I wrote, last year today, about women like the burst-open lips of figs, about how women have worn their history as odalisks and sacrifices and mothers and daughters and victims like jewelry -- I wrote about how despite all of this, we sometimes forget how far we have come, and more importantly how far we have yet to go.
It's 2007 and the third most powerful person in American politics, second in line to take over the presidency, is a woman: Nancy Pelosi -- but half of the coverage she earned after her first State of the Union was about the color and cut of her clothes. Hilary Clinton is a two-term senator from New York and former first lady bracing to run for the Office of the Presidency in 2008 -- and yet people are preoccupied by her gender, by how pretty she might be and how she does her hair, whether or not she got plastic surgery. Women are still being raped and killed in Darfur; the Chinese countryside still has families practicing infanticide despite the country's rapidly skewing sex ratios. Girls are still giving themselves eating disorders comparing themselves to impossible standards of beauty, still acting less intelligent than they really are -- to be non-threatening, to be liked. One in three women will still experience sexual assault in her lifetime. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same.
It's 2007 and women are still odalisks and sacrifices and mothers and daughters and victims -- and we owe ourselves and all other women more than that, we owe ourselves better. We can do more.
V can stand for vagina, like Eve Ensler's groundbreaking monologues. V can stand for violence, under whose auspices all women continue to make a home.
V can also stand for victory.
Women in Academics
Women have, since the beginning really, held the role of an educator: mothers are our first teachers and we take from them the ability to smile and the understanding of warmth -- the idea of safety and comfort and being loved. But -- appropriately enough -- in a more academic context, women have been trusted with the role of conveying information for millennia. In Egypt, although female roles were marginalized to the extreme, a queen, a living Isis was one of the most powerful roles in the royal household, for she would shape the pharaoh into a living divinity worthy of the auspices of Horus. St. Anne, mother of Mary, a the patron saint of mothers and pregnancy and wives -- and she carries a book in her depictions, for it's she who taught Mary to read.
Modern day women in academics are a much more professional bunch, with degrees and doctorates and office hours -- and many challenges one would imagine wouldn't exist in the halls of universities.
A September 2004 report released by the UK group AUT found that although the number of female academics employed in higher education in the UK had grown by 43 percent between 1995-1996, they were still trapped beneath the glass ceiling. Between 2002 and 2003, 53 percent of lecturers were women but only 30 percent of department heads were female. Worse, women academics employed full time could expect to be paid only 85 percent of what their male colleagues received in compensation.
In the 1994 article "Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering," published in Who Will Do Science? Educating the Next Generation, researchers from SUNY, the American Institute of Physics and the Kellogg School of Management found that women could still expect to face challenges to advancement regardless of how high they climbed in academia -- they'd still be doubted if they had a family, passed over if they had children or planned to marry. In 2002, the Harvard Gazette reports that stereotypes persist about women in academia. Single-sex education is coming back into vogue, the the American Association of University Women's issue list for 2005-2007 reads like it could have been written off of the 1994 paper or the 2002 article.
To help push for change, go slum at the local college coffee house with the American Association of University Women or go directly to their principles and priorities.
Let's get it started, ladies -- happy February 1.