Thursday, October 19, 2006

Burn your bra then show us your boobs

I consider Judith Warner to be the worst kind of feminist. There are some "feminists" (see: Maureen Dowd) who are so polarized in their opinions that most women know better than to take them too seriously. But there are others who write their opinions with such rationale and restraint that even those in the more introspective region of the female demographic tend to find them persuasive. Judith Warner is one such a person. That, by the way, is a compliment to Mrs. Warner...BACKHAND STYLE!

I suppose I should take a moment to explain what I mean by "feminist," since (as in the case of the "Religious Right" and fightin' words) some women tend to get defensive when they're painted with the "feminist" brush.* I define a "feminist" as someone who places improving the situation of women as a top social priority without promoting integrally-related social goals. For example, feminists tend to view the gender disparities in math and science as a uniquely girl problem rather than an education problem--for them the issue isn't that many of our children are expressing a disinterest towards science and math, but that many of our girls are expressing that disinterest. I understand that this problem does show its particular effects on girls, but I'm also not convinced that, without more, increasing the number of women in the sciences solely for the sake of increasing the number of women in the sciences is a worthwhile social goal. Indeed, I find it to be a little bit sexist.

* ie, Rebecca West: "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute."

But today after reading Warner's column I experienced the benefits of an open mind. Those of you who don't get Times Select won't be able to read it**, but in it Warner describes the prevailing trend this past educational year of colleges revoking acceptance offers to high school seniors who slack off in their final semester. To this ridiculous phenomenon Warner expessly declares: Oh, please. "I think that there may be a real adaptive purpose to 'senioritis.' It may (like sleep) be a necessary physical response to the years – Two? Four? Fourteen? – of personal résumé-building that most students perceive as necessary now to win admission to a choice college. It may, in fact, be a stress-reduction valve that we turn off only at great risk, not just to students, but to colleges and universities as well."

** Though apparently the law students among you can read Times Select articles on LexisNexis; although, I gotta say, Lexis Points notwithstanding, I try to make a habit of avoiding the Lexis site unless I absolutely have to go there.

I have to agree with Warner. In an age where we tend to treat a high school education as a goal to be accomplished on the road towards college admission rather than as an end in itself, can we really act surprised when our high schoolers then neglect their high school education once the goal has been achieved? More importantly, can we then punish them for it? No, you can't create a monster and then whine when it stomps on a few buildings. I'm Lisa Simpson.


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