Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America
Edited by Ann Mari May
Chapter 1: The Body in the Library
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz Such indeed is the audacity of the human intellect, that the discovery of limits usually proves hopeless in only one case, namely, when they are perceived to apply to a diﬀerent race, class, or sex, from that to which the investigator himself belongs. (Mary Putnam Jacobi 1877) If American life is the game Clue (Cluedo), then I make this accusation: Professor Plum is attempting to do in Miss Peacock in the library with a pen. This is a dangerous time for women seeking equity in higher education and professional life. Once again the body has returned as a key determinant of women’s destiny. And inﬂuential opinion shapers feel free to pronounce what women are and should do. Some of what is said is mere misogyny and can be met simply in those terms. But some of it is trickier, for it is based on what is believed to be science and is therefore more diﬃcult to confront. One aid for seeing the present dilemma of women today in higher education and careers is the historical view. The value of a historical look is that it is easier to see the preconceptions of the past than those that are part of our present-day culture. It is also possible to see the way that powerful forces can trump good science. A moment parallel to today occurred in the 1870s. After a long period of reform and then the Civil War, a biological determinism set in that...
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