Why can't a woman be more like a man?

Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;

Eternally noble, historically fair;

Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.

Well, why can't a woman be like that?


Why does every one do what the others do?

Can't a woman learn to use her head?

Why do they do everything their mothers do?

Why don't they grow up -- well, like their father instead? *


We associate the deplorable idea that women need to be more like men with male chauvinists like Professor Higgins, who sings this song in My Fair Lady.

But the song is sung by women too – especially from women who compete in historically male fields.

Consider the strange remarks of a female scientist in her letter challenging a newspaper’s interpretation of some research she had published on women in science.  The Wall Street Journal had lauded her findings that that women who apply for grants, submit journal articles, and ask for recommendation letters do just as well as men, and that women who apply for tenure-track jobs have even greater success than men.  Opining that “Women in Science Are Doing All Right,WSJ considered this good news.

The author whose findings were reported, however, replied in the Letters column that although all that was true, women are less proportionately likely to apply for tenure-track jobs in the sciences in the first place.  She complained,

“Some may conclude, ‘That’s their choice.’  But the literature says that the major reason women Ph.D.s don’t apply to tenure-track jobs is that they look ahead to the four or five years of postdocs required in many fields and the six-year deadline to amass a tenure dossier, compare it to their biological clocks ticking away, and instead choose industry, government or nontenure-track academic jobs.  That is not ‘all right’ if we want our best and brightest, men or women, to be the ones running university research labs and educating the next generation of Ph.D.s.”

Women, you have been warned.  Accept your discipline.  It isn’t all right for you to heed your biological clock.  It isn’t all right for you to prefer a career that doesn’t foreclose the possibility of becoming a mother.  Bright scientists are so much more important than bright mothers.  Educating the next generation is so much more important than bringing it into being.

The lady’s objection is to women thinking -- like women.  Why can’t they be -- more like men?

You didn’t think feminism was about respecting women, did you?


* “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?”, a.k.a. “A Hymn to Him,” music by Frederick Loewe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, My Fair Lady (1964).


“Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?”