Friday, August 9, 2013

Eve wasn’t the reason Adam was a putz

"Ever since Eve wheedled Adam into eating that apple, women have known how to get what they want from men.”
This astonishingly sexist sentence appeared as the lead in an obituary in the highly-regarded British magazine The Economist.
    This cliché phrase about women wheedling men might well be attributed to a lazy writer, someone knocking out a piece without much thought. That only makes the sentiment worse because it acknowledges that this view of women need not be explained or challenged.
    The Biblical story of Adam and Eve says Eve merely offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. No wheedling, not even a polite request, but for centuries Eve has been portrayed as the evil temptress.
    In this view, a woman’s success comes from something other than hard work, skill, intellect, talent, ambition, or any of the other characteristics prized in men. Women, therefore, can be dismissed as “mysterious” and their accomplishments can be demeaned as resulting from trickery and deceit.
    The offending obituary was written about Helen Thomas and Lindy Boggs, two personally powerful women who did not depend on any “womanly wiles” to do the jobs they pursued for decades and who passed away within days of one another.
    Thomas was the first woman to cover the president, to lead a news bureau and to be president of the Gridiron Club. Lindy Boggs took over the Louisiana congressional office of her husband, Hale Boggs, after his death, then was re-elected to nine terms. Her Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 is the reason women now have credit in their own names rather than having to rely on their husband’s name and credit rating. Boggs also saw to funding for early shelters for abused women.
    Although these two women had very different personal styles, they accomplished what they did in exactly the same ways as the men they worked with. The success of most women has always come this way.
    Although opportunities have been opened by laws that address gender equity in hiring, pay, access to public resources, and restrictions on harassment, easy clichés like those used by The Economist demonstrate that there’s a long way to go.
    More than half the students in professional schools today are women. They are not there because of their womanly wiles, but because of their brilliance, their skills and their intellect, which will eventually serve us all.

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