Jess McCabe // 13 July 2006
Do you remember Larry Summers, the ex-president of Harvard who said that the reason that women don’t get to the top of the career ladder in science is that they’re just not bright enough, rather than… say… discrimination and gender stereotyping.
“The main difference that I have noticed is that people who don’t know that I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he writes. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”
As a young girl, and then as a young female college student and academic, Barres said he felt the sting of discrimination first hand. While an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the female Barres was the only person in a class full of men to solve a particularly tough math problem. The professor remarked that Barbara’s “boyfriend must have solved it for [her].” And as a grad student at Harvard, Barbara Barres was passed over for a prestigious fellowship in favor of a male applicant who had published just one-sixth as many scientific papers as she had.
Finally, Barres remembers that, “Shortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say, ‘Ben Barres gave such a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.’ “
Meanwhile, Feministing poster Jessica Valenti interviews Kathy Pollitt about her new book, ‘Virginity or Death!’
On a review that called her a “strident” feminist:
Well, do black people, do Latinos, do workers go around saying, “Oh no! Our leaders are so strident! Someone just wrote a strident book defending my rights!” Even if they themselves are more moderate, they’re happy! So I think it’s sort of an odd combination.
And on why we should/should not get hung up defending the word “feminism”:
I think that conservatives have really done an amazing job of taking away from us all the good words like “liberty” and “freedom” and demonizing the words that are left. Like “feminism” and “choice.” And “liberal.” I think we can’t let them do this forever. If you lose a way to describe yourself, you’ve lost a lot. If you lose the word “feminism,” you are losing the idea that there is anything particular to the way women’s situation is structured in this society. I would fight for that word. But it’s a losing game in the end. I think we’ve seen that with “liberal.” “Liberal” was a very good word! “Liberal” was a word that put together the idea of our constitutional liberties — like freedom of speech and the rights of the individual against the government — with the idea of fighting poverty. Fighting racial discrimination. Once you lose the word, you lose a very good way of keeping those concepts together. And I think the same is true about “feminism.” But if people want to start calling themselves women’s liberationists, that’s OK with me.
It’s a brilliant interview, and I, like all the other feminists in the blogosphere, am going to recommend you read it all.
Meanwhile, over on Barbelith, there’s a very interesting debate going on about, among other things, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s decision to restrict entry to “women-born-women” (or is that “womyn-born-womyn”?)
Yet another dodgy police campaign aimed at women drinkers, exhorting us to wear nice underwear in case we get so laggard we end up “showing off more than we intend”. Jesus.
For your iPod/other MP3 player, listen to this talk on how persecution against witches links in with the emergence of capitalism.