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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harvard President aligns with Teen Talk Barbie

I was browsing through the latest issue of Skeptic magazine, and I came across another great article about the irresponsible and insulting 80-hour-work-week comment made by Harvard President Lawrence Summers in January.

It got me thinking again about Summers' comment, the outrage, and the apology. It reminded me of the Mattel debacle of the early 1990s, when the toy maker pulled Teen Talk Barbie from store shelves because it proclaimed that "math is hard." Only this time, instead of a doll convincing young girls that math isn't for them, we have the president of a top university telling the world that girls just aren't hardwired for science.

There are differences between boys and girls. In the playgroup that I go to with Toddler in Chief, it's already clear that there are differences--even though they are just two-and-a-half. TIC and his male buddy push around cars and trucks, while the three girls of the group fawn over the group's token newborn.

I have no official gender, biological, or sociological research under my belt. This is just plain observation from a very small subset of toddler-society. And I have no idea if liking cars and trucks equals liking and excelling in science. I also have no idea if liking newborns and dolls equals an aversion to science.

The Skeptic article, entitled "Gender Differences & the 80-Hour Work Week," took issue with jobs in the sciences and long hours. Women aren't absent from science career because they demand long hours, wrote Susan Carol Losh, because women are putting in the heavy hours in other fields and excelling. Losh wrote that Summers' arguments:

...were trotted out when I was a kid to explain the scarcity of women doctors and layers. And yet thousands upon thousands of women now appear willing to put in those 80-hour work weeks in medical residencies and internships, and to make partners in law firms. How come we have that motivation for medicine and law but not physics?"

So if women are able to hunker down and work long hours, if need be in some fields, it's just plain sexist to say that women aren't in some sciences because their brains weren't programmed that way. Maybe more women aren't in the sciences because they were led to believe that they couldn't make it. Maybe they were pushed towards more "female-friendly" career paths.

Let's hope our kids will have more encouragement to believe in themselves and their abilities--regardless of what Harvard's president says.


  1. Perpetuating the myth does no one any good. This is extremely frustrating.

    Thank goodness my homeschool has 2 girls--I can make them believe in anything for themselves. I don't think I'll be pushing Harvard.

  2. Anonymous4:57 PM

    You're a feminist, whether you know it or not. To be an American Woman means you're inculcated with feminism daily.
    You can express your feminist views because you have freedom. Freedom that men have fought and died for (and a few women too, to be "fair"). When Western Civilization falls, or when America gets invaded by Muslims, whichever comes first, American Men aren't going to protect you ungrateful, unthankful, unappreciative misandric females. Stop Spreading Misandry!
    You'll enjoy complaing about your lack of "rights" and "freedom" and "equality" to the muslims. They really care about the rights and freedom of women. American Women have more rights and freedom than any creature on earth and you still do nothing but complain. Complain about how miserable you are. Complain about how "unfair" everything is. Keep it up. Keep spitting in the face of those who are supposed to defend and protect your freedom. One day you'll wake up and realize that the life of an American Woman ain't so bad. You'd be wise to put an end to your misandric feminist views. One day, your son will make it clear to you how anti-male / pro-female the US is. Get out of the American Woman "comfy" Zone and step into the reality that America is an anti-male pro-feminist culture.

  3. Anonymous3:57 AM

    A super article MIC
    As a grandmother now, I can look back just a few short 30 years to when women did not have the same rights and privileges as they do today. I might add that this freedom came because brave and outspoken women who understood our US Constitution had "had enough". Along the way there were hundreds and thousands of supportive husbands, fathers and lovers who supported us in the freedom cause. If it were not for these brave folk we would still be waiting for controlling men to tell us when it was ok to vote, to work and to speak out. I also was from the generation that did not encourage females to enter the fields of science and math, but to enter the fields of education or nursing. Girls were made to feel incompetent in math and science. I still cringe today at the thought of doing a math problem. I feel sad that anonymous thinks this is merely "Complaining". There were those who thought that about Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and others like them who "fought" for these rights. There are gender differences but not in the areas of intellect. Keep up the good work MIC.