Reader “Cassandra,” the self described “Marine wife/tech wench” who runs the wonderful blog Villainous Company, e-mails us in connection with the long-running brouhahas over Harvard president Larry Summers’ remark that the statistical underrepresentation of women in the sciences might have something to do with male-female aptitudes (click here for an update), and also over fem-agitator Susan Estrich’s jihad against Los Angeles Times opinion editor Michael Kinsley effectively demanding gender quotas for women writers on newspaper op-ed pages.
The Kinsley-Estrich fandango began when Kinsley published an op-ed by me, “Feminist Fatale,” in which I contended that the reason there weren’t many female public intellectuals was that women commentators seem to prefer to be feminist scolds (maybe like Susan Estrich?) than write about important public issues.
So Cassandra offers a brilliant choice, a non-Estrich-clone candidate, to fill the faltering ranks of women public intellectuals that I described:
“I’d like to nominate Ruth Wisse.”
Wisse is a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard and perhaps Summers’s lone female supporter on Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, which issued a vote of no-confidence in Summers earlier this month. Cassandra links to this article by Wisse in the April issue of Commentary, an open letter to one of Wisse’s former students in which Wisse tries to explain the bitter irony of a college professor forced to grovel before campus militant feminists for the crime of citing scientific evidence that goes against prevailing feminist dogma. Wisse writes:
“….Summers was fluttering straight into the jaws of political correctness. In particular, he was flouting the feminist claim that at the root of any and all discrepancies in female employment figures there lies — in a word — discrimination. Given the reception that routinely greets any social scientist who thinks out loud about genetic variations, you have to admit that it was pretty gutsy, or reckless, of Summers to air this possibility of a ‘variabliliy of aptitude,’ even at a supposedly closed meeting, let alone to bring up the subject of women’s voluntary life choices. In any event, it did not take long for him to reap the rewards of his candor….
“The women’s caucus at Harvard, which boasts of representing 90 percent of the senior female faculty, claims to be fighting for ‘diversity.’ There are currently 86 tenured female professors in the arts and sciences at Harvard; there may be a tenth that number of tenured Republicans, male or female. By substituting sexual for intellectual or any other kind of diversity, feminist watchdogs have already done their bit to help create Harvard’s notoriously monolithic faculty.
“On no subject, finally, is uniformity imposed more rigidly than on the women’s question. I may be (as someone asserted) the only female among the senior faculty who thinks the university should guarantee equal treatment to all candidates for every position in every department, and that women deserve no more special consideration in hiring than veterans, the disabled, or reformed prisoners. (I doubt I’m the only one, but the proposition has yet to be tested.) Of course, I freely concede that the university has the right to promulgate any policy it chooses. But who has given the standing committee on women’a non-academic, non-elective, heavily politicized body — the right to bill itself as the women’s point of view, or to advocate university policy in my name? So much for the free marketplace of ideas.”
Cassandra adds her own thoughts:
“For remarks made among fellow academicians in what was supposed to be an informal and collegial setting, Larry Summers stands accused of the crime of sexism: discriminating against women. But there is a terrible irony here. For you see, Summers did not discriminate then. He treated the women present that day as his intellectual and professional equals. His error, if indeed he did err, lay in assuming that the women in that room were capable of discussing complex ideas in a rational and dispassionate manner. Their reaction seems to have disproved that hypothesis. It forced him to reassess their capabilities based on the available data. Like any good administrator, Summers did exactly what the faculty requested of him: he listened. He learned from his mistake. The irony of it all is that, although Lawrence Summers may have been innocent of sexism on that day, he is undoubtedly guilty as sin today. Because he clearly no longer believes women are equal to men. We must be treated gingerly: protected from the harsher realities.”
Couldn’t agree more–and Wisse deserves a medal for bravery as well as eloquence and intellectual acumen.
Now for an e-mail from “Philip.” I don’t know what’s ticked him off, but something about the IWF has made Philip hopping mad! Here goes:
“It is pathetic how you people think. You’re blind to facts and don’t have a clue. It is people like you who make the United States of America the most uneducated first-world country in the world. If you had any bit of a brain, you would think for yourself and base things on facts and not faith or hope.”
Happy Easter Monday to you, too, Philip.