October 09, 2013

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And then there’s the issue of dating:

Another said she disliked when she and her sister went out to a club and her sister introduced her as an astrophysics major. “I kick her under the table. I hate when people in a bar or at a party find out I’m majoring in physics. The minute they find out, I can see the guys turn away.” Yet another went on about how even at Yale the men didn’t want to date a physics major, and how she was worried she’d go through four years there without a date.

Of course, Yale STEM coeds don’t have to go to dance clubs to meet men”€”there are always a surplus of unattached males right across the lab bench.

But who wants to date them?

You may have assumed that the immense ratings of the television comedy about Caltech physicists, The Big Bang Theory, signals a new era of tolerance and even popularity for Nerd Americans.

Wrong. Pollack shudders:

“The Big Bang Theory” is a sitcom, of course, and therefore every character is a caricature, but what remotely normal young person would want to enter a field populated by misfits like Sheldon, Howard and Raj?…According to the study’s authors, native-born American students of both sexes steer clear of math clubs and competitions because “only Asians and nerds” would voluntarily do math.

Pollack issues a ringing call for sexier scientists:

Most of all, we need to make sure that women “€” and men “€” don’t grow up in a society in which they absorb images of scientists as geeky male misfits.

In a climactic scene, the creative writer confronts her former math professor, whom she has never forgotten nor forgiven for not mentioning to her that she should go on to grad school. Frustratingly, the abstracted mathematician’s memories of their academic relationship turn out to be much less vivid than hers”€”assuming he remembers much of anything about her, which appears uncertain. Not that it occurs to Pollack to ask: How could anyone forget something so laden with profound emotions?

Nor does it strike Pollack that her professors might have done her a favor by perhaps surmising that she wouldn’t have been happy pursuing a career of inhuman abstraction. As is appropriate for a professor of creative writing, Pollack is a bit of a drama queen. In an interview promoting her last novel, she used the word “passion” 11 times in just 90 words:

“I’m very interested in passion in all its forms: political passion, religious passion, and romantic passion, and the way in which passion is, on the one hand, something that is devoutly to be wished”€”a life without passion would just, I think, be very dull, and you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself, because a passion determines what you do with your life,” said Pollack. “We think of political passion as a good thing, or religious passion, and surely passion for another person. But passion is also very destructive.”

After all this, you may be wondering whether feminism’s principles logically demand a pro- or anti-sexy-pirate-costume stance. But that just shows you are missing the point. The notion that principles should apply to everyone is so Second Millennium. We’re beyond all that categorical imperative stuff now.

Contemporary feminism is quite simple:

“€¢ If men are at fault for you not being able to do whatever it is you want to do, blame men.

“€¢ But if women are at fault, blame society or American culture or the media or institutional sexism or whatever.

How many will dare call you on your verbal sleight of hand? Who will even notice? And after a while, you won”€™t notice it, either.



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