In My Opinion

by Caroline Porter

A new theory that ain't new

Well, it's happening again. Now the news media has jumped on the latest report that concludes that career women better not wait too long or they can't have babies. If I were just born yesterday, I might actually believe that garbage, but it sounds like the usual snow job to me.

For centuries this society has tried to discourage women from having careers, taking part in sports, getting into politics, any male-dominated field, by threatening that we will lose our femininity and become like men (yikes). We are told that men don't like women who are smarter and that somehow women can't possibly be equal without being like men.

We understand that men and women are very different, not only physically, but mentally. But we can't even accept that stereotype. I know too many men who act like they have PMS and menstrual periods, and not just once a month. I know too many women who don't like to shop, who are practical and strong and have many qualities considered masculine. Some day we may decide to accept individuals as they are, regardless of gender.

But this latest barrage against career women is the same old stuff. It plays to the old fears instilled in us that if we aren't married and have children, we aren't really women, we aren't complete. Many women have found that's just not true. What is true, however, is that we all have to make choices.

The negative characterization of Hillary Clinton as a ''cold bitch'' is purely and simply applied because she is smart, aggressive and ambitious. Some even blame her for her husband's dallying, assuming, like cave men, that Hillary didn't ''service'' him enough. Anyone who's been in the singles scene, as I have, knows that's an old line and it's baloney.

I have a whole file of clippings from the last forty years about women's issues and I think many young women today would be shocked to read them. But one, which I've written about before, is from a 1999 issue of the Peoria Journal Star in a column by Ellen Goodman. She wrote about fifteen women professors - physicists, chemists, biologists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who finally admitted that men and women at the highest levels were still being treated differently. It all started when a DNA researcher found a course she had created was cancelled, while a man who taught it with her turned it into a book and CD of his own. She began to call around to other senior faculty women who had never discussed the issue. They began to research their own situation and discovered they had about half the space as their male counterparts and about 20 percent less pay. By every measurement: research money, committee membership, etc. they came up short.

Knowing that MIT is data-driven, the women presented their findings to the administration, which eventually admitted to unintended (yeah, right), but real, gender bias. The women started their own web-site to communicate with other women faculty on the college level, so their action had a real ripple effect. May I remind you, dear readers, this was in the mid-1990's. The web site encountered two reactions: If it happens to the tenured women at MIT, it must happen everywhere and if the MIT women can do it, we can do it.

My reaction? If there is discrimination in our institutions of higher learning, where supposedly our most intelligent beings exist, the problem of gender discrimination is still very serious.

So the next time we are warned that unmarried or married career woman probably can't have babies later on, let's take it with a grain of salt. Who financed that research anyway - Gerber baby food?

Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at

Uploaded to The Zephyr website May 1, 2002

Back to The Zephyr home page at: