Damn you Feminism!

Why does Feminism seem to catch the unrelated flak that it does? Feminism is often blamed for ideas women hold that are not agreeable to the status-quo, regardless if these ideas are feminist in content or not.

While discussing the issue of affirmative action and its role in graduate school admissions this I have been confronted with the overwhelming concurrence between my male peers that because I am a woman who is as well-qualified as they are I will be at an unfair advantage in acceptance into graduate schools. This opinion came out in a conversation I had with a few people this afternoon. A friend remarked that he did not want to apply to the same schools I was because I would have the advantage of getting accepted due to my female status. A professor who was also there (with whom I’ve talked to about being a woman in academia, specifically a woman in a subject that has so few women in it) was annoyed at the remark that I would have a “leg up” in getting accepted and sarcastically said as she walked away that she was only hired because she was a woman. Feminism was blamed for the professor’s reaction, because it was an “empirical fact” that women are accepted over men. Two issues with this reasoning, 1.) there are no statistics I found to support the statement  that women are accepted to grad. school over similarly qualified men, in fact the stats I found show there are more women enrolled in grad. school than men. 2.) Feminism is not the only source of women’s opinions.

Feminism might very well be the reason this professor was annoyed, but it could also be that she was annoyed with the illogical fear that being a woman gives me an advantage. There is no reason my friend should be concerned that we are applying to some of the same schools. There are going to be countless other men and women applying who are just as qualified and more qualified as us, not to mention that the schools we have in common will probably take more into account than just our GRE, GPA, letters of rec. and vaguely similar statements of purpose/areas of interest.

It’s annoying to hear that being a woman will help me get into graduate school, but I’m used to it. What’s most annoying is hearing feminism blamed for women’s independence and opinions. When men express their desire for independence, or to be taken seriously, or when men take offense to something genuinely offensive, no one blames an anti-sexism ideology for their opinions. Feminism is blamed because subconsciously people think that women cannot think for themselves. They need to be told what and when something is offensive, because there’s no way that women are smart enough to come up with these opinions on their own. Which leads me to this SNL skit.

And remember: “Avoid looking at the newspaper, as it might give you ideas.”

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3 Responses

  1. Underrepresented demographic groups often do get a leg up in admissions, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m speaking also as a male who was told by one of the colleges that waitlisted me that even though I was close to the top of the waitlist, they would not be taking me off the waitlist because the incoming freshman class was too male-heavy, and so they were taking only girls off the waitlist.

    I had no problem with this.

    I did not feel discriminated against. I didn’t feel female applicants had a “leg up” on me for being taken off the waitlist instead of me. I understand, especially now that I’ve been able to work in the admission offices myself, that having a balanced class is a worthy goal in academic settings, and that admission is not a people-driven human process generally and not a mathematical formula.

    Guess what—the legacy has a “leg up” on you too. So does the oboe player. So does the only applicant from Wyoming. So does the rich person who has connections to the board of trustees.

    In general graduate school, I’m sure gender plays very little of a role in admission decisions. In certain currently male-dominated professions or studies, women probably do get what some entitled males feel to be a “leg up.” Good for them. I’d love to see more women in technology, in business, in medicine (as doctors), in politics. I’d also love to see more men in early child education, social work, and nursing.

  2. For more on this topic, see this link (from Feminist Philosophers):

    http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/women-in-philosophy-whats-getting-left-out/

    I encourage also reading Sally Haslanger’s paper, which is linked from this link, for more on this topic. Regarding what you’ve laid out here, logical operator, what I find most damaging is how such a claim–“well, you’ll get into grad school because you’re a woman”–manages to undermine a person in one fell swoop.

    (On a side note, as a philosophy professor, I encounter, “Well, she must be influenced by feminism” [because she’s a woman] or “She must work in feminism” [to care about women in philosophy] often. When in actuality, I don’t work “in feminism” [much], but in other philosophical areas. FWIW.)

  3. Thanks for your replies A.Y. and D.O. I agree with D.O., regardless if it is true that women are giving priority over men the statement that a woman would get into grad. school by virtue that she was a woman undermines her as a person (not to mention rubbing salt in the wound by blaming feminism for the negative response instead of responsibility for saying something offensive).

    A.Y. thanks for your support of women and men in their respective minority careers, studies, etc.

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