The Other Charlotte can’t get enough of faux Indian Ward “Little Eichmanns” Churchill (here), and I can’t get enough of the Larry Summers saga.
These are both stories that keep on giving.
Just the other day, Opinion Journal reported on a brainstorming session held by a student group called Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe (WISHR) to discuss Harvard policies that apparently “hinder female students from concentrating in the sciences.”
“To help attract female concentrators,” the article reports, “students suggested class activities such as an ice cream social for Chemistry 5 students.
“Imagine all the trouble Summers would have avoided had he only had the wit to suggest inviting female would-be scientists to ice cream socials! But it’s not too late for him to redeem himself by building on this suggestion.”
Okay, let me get this straight: The big, bad Harvard feminists feel that the reason more women aren’t flocking to the chemistry lab is that nobody ever bothered to say to them, “Have an ice cream cone, little lady.” Talk about playing to stereotypes!
Nevertheless, noting that ice cream isn’t good for a gal’s figger, Opinion Journal offered additional thoughts on how to save the day for the embattled Mr. Summers. Included are Tupperware parties and (culled from a website devoted to women’s issues) dating nerds.
There was also a serious story in Opinion Journal that had a bearing on the Summers controversy.
It was a profile of Susan Polgar, the top-ranked woman chess player “(and No. 11 overall) in the U.S., and No. 1 among women on the active list (and No. 199 overall) in the world, according to FIDE (F’d’ration Internationale des ‘checs). ’When I was more active, I was ranked among the top 100 overall in the world,’ she notes. ‘There are only two women that have ever done this, and that is my sister Judit and I.’”
As a woman who toyed with the idea of writing a piece arguing that, based on my own math SAT scores, Larry Summers had to be…right…, I hesitate to ask, but: Do you see what I see in these rankings?
Ms. Polgar is aware of the problem:
“Known for her aggressive moves on the board, Ms. Polgar has been playing competitive chess from the age of four and breaking down barriers almost her entire life–all without sacrificing her femininity. ’I was aware of the uniqueness of my situation,’ she says. ’As a young girl I could never understand why people even doubt that women could think or play chess like men do. Looking back, it is really shocking that only 20-30 years ago a large percentage of people just honestly could not imagine that it would be possible.’”
Despite her awareness of the paucity of women in chess, Ms. Polgar seems determined not to be the Larry Summers poster girl–she takes the PC approach to answering the question of why there aren’t more women chess players:
“[I]n a 2002 column for ChessCafe.com, she took on what might now be called the Lawrence Summers question. ’If we talk about pure abilities and skills, I believe there should be no reason why women cannot play as well as men,’ Ms. Polgar wrote, but she went on to list various reasons that more female players have not reached chess’s highest ranks–among them their biological clocks, narrower opportunities to compete, cultural and gender bias, and the fact that ’for years, women have set much lower standards’ for themselves in chess than men. ’If you do not put in the same work, you can’t compete at the same level,’ she said then.”
She might be right–we simply don’t know the answer to the questions Summers raised. And we’ll never know the answers if we aren’t allowed to talk the question.
Isn’t it also just possible that there are fewer women at the top in the chess world because abilities are distributed differently? That doesn’t mean that there aren’t women chess geniuses–there clearly are–or that specific women are less brilliant than their male counterparts.
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum has pointed out something else interesting about the controversy Summers created–it affects a very small portion of us (about 1 percent):
“To be more precise, it’s puzzling that so much of the conversation about Summers left out the central point of his controversial presentation, focusing instead on only two of the three explanations he offered for the dearth of tenured female scientists at Harvard University: innate ability (or why more men, allegedly, are unusually good at math) and discrimination (of which Harvard science departments, allegedly, have a long history). These may or may not be important to the discussion of women in the hard sciences. But if we are talking about the other 99.9 percent of the female population, neither gets us very far at all.
“In fact, leaving aside the infinitesimally small world of math geniuses, there isn’t any evidence that men are more intelligent than women, and no one seriously says so. Outside of a handful of institutions, the evidence of unthinking discrimination is slim too. It is true, of course, that men continue to earn more than women — approximately $1 for every 75 cents that women make. But economists such as June O’Neill or Harvard’s Claudia Goldin, who have accounted for different job choices, hours worked and time taken off for raising children, have concluded that it is these factors, not discrimination, that account for most of the difference.”
Like most matters that are of interest to radical feminists, the issue affects a small slice of people and takes away from issues that affect ordinary women. Yes, it’s worth a debate, but, if I weren’t enjoying this so much, I’d say it’s just one more example of how out of touch radical feminists are.