Results tagged “Larry Summers” from critical difference
Let's just admit straight out that the Nobel people relish a surprise far more than the average world-renowned prize-granting organization does -- and far more, too, than do many of the interested parties they startle with their choices.
This year, as ever, the primary reaction to the naming of new laureates has been grumbling and snark. On NPR, 1986 laureate Elie Wiesel's initial response to President Obama's peace prize was graceless ("It's certainly strange for me to think of him now as my fellow Nobel laureate"), while in The Washington Post a "prominent editor and writer in New York" suggested that Herta Müller's win over authors like Philip Roth, Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie tarnishes the literature honor. "If the Nobel prize committee awarded the medicine prize like this, we'd still have polio," he grumped.
But Müller's victory is part of a happy trend this year: As AFP reports, this is the best year ever for female laureates. Of the 39 women who've won in the 109-year history of the prize, four won this week, three of them in science (take that, Larry Summers!). That's just north of 10 percent of all female recipients, and exactly 10 percent of the 40 Nobels ever bestowed on women, two of which went to Marie Curie (um, Larry?). Women make up 36 percent of this year's laureates, and prizes in three of the five categories go entirely or in part to women.
The stats on that matter -- not out of so-called political correctness but because of the widespread tendency to downgrade or dismiss women's work, whatever it happens to be, rather than take it as seriously as men's work is automatically taken. The brilliant Nancy Franklin expressed one tiny facet of that disparity this way recently in The New Yorker:
Chick lit [...] gets a lot less respect than the male equivalent, which people tend to approach as if it were automatically more artful, more written. Women write "thinly veiled accounts"; men write "romans à clef." Women writers may have a room of their own, but men who thrash around in front of the mirror and record their every failure, humiliation, moue, and excretion for an audience's consumption still own the house, even if all they do in it is lie on the couch--and then write about it.
It's not an even playing field, not in literature or elsewhere, so it's significant when women win. It's progress. Every victory is a reminder not only of what an individual woman has achieved, but of what other women can aspire to achieve. Being recognized on the world stage is no small thing; just ask Elie Wiesel and that bitter, nameless writer-editor. So if this is what a Nobel laureate looks like, good.
Update, Oct. 12: The numbers for women got even better today with a Nobel in economics for Elinor Ostrom, the first woman ever to win the economics prize. She shares the category with Oliver E. Williamson. So that's five women this year (12.5 percent of all female laureates, 38.5 percent of this year's winners), in four of six categories. Not bad. Not bad at all.
It's such a hoary cliché that you'd think people would be embarrassed to let it pass their lips, but there it was, coming from the mouth of Alistair Spalding, the artistic director of London contemporary-dance temple Sadler's Wells.
The question put to him was why no female choreographers are among the "raft of commissions" he's just announced for the coming season. His response, according to Charlotte Higgins' piece in The Guardian: "'It is something to do with women not being as assertive in that field,' said Spalding. 'It's not that I don't want to commission them.'"
His disavowal reminded me instantly of the time, back in the mid-'90s, that The New Yorker came out with a women's issue, in which almost none of the cartoons were drawn by women. There were a couple -- three at most -- which was par for the course any other week but striking, and strange, for that issue. So when Lee Lorenz, then the magazine's cartoon editor, popped up on a public-radio show, my then-boyfriend called in and asked why that was. Simple, Lorenz explained: Female cartoonists just aren't interested in the single-panel format.
Sort of like how women aren't wired for science. Or were emotional females just overreacting a few years ago when Larry Summers suggested to a conference on workforce diversification that "issues of intrinsic aptitude" were to blame for the low numbers of women in science and engineering?
Summers' speech is breathtaking for many reasons, but one of them is the sheer accumulated mass of familiar, multipurpose sexist statements cloaked in pseudo-intellectualism. Then the president of Harvard University, he addressed the issue of fairness in hiring by noting that "there's a real question as to how plausible it is to believe that there is anything like half as many people who are qualified to be scientists at top ten schools and who are now not at top ten schools."
That may be true, but it takes an almost willful myopia not to see that myriad, sometimes elusive factors -- such as encouragement, mentoring, and hostility real or perceived -- have a substantial and direct bearing on both an individual's decision to pursue a field and his or her success in it. If a given group faces more obstacles to professional development, it follows that fewer of its members will emerge in the top ranks.
Spalding sounds similarly willing to believe that the level of female representation in choreography is out of his hands.