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Charlotte Allen in the Washington Post

What?! Women Are Too Dumb to Live? Are You Outraged?

Hoo boy. So Charlotte Allen wrote a little piece in the Washington Post yesterday. It started out mildly controversial, with her hypothesizing that women's reactions to Obama at campaign rallies were evidence that women were behaving like empty-headed Beatles bimboes around Barack. Okay, dicey, but I'm with you so far. . . .

Then she goes on to say that while women are somewhat capable of being brain surgeons and fighter pilots, "the number of women in these fields will always lag behind the number of men, for good reason." Whoa. Come again? Wait, wait, it gets better:

So I don't understand why more women don't relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home.

So ladies. Are you dumping that scalpel in favor baking a nice shortcake? Are you outraged by this article?


Join The Conversation
devangel237 devangel237 9 years
That is the most sexist thing I've heard in my life, and most of my friends are guys. As far as demeaning women, I seriously think that this girl takes the cake. Besides, it really doesn't matter what gender you are, or what race you are, or what you're fripping name is... as long as you have passion ( or talent... or both) then you can succeed at whatever you can think up. For those of you who want to be homemakers, go ahead. I hope that you succeed with that. If you want to become a brain surgeon, I'll probably be in the desk next to you. But to Ms. Allen, you really don't understnad human nature at all, go back, take a sabbatical, and start over. Thank you.
joyunconfined joyunconfined 9 years
I got something totally different from reading the article. I saw it as humorous and very sarcastic. I identified with the incredulity at women swooning over any public figure. I nodded when it referred to the scores of women throughout history who read silly romance stories. Then, at the conclusion, where the writer proposes the idea that we, as women, should just give in and be "womanly" and just enjoy our natural inclinations to be caretakers and decorators, I saw those statements as dripping with sarcasm. Then again, maybe I'm just terribly hopeful that there couldn't possibly be a woman out there that REALLY thinks all women (but especially me) should be relegated to baking cookies and plumping pillows. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see; a sardonic attitude. Perhaps it's because my experience in life has shown me women, including myself, who do NOT fall into the stereotypes mentioned. Yeah. I'll just go with my initial reaction. It's sarcasm. It has to be. A thinking woman couldn't possibly capitulate to the status quo like that. Seeing it any other way might, you know, make me cry or something. Ok. Maybe not.
liege liege 9 years
what i would like to know if she is an educated woman in a high stakes job, how can she think that women are stupid? she obviously isn't or she wouldn't have a story in the washington post, so not o9nly is it offensive to women who don't want to be more than just a houswife (not that that's wrong if it makes you happry that's all that matters) but it's also the most hypacritacal thing i've ever heard of. it's like being a brain surgeon with autism, and then saying that autistic people are too stupid to be brain surgeons.
theravencalls theravencalls 9 years
Gundark, If I could give you Ms. Allen's writing position, I would. Your response was well thought out and well written. Thinking about my rather large group of friends and aquaintances, I have to admit both the males and females are far from stereotypical. We have housewives, house-husbands, career-oriented mothers and career-oriented fathers. All choices are supported equally. We also have couples who do not have children. A large majority of the adults have attended at least one year of college, and all are well-learned in their chosen fields or hobbies. There is also an amazing group of children whose interests extend across the board, regardless of gender. (These are not the groups of children I mentioned previously.) I must admit, I do not enjoy being told either in a direct or implied way that women should embrace stereotypical roles simply because it comes more easily. Text is always a difficult medium to interpret, as there are no visual or aural clues to use to relay the author's original meaning. Perhaps my interpretation of the author's words (blatant or implied) is different from yours. A quote from a novel I recently read seems almost appropriate to the general discussion, despite the fact the book is meant to be a satire. "Did you promote them if they were as good as men?" "No. I promoted them if they were better than men." "Monsterous Regiment" - Terry Pratchett
gundark gundark 9 years
Ravencalls, I would agree that the range of career choices can and should be better communicated to girls in many ways. I would also agree that movies and television have contributed to limiting women's thinking about career choices. And I don't think it's entirely fair to blame women's career choices entirely on external environmental factors such as the ones you mention. Your example of toy marketing is a good example. The question is -- do toy manufacturers market "girls toys" and "boys toys" out of some kind of ignorance, or a misplaced sense of women's position in society? Or do they simply market what they know kids will want? I would argue that while both scenarios are overgeneralizations, the second is far more true than the first. The differences in boy and girl toy marketing don't CAUSE the differences between boys and girls, they are the RESULT of it. I'm a parent myself, with both boys and girls. We have been careful to never guide our children's choices toward "boys" or "girls" toys. We've purchased what some would consider "boys" toys for the girls, and "girls" toys for the boys -- when they've expressed an interest. But without any prompting, and before they were even old enough