I’m a bit late to this party, and Jill at Feministe (2005-09-29) does a fine job of taking on the substantial claims made in Judge Posner’s latest contribution at Econo-Creep Central. So instead of a warmed-over version of Jill’s critique, I’d just like to point out how Posner begins–by drawing on a textbook example of a Backlash
trend story that recently made Page One of the New York Times:
An article in the New York Times of September 20 by Louise Story, entitled “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” reports the results of surveys and interviews concerning career plans of women at the nation’s most prestigious colleges, law schools, and business schools. Although not rigorously empirical, the article confirms–what everyone associated with such institutions has long known–that a vastly higher percentage of female than of male students will drop out of the work force to take care of their children.
Now, in fact, the
not rigorously empirical article is a weasel-worded, anecdotal retread of the Times‘ old standby, the evidentially-empty, vaguely quantified Backlash “mommy crisis” trend story. In fact the story could just as well have been copied from a nearly identical Page One piece from 25 years ago; neither story is anything more than a grab-bag of sexist presuppositions, misrepresented anecdotes, and vague hand-waving at the “many women” who these hand-picked selection of interviewees from Yale allegedly represent. It contributes nothing to anyone’s knowledge, because it does not even rise to making any claim about reality that can be pinned down; it teaches us nothing and confirms nothing about gender and career paths at elite professional schools.
On the other hand, the story’s front-page publication in the Newspaper of Record, and Posner’s happy use of it, does confirm something else:
While gossip among women is universally ridiculed as low and trivial, gossip among men, especially if it is about women, is called theory, or idea, or fact.
–Andrea Dworkin (1978)