HS 100W San Jose State University Public Health Discrimination of Women Essay Public Health Major (English class’ Writing exercise)Length: 300 wordsAll inf

HS 100W San Jose State University Public Health Discrimination of Women Essay Public Health Major (English class’ Writing exercise)Length: 300 wordsAll info is attached! In-class writing, exercise 3: Persuasive writing
Read the enclosed excerpt from an essay by Jesse J. Prinz on gender discrimination. Write an
assessment of the work that analyzes it from the perspective of how persuasive it is. How does
Prinz structure his argument? At what points does he include evidence to support his aims? How
does he link one idea to another by use of topic sentences and transition devices? What rhetorical
ideas does he use to make his argument more compelling? Consider these points, and any other
you feel are relevant.
Not graded
Length: c. 300 words
Deadline: Monday April 27, 11:59pm, on Canvas
Jesse J. Prinz, “Gender and Geometry”
(Greene and Lidinsky, p. 625 onwards)
When we think about cultural differences, we tend to think about groups who live in different
places, speak different languages, and worship different gods. But cultural differences can be
very local, as when urban subcultures live side by side in the same town. The most local cultural
divide of all, however, is the gender divide. Men and women work the same fields, worship in
the same churches, and sleep in the same beds, but they reside in different cultures. Men and
women are treated differently, they often do different things with their leisure time, and they are
subject to very different cultural expectations. Of course, men and women are also biologically
different. And this raises a puzzle for science. If men and women perform differently on tests of
intellectual ability, should the difference be pinned on nature or nurture or both?
The Summers Debacle
On 14 January 2005, Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard University, sparked a media
frenzy by suggesting that innate cognitive differences are a leading cause of the fact that women
are underrepresented in the science and engineering faculties of elite universities. He voiced this
opinion while speaking at a private conference at the National Bureau of Economic Research,
but soon his assessment was being reported by newspapers across the globe. Critics argue that
Summers’s remarks were uninformed and irresponsible. In his speech, Summers claimed that
discrimination and socialization play little role in gender inequity within the academy. There is a
considerable body of research to the contrary. Summers also implied that women are biologically
inferior to men, in that they are genetically less likely to attain the levels of aptitude demanded
by prestigious programmes in science, maths, and engineering. This, we will see, is also at odds
with the evidence. Biology may make some contribution to cognitive differences between men
and women, but differences in academic achievement may owe more to socialization.
The same people who presume that the cognitive differences between men and women are
primarily biological also tend to conclude that these differences are inalterable. If this conclusion
is combined with the view that women are cognitively inferior to men, then the inevitable upshot
is that they are incapable of achieving the same standards. This is exactly what Summers
implied, and that is why his speech was offensive to so many. The offense was compounded by
the fact that Harvard has had a depressingly bad record when it comes to hiring women. During
Summers’s reign as president, only 12 percent of the new tenured faculty appointments went to
women. Summers was not in charge of selecting new faculty – departments do that – but he
participated in tenure decisions, and he could have encouraged departments to recruit women
more actively. Instead, female appointments declined appreciably during his time at the helm.
When Summers raised the spectre of biological differences, his detractors inferred that he might
be guilty of gender bias, falsely believing that men are more likely than women to be naturally
Before presenting the evidence against this conjecture, we should note that it is nothing new. In
1873, a respected Harvard medical professor named Edward Clarke published a book called Sex
Education, or a Fair Chance for the Girls, in which he warns that women who attend college
risk becoming infertile and hysterical. He conjectured that when women tried to use their
underdeveloped cognitive abilities to learn, blood would be diverted to the brain from the uterus,
which would then atrophy. In 1889, C. C. Coleman, an American physician, issued a similar
Women beware. You are on the brink of destruction. You have hitherto been engaged in crushing
your waists; now you are attempting to cultivate your mind… you are exerting your
understanding to learn Greek, and solve propositions in Euclid. Beware!! Science pronounces that
the woman who studies is lost.
The French psychologist Gustave Le Bon went even further:
[T]here are a large number of women whose brains are closer in size to gorillas’ than to the most
developed male brains. This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment…
[Women] represent the most inferior forms of human evolution and… they are closer to children
and savages than to an adult, civilized man… A desire to give them the same education, and, as a
consequence, to propose the same goals for them, is a dangerous chimera.
Such attitudes were not esoteric or anachronistic. Clarke’s book went through seventeen
printings, and the scientific community widely believed Le Bon’s contention that women are no
smarter than children. The fact that women have more youthful proportions than men was taken
as incontrovertible physiological evidence for the conclusion that their intellectual development
did not advance beyond childhood. The prevailing view throughout the nineteenth century was
that women are intellectually inferior to men.
This prejudice had a measurable impact. Most obviously, women were not allowed to vote.
Women’s suffrage came to Great Britain and Germany in 1918, to the United States in 1920 and
to France in 1944. Women were also excluded from many professions. At one time, women were
deemed incapable of working as stenographers or secretaries, two fields they came to dominate.
The presumption of inequality seriously delimited women’s access to education. Women were
generally excluded from college education until the nineteenth century. In 1837, Oberlin College
in Ohio became the first college to admit female students, but they were assigned a special
curriculum, which included cooking and cleaning rather than Latin and Greek. Even the feminist
reformers of the period were happy to admit that women could never equal men. In 1823, Harriet
Martineau argued that women should be given access to higher education in England, so that
they could become “companions to men, instead of playthings or servants.” This may sound like
a plea for equality, but Martineau was also quick to concede that “the acquirements of women
can seldom equal those of men, and it is not desirable that they should.” Accordingly, women
were often educated in separate schools, and they were discouraged or prevented from pursuing
graduate degrees, especially in maths and science. Sofia Kovalevskaya was the first women to
earn a mathematics doctorate in Europe, in 1874. In 1895, Caroline Baldwin Morrison became
the first woman in the United States to receive a doctorate in science. The first European women
to receive a doctorate in science was Marie Curie, in 1902; she went on to win two Nobel Prizes.
For the majority of women, graduate education was not an option, and, though almost half of all
college students were women in the early twentieth century, many went to women’s schools that
were not always equal to their male counterparts. Widespread coeducation is a recent
development. Princeton and Yale opened their doors to women in 1969. Harvard beat them to the
punch by conferring degrees to women in 1964, but those women had to be enrolled in Radcliffe
Women’s College, which did not officially merge with Harvard until 1999.
Summers struck a nerve against this background. His remarks were especially wounding to
women in academia who have extensive first-hand knowledge of inequitable treatment. Women
are routinely ignored, talked down to, and hit on by male college professors. They are often not
encouraged in their academic pursuits and not believed in. Women in academia also know that
the struggle for equal treatment is a slow one. Most had many more opportunities than their
mothers, and it seems implausible that bias would simply evaporate in the space of a single

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