In December, Virginia A. Fisher wrote an opinion piece entitled “Fie, Feminism
,” which criticized the existence of women’s groups. As someone who is deeply concerned with women’s issues and how women exist on campus, I was troubled by what Fisher wrote. While I see her point–from her experience, women are sufficently integrated into society that making ourselves into a victimized “special-interest” group may be counterproductive–she ignores the fact that we operate in a male-dominated society. Yes, there are male gender roles too, and they may be strictly defined, but they also often encompass the positions of greatest power. And a chemist who is a woman is not just a scientist but a woman in science in no way undermines her achievements, but highlights them with the greater distinction of being at the forefront of change. Women’s groups are important because they draw attention to and underscore what may be wrong in the things we are used to. What society is used to seeing is ties in the boardroom, skirts behind phones, and while we may enjoy a different atmosphere of extra-PC-ness and general equality here in the Harvard bubble, the “real world” is very different. (more in extended post)
On Thursday, I was gratified to see a response
to Fisher’s article from Margaret H. Martin, ’94, someone whose views are free of the veil of post-adolescence idealism that we here are subject to:
I hope Fisher keeps a copy of this article to read 10 years from now, when she may be struggling with the ongoing problems of balancing caregiving responsibilities with workplace responsibilities. If women’s special interest lobbying will result in real changes that make workplaces more tolerant of caregiving (either caring for children or for aging parents) and caregivers, then I am all for it. And so are my husband and my two kids. And so will be the many people who don’t want to make a heart-wrenching either-or choice between work that they love and families that they love.
Being a woman can be a very defining aspect in one’s identity. While it should not define us as people, it is naive to pretend that it doesn’t affect the way we exist in society. Women’s groups may single that point out, and sometimes things may go a little farther than necessary, but everyone will continue to ignore the pink elephant problem until somebody points it out. Or makes a group about it.