coffee for the boys.  
Quite intimidating for a 17 year old girl - and made me completely  
write off the idea of becoming an engineer. Why on earth would an  
intelligent woman want to work in a field where she's going to run into  
so many obstacles? So, I'd say there's many more obvious external -  
non-brain - reasons for this disparity "in aptitude".

It could be that most often I'm the *only* women in a room full of men  
in this industry. It could be that I've heard totally sexist and  
demeaning things said to me in the course of my work countless times,  
not to mention the times when things were left unsaid, but remained in  
the room like a stinking pile of crap. It could be that my experiences  
are telling me that, unless I'm really determined to be here, maybe I  
should leave this technical field. And really, I'm not surprised that  
lots of women do.

Perhaps, what people are so up-in-arms about is that sexist attitudes  
in sciences, engineering and I'd also say most technical fields seems  
to be a very simple explanation for the derth of women in these fields.  
And since women, years and years ago, *started* trying to get into the  
fields they've been held back by men (and sometimes women too) saying  
that because of their biology they weren't suited to working in those  
fields. It could be because the fields that women have been told they  
*are* suited for tend to be much lower paying and less prestigious jobs  
like seamstress, child-care worker, nurse and teacher (not that there's  
anything wrong with those jobs - I think they should be much higher  
paid and more prestigious).

And really, coming from the head of Harvard - a guy in a position of  
power to change these attitudes - for him to say "oh maybe it's  
biology" is upsetting because he's saying what men in his position were  
using as an excuse to bar women 50+ years ago.

When we get rid of all that discrimination, sexism and nastiness, well,  
maybe then you can start telling women it's all in their heads.

> I'm sure Jonathon Swift had something to say on the subject, but I'll  
> be
> damned if I can remember what it was. If a man says something in the
> middle of the forest, but there is nobody around to hear it, is he  
> still
> wrong?

Jonathan Swift wrote a couple hundred years ago. I'm not sure what he  
had to say is relevant to this discussion, or that it would be  
particularly enlightened in this day and age. Although, he was  
brilliant, and brilliantly funny so I could be wrong :-)

And he did say, "The latter part of a man's life is taken up in curing  
the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the  
former." Don't know if that's relevant or not - YMMV.

(the tired of ranting about sexism in the sciences on email lists but  
doesn't feel like she can let it slide this time one)

PS. Apologies to elfur (the icelandic one).

PPS. All of the above is said with the caveat that I have also met and  
worked with many wonderfully supportive men and women - people who  
didn't discriminate against me because of my gender - throughout my  
career and life.

Tara Cleveland
Web Design

More information about the thechat mailing list