GIRL POWER As I read “The New Girl Order,” by Kay Hymowitz (Fall 2011), I initially felt that my observations in the classroom were finally being legitimized. I have always noticed that in general, my female students are more determined and interested than my male students. However, as I continued reading, I became disturbed by the author’s failure to paint a complete picture of the situation she is analyzing.
For example, she states that a demographer from Queens College found women make 117 percent of what their male counterparts make. I would like to know the population parameters of this research. According to United States Department of Labor statistics, women’s earnings are 80 percent of men’s on average, and 84 percent of men’s in New York. Moreover, Hymowitz does not adequately investigate the issue of marriage and its effects on women’s earnings. And she overlooks the fact that women are still underrepresented in the U.S. government and positions of authority. The Center for American Women and Politics reports that women hold just 17 percent of the Senate seats, 16.8 percent of the House seats, and 22.4 percent of elected executive offices.
Another problem is that in her discussion of marketing aimed at a female audience, Hymowitz fails to consider the effects of objectification on women and girls. She talks about girls in “thongs and other kinds of ’stripper-wear’” who are “kick-ass” fighters, but I do not know a woman who feels these styles of clothing could possibly help her to be taken seriously. The media continues to pressure women to dress more provocatively at younger and younger ages, while men still wear attire that is more comfortable and less restrictive. Young girls learn early on that—despite the girl-power branding—their self-worth is tied directly to their physical attributes, not their intellect.
A close reading of “The New Girl Order” reveals shoddy research, sweeping assertions, and poorly supported conclusions. Hymowitz argues that women are becoming more common in the corporate world. In fact, a mere three percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Hymowitz also makes much of the increasing number of women with college degrees, but I wonder how many of the male Fortune 500 CEOs have college degrees? Neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates graduated from college. Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson didn’t, either. And I was very unimpressed with Hymowitz’s research on gender selection—for instance, she uses evidence from the rigorous scholarly journal Elle.
Kay Hymowitz happens to be a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which is a
conservative think tank that proudly lists as recent honorees Henry Kissinger,
Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush. May I be so bold as to assert that the Manhattan Institute has a political agenda, and that they support writers who support this agenda?
Kay Hymowitz responds: “The New Girl Order” is an excerpt from my book Manning Up, which is about one specific demographic group: college-educated, single women and men in their twenties and early thirties. As I argue, women in this category are outperforming and outearning their male peers. A Reach Advisors study proving the latter point has been widely reported, notably in Time (ti.me/reach_study).
Given these trends, it’s reasonable to speculate that the political, wage, and CEO gaps will lessen over time. The small percentage of women in higher positions in business and, for that matter, the nonprofit world is partly a reflection of a slow-moving pipeline. But with women moving through the career pipeline in larger numbers, we will see more of them at the top—especially given their success in higher education. Labor Department studies show that in today’s knowledge economy, earnings and advancement are highly correlated with education levels; dropout entrepreneurs like Jobs, Gates, and Branson are rare exceptions.
Even so, women in general will continue to earn less than men for two major reasons. First, women are highly represented in lower-paying fields like education or pediatrics, while men go into more remunerative areas like computer science or surgery. (In case you are tempted to see that as proof of discrimination, just ask a woman surgeon if she thinks she should earn the same as a pediatrician.) Second, women are on the job fewer hours than men. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that among those employed full time, men are far more likely than women to be working over forty hours a week; similarly, women predominate in the part-time workforce. The reason is obvious: children. Studies repeatedly show women cut back hours after having kids.
I agree with Eleanor Stroud that the media often treats women as sexual objects, but I would add that it doesn’t have many good things to say about men, either. And finally, as Norah Dooley doubtless noticed, most of my data comes not from women’s magazines but from government and academic studies. Her cherry-picking raises the question of who exactly is operating with a “political agenda.”
FIGHTING THE PLAGUE Thanks so much for Michael Blanding’s informative article “Contagion” (Fall 2011), about the fight to eradicate rinderpest, or cattle plague. I was fortunate to spend many years on the Tufts veterinary faculty guiding our contribution to this goal.
