Advocacy for women is a sign of racism?

Emailed to me by the MIT Powers that Be… “Women in mathematics aim for an equal sign” (MIT School of Science news):

“It is crucial to recruit and attract more women at all levels in the department, but also that more of our women math majors consider going into graduate school in mathematics,” says Michel Goemans, department head and professor of mathematics. “Last year only 13 percent of our graduate applicants were women, and this is clearly not enough. The department is happy to support the activities of the MIT Women in Mathematics, and this group helps create a vibrant, supportive community in which more and more female students might pursue or continue a career in mathematics.”

[Let’s ignore the issue of whether this say-gooder is guilty of promoting gender binarism. Let’s also ignore the issue of why the say-gooder does not use MIT’s massive endowment to become a “do-gooder” and hire the women that he/she/ze/they says he/she/ze/they wants to hire.]

I wonder if the focus on female victimhood is a sign of antipathy toward mathematicians of color. Why not focus on the underrepresentation of black and Hispanic mathematicians, for example? Could the motivation be that the white/Asian mathematicians would rather share an office with a white woman from a wealthy family than share with an African-American from the ghetto?

Advocating for “women” is less likely to expose the advocate to ridicule for not having any friends or relatives who are in the featured victim class. Since even the most hidebound human who identifies as a “man” is likely to have a mother and/or sister, there won’t be the awkward search for a friend of color with whom to attend Black Panther and get a selfie.

The article is also fun for revealing the existence of gender traitors:

Staffilani recalls that when she invited female mathematicians to speak with MIT women, sometimes the offer was declined. Invited academics preferred to be seen as “mathematicians” rather than be singled out as “female mathematicians,” separate from men. It’s a dilemma Staffilani says she understands; gaining extra notice as a woman — or any underrepresented group in a particular field — doesn’t feel like “equality,” she says. … she was surprised when a female physicist asked the room, “Why do we want diversity?”

Speaker of diversity, let’s have a look at the folks MIT has selected to teach subjects featured on the “Women’s Studies” poster board in the Infinite Corridor (if you visit the teachers’ biographical pages, you’ll find them referred to using “her” and “she” as pronouns):

Another initiative of the Women and Gender Studies Department:

Within the same poster board, some tips on organizing your bookshelf:

Nearby, a poster remembering MIT’s most famous donor:

There is room in the Infinite Corridor to provide the biography of one MIT graduate:

(See also “RPI alumni stop donating amid concerns over leadership, campus climate” (2018) and “America’s Highest Paid College President is Dragging Her School Into Crippling Debt” (2014).)

Unrelated… a poster regarding procrastination:


7 thoughts on “Advocacy for women is a sign of racism?

  1. These academics should know by now that fewer women work or pursue hard degrees when the economy is good. Women are now at a generational low in workforce participation because of 20 years of negative interest rates.

  2. The post suggests that some (most?) white female students at MIT demonstrate a shocking lack of creativity. They seem to ignore an opportunity of self-identifying as someone else to the benefit of our society.
    For instance: why not simply say, “I self-identify as a student who has turned in my homework”.

  3. I think what happened at RPI is a crime, both against the institution and also arguably against some of the individuals. MIT is wrong to honor Jackson with that display, she’s done a lot of damage that might not ever be repaired.

    I can say that the Moore School Lectures in 1946 have to have been the greatest bargain in technology education, ever. It was all m ale, but not purposefully, it’s just the way it was.

    “The 8-week course was conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, who promised (by verbal authorizations) the $3,000 requested to cover lecturer salaries and fees and $4,000 for travel, printing, and overhead. ($1,569 over this figure was ultimately claimed.)”

    So they spent $8,569 or approx. $118,250 in 2019 dollars to run it, and look at what they started. Pretty darn cost-effective for a bunch of men. If an all-female group is successful in encouraging its members to achieve so much, it’s fine with me. I hope they solve fusion. Frankly, Philg, if they’ve decided to do it and Michael Goemans has decided to lend his enthusiastic support, it’s a done deal until they decide otherwise.

    As for the rest, I saw all this stuff coming like a freight train 20+ years ago. Now the train is here.

    • @Johannes: Someone who lives at the intersection of Latin American Avenue and Nonbinary Gender Street.

      “Latinx is gender-neutral, which means it’s an identifier that moves beyond gender binaries of male (Latino) and female (Latina). … Put more simply, Latinx makes room for everyone, including those who identify as transgender, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid.”

      Now ‘ya know.

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