Those are the words of prominent Harvard Medical School physician Edward H. Clarke (as well as swathes of German “experts” at the time) in his 1873 book Sex In Education: Or, A Fair Chance For Girls. Clarke’s idea was that energy in a person is constant. So if you use too much of your energy for frivolous things like higher education, then you will be taking necessary fuel away from other parts of the body — the parts most important to men. (Why this didn’t apply to males wasn’t really covered in Clarke’s writing. Perhaps the oversight was due to spending too much of his precious vitality worrying about women becoming sexless brainiacs.)
As you might imagine from the century that gave us science as progressive and accurate as phrenology, Clarke’s half-baked speculations caught on like wildfire. His book had 16 editions and set woman’s access to higher education back by decades. But at least we can take refuge in the fact that those outdated views have been left exactly where they belong in the long distant past … of 2005.
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“Time was, the internet was just for pirating music and pornography was still mostly purchased on DVDs.”
Yes, the same primitive year that brought us American Dad also saw a former president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, claiming that women were biologically wired to break if they strained themselves with too much education. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be only one (or even two) guy’s stupid opinions. Clarke’s legacy lives on.
While it is true that more higher education students than ever are women, we’ve written before that they’re still hugely underrepresented in subjects linked to science, technology, engineering, and math. And if you look at who’s awarded teaching positions in higher education, women come up short with depressing regularity. Their male counterparts outnumber female professors by more than three to one. And those who do land a professor position despite the handicap of being born a lady can expect to earn substantially less than their male colleagues.
But it’s not like they’ll have higher medical costs or pay gender-specific taxes … oh, right …
Even universities, those bastions of rationality and objectivity, still favor PhD candidates with a little extra D.
Adam Koski is so unafraid of vaginas that he wrote half of a fantasy book full of characters who have them. Mike is a freelance journalist who writes about things like beer. Roisin Isner is pronounced “Roh-sheen Eyes-nur.” She’s very sorry about that.
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An interesting read via Cracked: All Posts