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