to watch TV and be the victims of politically incorrect marketing, the girls wanted to play with crafts and pink, fluffy things, while the boys wanted vehicles, electronics, and guns. As a person trying to remain "open minded," I was to some degree surprised by that. Obviously there is more nature at work, and less nurture, than I realized. In our house, the marketing did not create the attitudes; the differences were already inherent in the DNA (and the structure of the brain) at the time of birth. And is that bad? To recognize the differences between individuals, and boys, and girls, and children, and adults, and Americans, and Kurds, and whomever else you can think of, and try to help them realize their potential, and meet their specific needs, and give them what *they* want, and not what someone else *thinks* they should want? Naturally, there are exceptions, even among my own children, and I don't pretend they don't exist, and I'm not in any way offended or put off if they do -- the world is a more interesting place because no two of us are alike. And for the record, I don't in any way filter my children's boy/girl toy choices. If my girls want to play with Legos and the boys want to play with the doll house, I say let 'em. Sometimes they do, but more often they don't; they make choices along fairly stereotypical, politically incorrect lines, and always have, even before they were old enough to be influenced by TV or by other children. I'm working with a small sample size, I know -- not terribly scientific. But a majority of parents I've talked to say the same basic thing. Marketing companies don't market blindly -- they do market research, with far larger sample sizes, and come up with the same conclusions. They market the way they do for a reason, reaching audiences they know are already interested in the kinds of products they have to sell. That's what marketing is; tailoring a message to a known target audience. The generalizations prove out again and again, because there really are differences between the genders, and in what many members of each gender want. Witness "Stellswan's" comments about "Grey's Anatomy" above. So women are different -- big deal, as she says. That's a defensive kind of statement, which I think is indicative of the kind of attitudes that are perceived to exist; "if people think I am what I am simply because I'm a woman, they're being judgemental, or trying to herd me like cattle, or whatever -- they're not according me respect". Probably not true -- it may even be that they're simply recognizing you for who you are, and according you the respect you deserver for BEING a woman. So, you're a woman, and you like Grey's anatomy? That may be typical or stereotypical, or statistically significant, or whatever you want to call it, but it's not BAD. It's simply one part of who you are. We all want to be individuals, and respected accordingly, but we are all classifiers. The human brain is wired to clump things together in order to understand them. We can't grasp everything in the world -- our brains are too small, and our lives are too short. It's hard enough to understand the people in our family -- but we need to perceive the world, and come to some kind of understanding of it so we can function in it. So we classify and stereotype, and the smart one spend our time looking for and learning the exceptions, and even looking for deeper, more complex patterns and classifications. It's not a choice we make to do this -- we HAVE to do it to survive. So I perceive that mostly women like "Grey's Anatomy"? I'm not being judgemental, I'm gathering information about the world, that helps me make my own personal choices, and understand others. No need to be defensive about that. Then I find that you're a woman who doesn't like "Grey's Anatomy?" You're one of the exceptions, and learning why gives me insight into your character. No lack of respect either way, just learning about each other. We need to recognize that all people perceive patterns, and classify. It's part of being human. Being judgmental or defensive when others classify and generalize is like spitting into the wind; it causes an unnecessary mess, and it doesn't stop the wind. And when we find ourselves classifying others (would you be more likely to pick up a woman hitchhiker, or a man?), we have to avoid being judgmental about the subjects of our classifications. So men are more likely to avoid commitments? Does that make them jerks? Or is it just part of the way they are wired, and knowing it helps us make decisions about how to deal with them? Or, as Jesus very succintly put it; "love your neighbor as yourself." Unlike you, I have rarely encountered people (at least not those born after 1960) who have said "that is a man's job" or "that is a woman's job". That may be due to differences in our geography and culture. But I will tell you that I have met many college educated career women who have told me that what they *really* wanted was a home and a family, but they felt pressured by society to have a career, because home and family wasn't considered a socially acceptable. Growing up hearing about ERA and women's rights, I have to tell you that I was *shocked* the first time a friend told me that. I felt like I'd been lied to -- fed the politically correct line about women being happier and more fulfilled in a career, when in many cases, the opposite was true. Sadly, because of societal pressure to the contrary, my friend felt she had to share her deepest desire (for home and family) in confidence -- society wouldn't allow her to be open about something like that. I've met many women since with similar desires they had buried because they know people that would ridicule them for making that choice. And I can't see any reason to find fault with them, either way. But based on what I've seen, I believe that while we have (to some degree) opened up more career choices to women in the last 40 years, we have also done them the disservice of stigmatizing family as a career choice.
