Friday, November 17, 2006

No bias here
Zuska and Dr. Free-Ride both have a few words to say about this rather silly article in the Cornell American. The article is a glib commentary on a recent report about gender bias in academic science and engineering published by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.

The article, written by a freshman, engineering student named Rachel Brenc, is pretty standard young conservative fare. Ms. Brenc claims that gender bias is a thing of the past, the memory of which is kept alive by a group of ugly, aging feminists with hairy legs. Her writing has the usual self-satisfied and mocking tone that young conservative newspapers always have and contains little real analysis. Life has been easy for Ms. Brenc and she has time to worry or care about those for whom it has been harder.

Brenc's mocking of feminism tips over into outright misogyny--again, as is typical for the genre--and Zuska very rightly takes her to task for it.
What is really sad, however, is the hatred of women and consequent self-loathing it implies that comes across so strongly in your article. You say that the women who wrote the report must hate young women like you, but you are the one who makes remarks like "it was reported that the lone man on the committee stumbled out of each meeting covered with whip marks and had to sprint to an emergency estrogen removal station to keep his testosterone level in check". It would take a week to explain to you all the woman-hating packed into that one sentence: that women are a threat to men, that too-many women will emasculate a man, that women want to keep men pussy-whipped, that women want to control men, that women are, in general, evil. Or how about "Maybe if there were more men on the committee the incorporated technology would actually work". Is that what you are going to tell your interviewers come job search time? That, in general, you can't trust technology designed by women to function properly? Do you really believe such nonsense? Do you really hate yourself and other women so much?

We don't need to go far to get a clue about the source of Brenc's self-loathing and insecurity.
I was encouraged to go into the field based on my abilities in math and science. And nobody has ever said, “You can’t do this because you’re female.”

Men, in fact, are probably at a disadvantage now through our ugly friend known as reverse discrimination, because every company has been getting the signal from headquarters to start hiring more females. In fact, I’ve got it made. As an attractive, professional female chemical engineer attempting to graduate a year early from Cornell, I find it hard to believe I couldn’t get a job or professor status before a good majority of males.

The fact that she needs to point out that she is, in her own completely unbiased (because bias no longer exists) opinion, "attractive" is the telling point. She may want to believe that her present good fortune is based on her "abilities in math and science" but she knows her future fortune might be based on something as random and passing as her pretty face, full hair, and perky breasts. These things are just good luck and not due to any particular virtue on her part. And, as attractiveness is something our culture ties directly to youth, it's all down hill from here.

This is mostly speculation on my part, but I hope it's true because it's the kindest interpretation I can give to her words. The harsher interpretation is that, like many privileged conservatives, she's got hers and she doesn't give a damn about anybody else. Dr. Free-Ride suggests that Brenc's attitude is that "since she hasn't noticed discrimination, it must not exist." I think she has noticed and experienced discrimination but, till now, it's been in Brenc's favor and, again, the hell with anybody who didn't share her luck. The less privileged and more empathetic are just here to be stepped on and mocked when they complain.

Maybe Rachel Brenc is just young and silly and will grow out of this someday, but I won't put money on that bet. Privilege and self-righteousness are powerful aphrodisiacs.

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