Classes start this week for many students. In honor, I’ll raise this question: Does education shrink a woman’s uterus?
At one point this was a real worry. In 1873 Edward Clark of Harvard voiced his concern. In 1889 the renowned scientist R.R. Coleman cautioned university women, “You are on the brink of destruction… Beware!! Science pronounces that the woman who studies is lost.”
Scientists fretted because the more education a woman gained the fewer children she bore. They hadn’t imagined the most obvious cause: That educated women simply put off marriage and childbearing.
Who knows how many women were discouraged from education from such silly concerns.
Worries about weak minds were accompanied by worries about weak bodies: Some 19th Century doctors explained that corsets were needed because women’s bodies were too frail to adequately hold themselves up.
Uneven bars were invented for women gymnasts, who were thought to need rest between each move.
Moral of the story:
Don’t make judgments, scientific or otherwise, that assume biology lies behind social patterns and stereotypes.
Think we don’t do this today?
I’ve already written about Hugh Hefner’s assumption that women are naturally sex objects. http://broadblogs.com/2010/08/10/playboy-doesn%e2%80%99t-objectify-women/
Notions that women lack ability in science or math are still bandied about, while evolutionary psychology is accepted by most.
Yet each of these notions is based on stereotypes and social patterns that vary by culture. They are not biologically based.
Details to come!
Goodman, Ellen, “Anxiety Reigns As Women Pull Ahead On Campus.” San Jose Mercury News. September 3, 2002
Smith, Barbara Clark and Kathy Piess. Men and Women: A History of Costume, Gender, and Power. Smithsonian Institution. 1989