theravencalls theravencalls 9 years
Gundark, while I agree with some of your points, one thing I have noted is that the variety of choice in possible careers is not always made obvious to female children. The media bombards us with images of women as mothers, housewives, teachers, etc. Yet I have to admit, prior to the 70s I can only think of a handful of TV shows or movies where women are portrayed outside of the stereotypical roles. (Star Trek is just one of the handful of exceptions, as not only was the character of Uhura a member of the main cast, she was an officer specialized in communications technology.) Prior to the early 1990s, for instance, how many female "action" stars can you think of? How many male "action" stars? Do the same for movies and television shows after 1990. Note the difference. Even toys are marketed toward specific genders. How often do you see a girl pictured playing with a Tonka Truck? How often do you see a boy playing with a doll house? With these images in our lives every day, is it any wonder many girls don't dream of becoming astronauts or mathematicians or engineers when they grow up? I can't count how many girls I have talked to in my community work that have specifically said "That's a boy's job". I also can't count the number of times I have heard a career described as a "Man's Job" or a "Woman's Job". Until this societal mental block is eliminated, of COURSE there will be less women choosing the road less traveled.
sdchargers13 sdchargers13 9 years
If Obama continues to pontificate and cater to the so-called "Y" or "Next" generation, I daresay he will be elected this November. Listen closely though to what he is promising these block of voters who expect the government to be their salvation, and one begins to question how his promises can possibly come about - or be financially sustained. As the campaign progresses, so do Obama's assertions that he will enact programs and legislation that will provide relief from a sluggish economy, mitigate results of this country's dependency on foreign oil, and guarantee that all Americans are covered by some form of universal health insurance. While there may be some truth to the statements made by Doxigrafix regarding race and gender issues, I believe the overriding factor to Obama's attraction to the younger generation is his ability to pursuade them that he's going to 'change' or 'better' their current lot in life. What this inexperienced generation does not realize is that there will be a tremendous cost for all of these governmental 'gifts'....and they will be the ones who are left holding the proverbial bag as the over-spending of today becomes the recession nightmare of tomorrow. I find it amusing that our current President has been lambasted for his spending policies....and yet the same mind-set being shown by the Presidential candidates as they solicit votes around the country is touted as 'change.' Smoke and mirrors....lies and false assertions of making life better than what it is now are the platforms these folks are running on. Forget about race, gender, and party affiliations: None of it matters in the end if we can't pay for the privilege of being free Americans.
camlette camlette 9 years
Women are individuals, not to be herded and judged into one category like mindless cattle. The fact that Ms. Allen doesn't know that speaks volumes. She needs a urine test and an intervention.
Doxigrafix Doxigrafix 9 years
McCain will be elected this November... NOT because of his politics, or his stance on the issues, or himself as a person, but solely because he is the "right color" and the "right gender"... Can't have nuthin' but a white male or you know this country'll go to rack, ruin, and h-e double toothpicks in a handbasket, right?
gundark gundark 9 years
So, point by point, where is she wrong? I've seen people (women AND men) on the news reacting to Obama -- they all treat him like a rock star. Women ARE capable of being brain surgeons and fighter pilots, as she states. And is she really wrong about there always being less women in positions like that? Statistically, women less often *choose* to pursue careers like that -- so doesn't it follow that there will be less women in those careers? So far, I don't see anything particularly controversial here. Let's keep going. She goes on to ask why women don't enjoy their innate abilities more. Yes, innate abilities -- women's brains are wired differently from men. A difference in hormones cause physically different wiring in the brain during fetal development, which gives women different inherent abilities than men. That's not opinion -- it's medically and socially proven fact. Note that no one is saying BETTER or WORSE abilities, just different. Women ARE more tender toward children. Children know this instinctively, which is why children will most often run to MOM for comfort before dad. And women ARE far more likely to "make a house a home". If you think that's not true, visit the homes of some single women and some single men, and keep track of how many men have beautifully decorated homes, compared to the women. Though I think this may be as much a matter of interest than ability. Be that as it may. Are there exceptions to these things? Sure, LOTS of them. If you're one of them, more power to you! But statistically speaking, this is the rule, and whether you're and exception or not, you're just as good as everyone around you. So this writer suggests that women be allowed to consider home and family rather than a career -- she never suggests that women SHOULDN'T have a career -- in short, to give women MORE CHOICES that might make them happy, and we want to knock her for that? So, do we really believe in freedom of choice, or not? Should we pressure women to have careers because it's not what we would choose for ourselves? Should we make them feel like they've chosen second best when they choose home and family? Everyone is different. We all want different things. Leave others in peace to choose. Support their freedom to choose -- don't help create a culture where choice is limited by someone's concept of what is "old fashioned" and what is not. There's nothing old-fashioned about wanting family; it's part of who we are as human beings.
