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Someone recently accused me of wearing my intelligence on my sleeve

Someone recently accused me of wearing my intelligence on my sleeve. I took it as a compliment.

But I began to think about what it means for any woman to “wear” her intelligence on her sleeve. To be fair, I don’t know whether the man who made the comment to me would have made it to another man. His sex actually bears no weight on this argument. Mine does. Fifty years ago, the likelihood that I would have been able to sit in a college classroom as an equal to a man would have been slim. As a sex, we were confined to training in elementary education, home economics, anything that would prepare us for a life providing supplementary income to a man or working in the home. Therefore, a woman was not encouraged to wear her intelligence on her sleeve or anywhere else.

Women have made progress. Not only is it socially prudent now for a woman to get an education, but in 2006 we outnumber men on college campuses by the same 10 to 20 percent by which they outnumbered us in the 1950s and 1960s. Now we study biomedical engineering. Now we hold our own in discourses on race, class and gender.

We may graduate from college in greater numbers, but men are still getting the good jobs. How many female CEOs sat at the head of Fortune 1000 companies in 2002? Eleven. How many women are in Congress right now? Eighty-four, (Congress seats 535 altogether). So, why?

New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd hypothesizes that the feminist movement of the 1960s is partially reversed now by women who leave all the work to the hardcore feminists, who still let men pay for everything, and who fear that success will make them undesirable. The Janis Joplin posters were on the wall for awhile, but now they’ve come down, along with them the notion that a woman could brazenly make her way in a man’s world.

I was shocked to discover that some young adults find the concept of gender equality dated. “What more do you want?” I heard a male student say. How about more than 77 cents to a man’s dollar?

Dowd asks whether feminism is just some “cruel hoax.” At 21, I know I’m a long way from marriage and children. I do not equate marriage and family with failure, but I know that many women are choosing them early in their lives, over education and a career, often because they think they cannot do it all and be happy.

So I’ll wear my intelligence on my sleeve, and I’ll acquire more. It takes time to bury a deep-seated social trend like gender discrimination. But we need to make sure that enough women still want to bury it.


Lesley Reed is a senior history major who serves as a reporter for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to

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