LARRY AND ME. As my time guest-blogging at TAP begins to draw to a close and as someone who�s had a fair amount of attention in the blogosphere lately, I want to say that the level of the comments here is pretty impressive. Now it would not be hard to be more rational and literate than much of what goes on amongst the mommy-bloggers (see the recent eruption of �Linda! Vomit!� on the ABC news website after I appeared in the second hour of Good Morning America yesterday to suggest that people might want to read my new book). But evidence of the occasional quality of the commentary here is that one particular comment to my piece on David Brooks� Sunday �eeew, Jane Eyre� column picked something up that no one has noticed, even though it has been in plain view for months.
That is, much of what I say on behalf of working women and much of what Harvard ex-President Larry Summers says sound the same. As the commenter cleverly laid it out:
Feminist Linda Hirshman, in TAP:
"Even the most devoted lawyers with the hardest-working nannies are going to have weeks when no one can get home other than to sleep. The odds are that when this happens, the woman is going to give up her ambitions and professional potential."
Troglodyte Larry Summers, That Talk:
"Another way to put the point is to say, what fraction of young women in their mid-twenties make a decision that they don't want to have a job that they think about eighty hours a week...Is our society right to have familial arrangements in which women are asked to make that choice and asked more to make that choice than men?"
Feminist Linda Hirshman:
"The rule here is to avoid taking on more than a fair share of the second shift. If this seems coldhearted, consider the survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy. Fully 40 percent of highly qualified women with spouses felt that their husbands create more work around the house than they perform."
Troglodyte Larry Summers:
"And the relatively few women who are in the highest ranking places are disproportionately either unmarried or without children,"
Since I have been pilloried both by the religious, patriarchal right and the Darwinist, relativist left for speaking these plain truths, the commenter is right to note a certain affinity between Larry and me. As I am going to discuss at greater length in the Washington Post later this week, unlike Summers, I am retired. So unless they take away my Social Security, I�m pretty much free to say whatever politically incorrect thing I want to. And will continue doing so as long as there is �paper� (or laptops) to write on.
Here�s the difference. I think the plain truth Summers found is terrible. If you actually read his speech, Summers presented this terrible news about the unfair treatment of women in academia in a kind of morally neutral, quizzical way. How interesting that women would be engaging in behavior that, as I say in Get to Work, means they will never be the ones to discover a cure for cancer.
What the commenter also left out is the part of Summers� (and Brooks�) analysis that I hotly dispute. In his New Year�s Day column about my article, Brooks wrote that women are by nature fitted to bear the repetitious physical work of housekeeping and child rearing, and therefore it is fair to load them with the burden of the household and disable them from the work of the larger world. Defending this hypothesis, Summers said �most of what we've learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization.�
As Summers� critics have repeated until only the most willfully ignorant individual would ignore it, we have little or nothing that counts as evidence that women are, by nature, different from men in any way that matters to working in the industrialized, market economy. But we have a lot of evidence that, in a controlled study, faculty hiring committees heavily favor resumes with male names, even where the qualifications are set up to be identical.
Unlike Summers, I recognize the really scary, dangerous and unjust implications of asserting that the evolution of women�s brains render them less eligible for good, honored, well-paid, socially significant work, like science, and perfectly fit for food shopping. Dragging the ancient belief that the household, like the squishy content of women�s lit, is for the females to deal with, and facing a bunch of employers who will pick Bill over Jill when the qualifications are identical, it�s hard to figure out how much of a role to assign to conditions on the African savannah a million years ago.