TrueDramaQueen TrueDramaQueen 9 years
Ok, let's put this thing in another perspective. Maybe she likes the traditional role of being a mommy, wife, baker, shrink, doctor, teacher, politician, peacekeeper, historian, matriarch, actress, banker, waitress, gardener, humanitarian, secretary, chauffeur, veterinarian, carpenter, roofer, painter, pest control officer, bible or Koran spiritualist, writer, tour guide, motel, party and event planner,etc. Seems to me that women have always been the helper and guide and yes, leader by example in many families and society. We are best at what we do because we do (it) whatever it is with pride, endurance and fortitude. So, bring it all on! We can handle just about anything, except what we don't want to or physically can't.
theravencalls theravencalls 9 years
I must say, I honestly don't know anyone like the women she mentions in that article. All of my female acquaintances are logical, rational, and self-sufficient. We do not NEED anyone to make us complete, though it is nice to have a husband/boyfriend/partner to come home to at the end of the day. Actually, most of them would feel disgusted with the witless behavior of the women she mentioned populating Obama rallies. Perhaps I'm a product of my generation, but I have seen the population of women in science and technical fields skyrocketing even in my lifetime. Until the 1960s, many colleges didn't even ALLOW women to obtain degrees in certain subjects. That is only 50 years for a large amount of change to occur. Frankly, while things could always improve, at least the trend is going in the right direction. This improvement can be illustrated in the ratio of males to females in the engineering college I graduated from. Two years before I began attending, the ratio was approximately 5 males to 1 female. My freshman year, the ratio was 3.5 males to 1 female (though, we liked to round it to “Pi to 1”). By the time I graduated, the ratio had dipped to 3 to 1. A span of 6 years made that much difference. One of the female engineers in my department was one of only a handful of women in her college who majored in technical fields a decade and a half ago. Look how far we have come. It is time people, such as the author of this unfortunate piece of backsliding drivel, stopped believing gender dictates everything in life. Yes, it has been proven men and women tend to think in different ways (i.e. global view vs. detail-oriented views). Yes, it has been proven men in general have an affinity toward math and science while women have an affinity toward language-oriented fields. However, “some” does not mean “all”. There are men who are gifted in language-oriented fields, and women who are gifted in math and science. These are not “outliers”, even if they are not the majority. This makes me ponder the following question: If this article had been written by a man, would the editor have even considered publishing it?
sdchargers13 sdchargers13 9 years
Smile....well, SanAnTX, perhaps the Khazakistanian squirrels are less 'developed' than those found here in the United States. Or perhaps this is the only reference you can find to justify your analysis - and comment. Too funny!!!
SanAnTX SanAnTX 9 years
I thought this comment was factually accurate. A Khazakistan doctor did report woman had brain the size of squirrel.
sdchargers13 sdchargers13 9 years
Hmmmm....well, shyco - I'm afraid I would be one of those 'stupid' people you mention as having voted for Bush twice. Quite frankly, given the slim pickings on the ticket for the upcoming election, I believe I'd vote for him again. Please do me a favor though...and refrain from labeling people as stupid for their political persuasion. I exercise my right to vote and I've done it proudly for a lot longer than you've been eligible to do so.... Stupid? I think not.
shyco shyco 9 years
Men AND Women voted for George Bush... some twice. i think we are all equally stupid.
