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May 28 2010

We Are Too Broke to Fund Gender-Awareness Nonsense

Carrie L. Lukas

Mark Steyn writes today that "we are too broke to be this stupid."  He argues that the West has felt that it has the luxury of embracing counterproductive economic policies-generous entitlement programs for those that don't work-because economies were generally humming and countries felt rich. Now that countries aren't rich, with many actually teetering on the brink of insolvency, citizens are realizing the stupidity of these policies that discourage growth and encourage sloth.

Apparently though, here in the United States, some haven't gotten the message that we are too poor to waste money on stupid, counterproductive activities. As Christina Hoff Sommers warns, Congress is about to pass a bill that will fund gender awareness seminars that are at best wasteful and at worst will hinder progress in critical areas of our economy. She writes:

Buried deep in the act, where few can see, this little provision compels our leading academic engineers, mathematicians, information technologists, and physicists to attend equity STEMinars, and these STEMinars will not help America compete. On the contrary, they are designed to undermine the meritocratic culture that drives the nation's success in science.

The "Fulfilling Potential" amendment directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to organize gender-bias-awareness workshops and specifies that "attitudinal surveys [be] conducted on workshop participants before and after the workshops. . . . Activities shall include research presentations, and interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of gender bias." Most members of Congress, despite their personal reservations about such workshops, know that to vote against such an amendment would trigger the wrath of the gender-bias juggernaut--an army of activists, scholars, and lawyers. (The former Harvard president Lawrence Summers is only its most famous victim.) These days, politicians and college presidents find it easier just to say yes to the gender lobby. What could be wrong with that? Let's start with the interactive discussions.

Once the Reauthorization Act becomes law, the anti-bias "interactive theater" experiment developed at the University of Michigan will flourish. Deans and chairpersons of engineering, math, and computer-science programs will be able to demonstrate their bona fides where women are concerned (and protect their funding) by requiring faculty to watch a series of skits where insensitive, overbearing men ride roughshod over hapless but obviously intellectually superior female colleagues. The plays were inspired by a 1974 manifesto by Brazilian radical Augusto Boal in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. The federal government will not only sponsor these plays, but also provide the means to administer attitudinal surveys to measure how effectively they have altered the consciousness of the scientists in the audience.

"Gender Bias Bingo" is another initiative that will thrive once the amendment becomes law. With a $300,000 National Science Foundation "ADVANCE" grant, activist-lawyer Joan Williams and her team at the Hastings School of Law developed a website for academics called "The Gender Bias Learning Project." The centerpiece is a bingo game. To win, a scholar submits three harrowing stories about how she or someone she knows was demeaned by clueless colleagues. According to Professor Williams, "the site is fun and funky, but it is based on science." In fact, it is based on discredited 1970s feminist ideology and a tendentious collection of readings. "It's better to be a bitch than a doormat," says Williams to viewers. But why be either? And why should taxpayers be supporting a divisive and irrational program?

IWF has written a lot about misguided government efforts to create equality of outcomes between the sexes in academia (see here and here). Needless to say, this latest development is concerning. It undermines academic freedom, wastes resources, and frankly insults women by acting as though we are too fragile to make it in these fields on our own and don't know what's best for us when choosing our own career paths.

Taxpayers are increasingly concerned about the growing government debt, and politicians like to claim they get it and plan to fiscally responsible in the future. There is nothing fiscally responsible at throwing millions at wasteful activities like these.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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