08 September 2002

Education and the Incredible Shrinking Uterus

A recent column by Ellen Goodman bemoans the emphasis on one statistic: that 59% of bachelor's degrees are now being awarded to women. Conservatives say this constitutes the destruction of the American boy (!). Thank goodness Ms. Goodman had the guts to point out other numbers: the so-called gender gap swings in the other direction by the time you reach the PhD stage. In other words, men are still getting postgraduate degrees in greater numbers than women. And leaving gender aside, real and troubling education gaps exist between whites and minorities. I won't even touch glass ceiling and wage disparity issues that make even eduacted women second-class citizens.

Conservative complaints about educated women are still taking sexist forms. Writes Goodman, "You don't need a bachelor's degree to pick up a subtext in the crisis reporting: Somehow or other, women are upsetting the natural order of things. Even, or especially, the marital order. As Thomas Mortenson at the Pell Institute told one reporter, ''There's 170,000 more bachelor's degrees awarded to women than men. That's 170,000 women that will not be able to find a college-educated man to marry.''

Congratulations to me, I guess. The chances of me finding a male PhD to marry rise significantly, since there are more male PhDs than female. Yet no one seem concerned about my male counterparts' ability to find wives. The subtext of Mr Mortenson's worry is this: men are threatened by educated women, and therefore men without bachelor's degrees won't marry more educated women. However, women aren't threatened by educated men--therefore it is natural for highly educated men to marry women with less of an academic background. In other words, ladies, your job in life is to find a husband and make marriage as intellectually undemanding on your mate as possible.

I am sorry to disappoint Mortenson--marriage was the last thing on my mind when I got my bachelor's degree, and here I am, ABD, and blissfully unengaged. As Goodman points out, my uterus has shrunk as my brain expands...posing a threat to the fabric of "traditional" society.

You can read her column here.


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