MaraJade06014 MaraJade06014 9 years
Ok, so maybe this idea sounds totally outrageous to all of those new age feminist types, but I really think that she has a point. Women today have to do the job of a man and a woman in relationships, and they suffer because of it. The divorce rates show this. I think that if the promotion driven, always at work, career women would take the time and pay more attention to the things that matter, like her family and her husband, it would be a win win situation. Her family would appreciate having a mother and wife who is actually interested and invested in her family, and the women would feel that love and contentment in her improved relationship with her family. Women are so busy trying to keep up with men that we are missing out on what really matters. I'm not saying that women can't have jobs and raise a family, many women do it and do it well. We just need to slow down , stop worrying about work, and enjoy time with those we love who we have grown apart from, especially our husbands and children.
supercharger5150 supercharger5150 9 years
This type of 'satire' perpetuates males in thinking they're superior. I can back a cake and do surgery at the same time! LOL It's like saying that men can't cook or clean or be good dads because they are an engineer, pilot, etc.
ladychaos ladychaos 9 years
I second Jude C. Seriously, if she wants to be domesticus submisses, then she can go right ahead a bake me and the rest of us hard working strong women a shortcake. I wonder if she's a McCain fanatic?
BeamerCG BeamerCG 9 years
I'll be good and not include a list of four letter words. I don't care for children. I'm a thinker not a feeler. I get bored if I'm home too long. Oh, and I'm also in the military. As far as I'm concerned, being a housewife would drive me crazy, so her article just shows how inept she actually is.
sdchargers13 sdchargers13 9 years
I wish I could say I'm surprised at Ms. Allen's comments...but with the dwindling readership of newspapers across the country due to instant news via the Internet, I suppose the Post needs things like this to stir up the pot. My first thought upon reading this article was that Ms. Allen has set the women's movement back 40 years. It's one thing to 'know about' the's quite another to understand the era. I rarely get 'miffed' about gender-related nonsensical remarks such as these, but it troubles me to think that this woman not only believes what spews out of her mouth, she also serves as a kind of role model for other women who aspire to become journalists. I'm not sure where Ms. Allen gets her information....but perhaps if she spent more time researching the real world around her instead of pontificating on subjects she obviously knows little to nothing about, she'd drop the 'June Cleaver' mentality (and the bread pan). In my opinion, she comes across as an ill-educated, misinformed bimbo who just happens to work for the Washington Post. I wonder how she managed to get this job anyway...? According to her way of thinking, she's too stupid to have qualified for the position on her own.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Lainetm - beautifully stated. That is how I feel about all of this too. I'm a full time Wife and Mother. I "retired" from the workforce when our 2nd child turned 2, when we saw that our family would benefit more from me being at home than not. I'm perfectly happy in this job, and get complete fulfillment from it, and do not feel the need to be in the workforce at all. I love what I do, we've seen a huge difference in our family since I've been staying at home (9 years now and 2 more children added to the mix), and I must say that this is more challenging and harder than any Corporate America job I've had in the past, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm not going to vote for someone because they're handsome or because she's a woman. I'm going to vote for the person that I think will do a good job and whose values and principles line up closest with my own. I would hope that's how all people vote. Walk your own path and allow others to do the same.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Lain - AMEN!
maryjomac maryjomac 9 years
OK who does this person think she is!?!?! I cannot handle this comment that made it in the Post: women are somewhat capable of being brain surgeons and fighter pilots, "the number of women in these fields will always lag behind the number of men, for good reason." What is the good reason? I am a women with a Ph.D. in Engineering and Physics and still am girly in ways. I would rather be at work than at home baking and keeping house. We are trying to encourage women that they can do what ever they want and be proud to be smart. Don't you remember a the Harvard President was made to resign do to a similar comment?
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
cabaker, as usual, you nailed it and were succinct, as well. First, I'm fed up with people who refer to gender *differences* as *inferiorities*. If I can cook, and my DH can fix a light switch, does that make me inferior? Second, I'm tired of people assuming that home-making and child-rearing are less important than success in a career. If we had more homemakers, I think we might have fewer problems with our youth. JMHO. It's simple time management. No matter what the Steinem crowd told us, there's no way you can do everything simultaneously and do it all well. I know; I tried. Worked full time, raised two kids (and husband), and finished my bachelor's. And a paralegal certificate in a demanding, bar-certified program. Did all the kids' extracurricular activities. Now the kids are in high school, and I'm *still* exhausted. And I haven't been as good a wife or parent as I would have wished. What matters in the long run? Certainly not the folks in the office. I feel I (and my family) have been cheated by feminism's unrealistic agenda.
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