Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Women's Ambition

I'm wary of stepping too far into feminist territory here, especially after last week's post, but here's something that perhaps goes some way to vindicating what I claimed there: that women would be better served by society valuing 'women's [i.e. domestic] work' rather than by giving them equal opportunity to compete for traditionally male jobs.

Anyway, what first caught my attention was seeing this book: It Takes a Candidate : Why Women Don't Run for Office. I haven't read it, so I don't yet know the answer. I'd predict a mixture of reasons, from family responsibility and socialisation to a distaste for the world of politics and all the butt-kissing it seems to take to get ahead in any career (academia included).

Now, I suppose the question is whether women's choices should be respected, or whether this is a 'contented slave' kind of case - one in which through adaptive preferences they're happy with what they've got, even though they shouldn't be, and where Rousseau's paradoxical comment 'forced to be free' makes some sense (though perhaps it'd still be better expressed 'forced to do something more worthwhile', without misdescribing perfectionism as freedom, but let's not get into that now...)

The other thing I saw, just now in fact, actually comes from the press release to Pink's new single 'Stupid Girls', and it's quite worrying:

In a recent survey published by The Sunday Times, girls aged between 15 and 19 were asked which careers they wished to pursue. 63% said glamour modelling and
25% lap dancing in comparison to 4% saying lawyer and 3% doctor – a shocking upshot of the superficial cult status of today’s airhead celebrity.
I haven't seen this survey, perhaps I should look it up, but it suggests one big reason why women are still under-represented it top professions - and also explains the glut of useless celebrity/'reality' crap on our TVs.

Admittedly, I'd be surprised if a lot of boys didn't want to be footballers or rock stars or something, but at least they do something with their lives. I assume a lot of girls would rather just be rich and idle, like Paris Hilton or Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. The traditional expectation to be the breadwinner generally forces boys to give up unrealistic pipedreams and either get a decent education or start a career early (or perhaps turn to crime, etc). I'm going to be controversial here, but perhaps too many girls are still in a 19th century mindset in which they simply concentrate on some form of self-improvement (e.g. education) and other passtimes, while waiting for a man who can keep them in a life of luxury they've somehow come to expect from too much escapist TV...

Obviously that's a simple stereotype, but the original point is maybe the reason there aren't many women in so called 'top' positions in society is that they don't want to be there. The question we should be asking is whether that's a problem or not.

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