A group of the most highly-paid, privileged, and honor-laden women in history officially launched their screed against gender bias at Harvard yesterday. Harvards Task Force on Women Faculty presented its report on the universitys sexism to an adoring gathering of the schools Standing Committee on Women. The event was drenched in irony, but few of the participants noticed.
Presiding were task force leaders Drew Faust, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute and Lincoln Professor of History; Barbara Grosz, Dean of Science at the Radcliffe Institute and Higgins Professor of Natural Science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and American Literature and Language and of Visual and Environmental Studies, as well as Director of the Humanities Center and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts; and Evelynn Hammonds, Professor of History of Science and of African and African American Studies. Many of these women have made enviable careers bashing the sexist white male patriarchy while getting paid handsomely for it by that same patriarchy.
The Radcliffe Institute, where Drew Faust is Dean, is a bottomless well of feminist complaint. In the last six weeks alone, it has sponsored journalists Susan Faludi, to speak on 9/11 Gender Shock: How 9/11 Got Enlisted in the Latest Backlash Against Feminism, and Barbara Ehrenreich, to speak on Weird Science: Challenging Sexist Ideology Since the 1970s. The Radcliffe Institute held a pick-your-wounds gathering not long after Harvard President Lawrence Summers had had the audacity to suggest that the lack of proportional representation of women in the sciences may not be the result of discrimination alone.
Evelynn Hammonds travels the womens studies lecture circuit speaking on such topics as "The Marginalization of Experience: Women of Color in Science." Her published works show a perfect pitch for the labored conventions of deconstructionist sexual punning, displayed, for example, in her article Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality.
Marjorie Garber has used her positions as the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and American Literature and Language and of Visual and Environmental Studies, Director of the Humanities Center, and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, to write about her bisexuality and the pathology of biphobia (fear and rejection of bisexuals). Biphobia does not seem to have hurt her career.
Yet these women and their audience all knew that sexism lurks insidiously at Harvard, jeopardizing their own and others advancement, even though President Summers has just pledged $50 million to hire women and minority faculty. . . . Even though they were presenting their report yesterday to Harvards Standing Committee on Women, a university fixture for womens causes for years. . . . And even though, as task force members and their fans admitted yesterday, Harvard has launched numerous such affirmative-action initiatives in the past.
None of those previous quota initiatives achieved the desired proportional representation of women and minority faculty. No one at the task force meeting yesterday wondered whether the problem may be that such potential faculty do not exist. Instead, the speakers chalked up the lack of results to insufficient institutional commitment. This time, things would be different, the task force predicted: Harvard is creating a powerful new quota enforcerthe Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Developmentand giving her $50 million to throw at the cause of womens equality.
And, they should have added: Harvards president has already shown his willingness to discard principles, such as the open pursuit of scientific truth, to appease the feminist lobby.
After the meeting, participants returned to their lavish offices in the worlds most prestigious university, undoubtedly pleased with themselves for making sure that the next generation of women would enjoy the gender equity for which they have so bravely fought.