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Thursday, June 05, 2003

On Educated Women


Well, I've graduated. They were handing out many publications, among them a booklet on women's equality at Harvard. It's rather confusing and shows that at least some women will never be satisfied. Radcliffe, vilified as a sign of sex segregation, is now bemoaned as a loss for feminists. Even within one article we learn both that it is sexist to assume more men than women are drawn to science because they think differently (because it is sexist to assert any general mental differences), and also that the reason fewer women are in science is because they don't like the cut-throat nature of scientific interactions (because general mental differences between men and women exist). What do you want? Radcliffe, that bastion of support for women, or Radcliffe, that shameful place to which those lower beings called women were sent? Science, where all minds are the same, or science, where minds are different and that's a good thing, or science, where minds are different and that's a bad thing? You can't have them all!

As for me, I'm well aware that there are practically no women in Sanskrit. I think that's for the same reason that there are so few women in pure math -- it's very dry and crusty, very orderly and structured with few outlets for imagination or creativity. Which is why I like it. But I do think that, in general, men and women think differently -- but I don't think that should be cause for banning each sex from the other's typical interests, because I believe it's a general rule, not a hard-and-fast one. I know the dynamics for a woman are different within the field of Sanskrit; both to my advantage (men so delighted to have a woman of any variety in their midst that they'll make it easier for me) and to my disadvantage (people -- including students like myself -- initially suspicious of a female Sanskritist, because of experience with people like Diana Eck who taught it without really knowing it, being given the opportunity in the name of diversity). The former I don't mind, although someone with a bit more pride and integrity might; the latter can be overcome if you produce something of indisputable academic value.

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