The first is, of course, the Larry Summers situation, which has been blown so far out of proportion that it's like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man at this point. Summers was at a conference for academics. He suggested that a certain interpretation of data was possible. Reasonable scientists and thinkers agree that he may be correct. This, in my opinion, is what academia is supposed to be about. We open various issues for debate and think about them. We pursue truth regardless of whether it fits our preconceptions or desires or not. We, you know, research and learn. Summers was trying to prompt thought and debate with his comments and yet people reacted like he had stood up there and said "Not only are women incapable of basic math but I think wife beating should be legalized, since not only does it keep the bitches in line but they can learn basic addition from counting up their welts." One woman declared that she had the vapors and if she'd stayed in the room any longer she would 'like to have fainted.' This proved what a strong and fiercely independent feminist she was. It looks like the controversy will bring Summers down. This whole thing makes me sick, because it's the exact OPPOSITE of what liberals need to be showing the world. We need to show that we're strong, we can brook debate and disagreement, and we're open to ALL ideas, even unpopular ones. The Harvard witch hunt makes us look small minded and limited. It also infantilizes women who apparently can't deal with hearing even the possibility that there might not be as many spectacular female mathematicians as male ones, or that women might care more about childrearing than men do.
I have known men who were this kind of die-hard feminist. Almost universally they did not actually believe what they were saying but merely said it because they hoped to obtain pussy through submission to ludicrous ideas. Either that or they were browbeaten and guilty. Apparently that's the kind of man the women want on their side fighting for their rights, the kind who will sell out when he sees something he wants or wilt under pressure. I'm not arguing that Summers theories were correct or that women shouldn't speak out about the ways they feel such statements create difficulties for them. I am arguing that such discussions should come forth in an academic dispassionate manner and should try to use evidence, not emotion, to battle prejudice. The Summers situation makes me feel rather hopeless about the current state of American liberalism. It has drifted from a bastion of reason to a different sort of dogmatic orthodoxy, and that's not where it needs to be if it is to be resurgent.
Then there's the whole Op-Ed situation. There's been discussion about the lack of female representation in editorial pages across the country. Most of the newspapers have come out and said that the problem is either insignificant or due to complex and difficult to issues. In my opinion the lack of female representation on op-ed pages is a great shame. I don't think we need equal representation, but a 9-1 or 7-2 ratio is just ludicrous. I happen to believe that women and men think differently and we DO need female perspectives on the issues of the day, especially since so many of these issues involve women's rights. Of course I don't think women should write only about abortion and marriage, but to have only men doing so is the height of folly. The argument that women are too thin skinned for op-ed work or not comfortable expressing their opinions holds no water for me. Surely there are plenty of women both talented at writing and strong of character who could fill at least 1/3 of op-ed spots out there. I've met such women out there in the world and I think their voices should be heard. I am not suggesting that male op-ed writers should be fired, but perhaps there could be an expansion of the space devoted to such columns in various papers, or if that's not possible they could offer women some online spots to practice the necessary skills to step in to openings as they appear. I just think not enough is being made of this particular disparity, and I don't know why. Why is the Summers thing such a huge dust up while the op-ed thing is getting little attention? Is it because media types don't want to criticize their own institutions or because it's worse to SAY something that might be prejudiced than to actually BE prejudiced? I fear that it is indeed the second and that makes me even more depressed. What Summers did was try to open the door on a possibility. What the Op-Ed pages are doing is excluding important voices and limiting the level of public discourse. Which is the greater problem?
I'd also like to weigh in on the recent Supreme Court decision banning the state-sponsored murder of children. People who say it is a disgusting or abominable decision are SICK and violent individuals. Those who oppose it on the grounds that it draws too much on international opinion are on firmer moral ground, but in my opinion are equally wrong. What do they think the Unusual in Cruel and Unusual punishment stands for? We need to look to international opinion in terms of punishment because that's what the constitution demands. It says that America can not punish her convicts in ways that other countries find abominable. Perhaps the attention to other countries was less at the founding of our country but that was a different world and I feel completely comfortable expanding the definition to fit this one. I applaud the court for refusing to pay heed to the desire of the Morlock hordes in the South, their primitive fear-driven psyches demanding the blood of children (some certainly innocent) to appease their desire for carnage and death. We must stand against such abject and vicious cruelty. That decision was a little island of sanity in this crazy political environment. That it is under savage attacks from the evil creatures on the right is both unsurprising and profoundly sad.