Today is International Women’s Day and coincidentally, I will be having dinner at the Delta Gamma sorority house. They have asked me to help them raise $100k for an invited lecture series on “ethics and values.” My job tonight is to get the women of the sorority fired-up about their fund raising efforts by helping them better understand what ethics and values are. I have a half hour after dinner to engage them in exciting conversation about issues that relate to them.
So, on the one hand, there is a whole list of questions that pop into mind: stuff related to Greek life, questions about things of “women’s interest,” in general. But suppose I choose the latter — suppose as a whole the sisters are genuinely interested in meanings of beauty, or the nature of love, or philosophical assumptions about relationships — and not interested in astrophysics, boxing, the Three Stooges and other things traditionally gendered as male. Do I cater to those interests? Do I assume those interests? Is doing so sexist even if it turns out to be true? (I think about a related scenario: what if you have a black friend who really loves watermelon and fried chicken, is it racist not to serve it because it’s stereotypical? What if you have a Jewish friend who is a greedy banker who wants to control the world? Do you not call him or her on it because you might sound anti-Semitic?)
So, the question before us is whether or not assuming interest in a topic when you have demographic reasons to do so is sexist or just responding to the odds. What do you think?
An interesting side note:
When I googled the link for the article about NBC and the Black History Month menu, I was reluctant to link to the Huffington Post because I didn’t want to suggest political partisanship on the blog. But why should I not post a relevant article if it serves my purpose?
Some reading suggestions:
If you are looking for some good reading for International Women’s Day, might I recommend Martha Nussbaum’s Women and Human Development and Amartya Sen’s More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing. Both outstanding reads. Sen was on Why? a few months ago, and Nussbaum will be on in May.