Some of the fondest recollections of my entire career came from my experiences in the field, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. I remember playing Emmylou Harris’s Evangeline album while camping one night on blazing hot sand under the stars. It occurred to me and one of my companions, the anthropologist James Knight, that animal health interventions in general could become practical only through an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and ecological contexts of pastoral herding. So lying there in the desert, we somewhat pretentiously named our cross-disciplinary study “veterinary anthropology.” After returning to the States, the methodology that we described eventually morphed into the notion of “participatory epidemiology” that informed the cattle immunization protocols in the latter stages of the rinderpest vaccination campaign.
I also remember spending an evening at the UNICEF base camp in Lokichokio, in northern Kenya, just across the border, after making one of my brief forays into Sudan. I had flown back into Kenya earlier that afternoon after a day on the Sobat River in a small outboard boat. Sun-baked crocodiles slipped into the water ahead of us as we traveled from village to village, visiting children’s immunization clinics that had been set up by various relief agencies. The camp at Loki, as the town was known to aid workers, consisted entirely of tents; many contained cots for sleeping, some held supplies, one was for hot-water showers—the water was heated over wood fires by volunteers—and one very large tent was a mess hall that served two meals a day. The atmosphere was relaxed, but the camp was run with military precision.
As night came on, the female Kenyan and Ugandan relief workers living at Loki organized a dance. For two hours I listened to Nigerian hip-hop, with its syncopated bursts of a police whistle echoing across the plains. The women paired up and danced with each other while I sat at a small campfire with a few colleagues. A Sudanese boy about ten years old approached and began cleaning our coffee pot and cups. He was dressed in a few tatters. I was told he hung around the camp and performed chores in exchange for meals.
I was stunned when he presented me with his only adornment, a bracelet made from a plain single strand of nine-gauge copper wire stripped from a power line. He said nothing as he took it off his wrist and handed it to me with a smile. I told myself I would wear it until rinderpest was eradicated. I had to remove the bracelet after a mountaineering accident in 1992, but I put it back on several months ago in honor of the official eradication of the disease.
RAISING THE BAR ON THE GRIDIRON The athletic fortunes of Tufts resonate with alumni throughout the world. We take pride when there are spectacular successes—the lacrosse team’s outstanding achievements over the past two years, the baseball team’s league championships, the perennial power of the sailing team. And we feel the pain when things do not go right, as has been the case with Tufts football. For over three decades the football program has largely been a failure. In the past three years alone, the win-loss record stands at 3–18. The record in this 136th year of Tufts football is only 0–5. It is particularly troubling that Tufts has had little success against Amherst and Williams for decades.
I call on the Tufts administration to investigate the systemic problems that have prevented the football program from realizing its full potential. Tufts should also study the strategies that Amherst and Williams have used to make their programs so successful.
UNHEEDED WISDOM In the Planet Tufts section of your Fall 2011 issue you offer a quote from one of my favorite personae of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Moynihan states that American politics will “bring its influence to bear on behalf of those regimes which promise the largest degree of personal and national liberty.”
Unfortunately, present-day American foreign policy does not seem to follow Moynihan’s wisdom. We help the likes of Libya, which, after its successful revolution, is planning to adopt Sharia law, denying its citizenry, especially women, any personal liberties. We also supported the uprising in Egypt, another country where Sharia law may well take hold.
MYSTERY SOLVED In our last issue, Tara Kelly and Joanne Sharon, both J90, asked readers’ help in reconstructing the precise date on which they met their future husbands at Tufts. The father of a current student rose to the challenge.
I would bet that Tara and Joanne met their future husbands on Sunday, September 7, 1986. There were four dates in early Sept-ember on which the Yankees lost and Red Sox won at home (September 1, 3, 6, and 7). In trying to determine the date of the first day of classes in the fall of 1986, I made the curious discovery that the Tufts Digital Library contains archived copies of the Tufts Daily for almost all years from 1980 to the present, except 1986. However, based on the information that the Daily provides for other years, it seems reasonable to assume that in 1986, classes started on or about Monday, September 8.
It’s unlikely that classes started on the day after Labor Day: this would have required new students to report for orientation the week of August 25, since Labor Day fell on September 1 that year. It’s also unlikely that classes started in the middle of the week following the Labor Day holiday. So I would eliminate the potential first-meeting dates of Monday, September 1, and Wednesday, September 3, from consideration. Saturday, September 6, is eliminated, too, as it is doubtful that classes would have started the next day—a Sunday. That leaves Sunday, September 7, 1986.