Cambridge University infantilizes its women students

The headline of this short piece from The Independent (click on screenshot to see the article) says it all:

An excerpt from the report:

Cambridge University examiners have been warned against using words such as “flair”, “brilliance” and “genius” when assessing students’ work because they are associated with men, an academic has revealed.

Lucy Delap, a lecturer in British History at the top-ranking institution, said History tutors are discouraged from using the terms because they “carry assumptions of gender inequality”.

She told The Telegraph: “Some of those words, in particular genius, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male.

“Some women are fine with that, but others might find it hard to see themselves in those categories”.

Dr Delap, who specialises in gender history, said one of the reasons why men get more first class degrees at Oxford and Cambridge than women is because female students struggle with the “male dominated environment”.

. . . “We’re rewriting our first two years of our History degree to create a wider set of paper choices,” she explained, “to make assessment criteria clearer, and to really try and root out the unhelpful and very vague talk of ‘genius’, of ‘brilliance’, of ‘flair’ which carries assumptions of gender inequality and also of class and ethnicity.“

The article (and Delap) also mentions “reading lists dominated by male authors and the lack of diversity seen in college portrait collections.” I’m not sure what I think of this. If important women historians or women’s roles in history or the writing of history are being neglected, then yes, by all means put in women authors. But should they put them in just to raise gender parity, regardless of whether they fit into the curriculum or are considered valuable contributions to the curriculum? Like the male-dominated portraits, reading lists reflect the sexism of the past: the fact that women weren’t given equal opportunity to excel in academics. We’ve progressed now, and most of us think that opportunity should be there from the outset: right from what we Americans call “grade school.” There should be no differential treatment of the sexes, especially if it marginalizes one group.

But should we also assure equal outcomes: fixing things so that that the disparity in achievement at present—Cambridge University reports that “In 2015-16, 31 per cent of women gained firsts in history at Cambridge compared with 39 per cent of men”—becomes exactly equal? What if the numbers were reversed and more women than men got firsts: would that also constitute a problem?

Well, the word “genius” is overused, as few people of either sex fit my notion of that word, but really: “flair” and “brilliance”? Are other words like that “associated with men”?

I see this language policing as risible and offensive to women. The words are gender-neutral, and if they have been associated with men in the past and not with women equally bright, well, that should be rectified. But it shouldn’t be fixed by ditching the words, for crying out loud! And what will they do—invent new words? The Independent reports that “In order to help Cambridge University progress in terms of gender equality, Dr Delap said her department wanted to use language that was more ‘transparent’”. But what kind of language is more transparent than “brilliance”? Is “brilliant” more sexist than “very smart”?

The other action Cambridge is taking is this:

[Delap’s] comments follow a debate sparked by the Oxford University History Faculty this week, when the department was accused of sexism for introducing a “take home” exam paper.

The move was said to be part of a restructuring of the degree course, with the hoping of boosting results for female students who are statistically better performers at long term assessment over sit-down exams.

To that, and the new language policing, Grania said this:

This is disappointing nonsense from an academic who ought to be able to do better. Instead of trying to build women students up, she’s decided to infantilise them and treat them as feeble creatures unable to compete. What a waste of opportunity!

Here’s a photo of Dr. Delap; her Cambridge bio is here:

Photo by Warren Gunn, on Cambridge University website.

h/t: Al

112 Comments

  1. BobTerrace
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    This reflects poorly on the humanities as serious and relevant. She is supposed to be studying and document history, nor rewriting it to fit her snowflake vision.

  2. Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I just re-read 1984 and it is truly disturbing to realize just how prescient Orwell was. So much of what is going on in the world today is there in that novel. This post reminds me of how the whole point of Newspeak (the language of the Party, replacing standard English) is to eliminate words from the language. “The 10th edition of the Newspeak dictionary has removed an additional 3,000 words…” This whole situation is double-plus-un-good. That’s what it is.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      He wrote the book in 1948 about the the rise of totalitarianism in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. So I’m not sure it was prescient, but perhaps we are seeing a case of history repeating itself. Certainly the ability of Big Brother to look into our lives is much more pervasive and insidious now than it was then.

  3. moleatthecounter
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    You know, I hadn’t associated the word ‘genius’ with just men, ever. I had always associated it with the individual concerned, and what they had done, said, written or achieved.

    Until now.

    So, well done for that Ms. Gunn.

    Perhaps you would supply a list of words that are suitable?

    ‘Smarty-pants’ perhaps? How about ‘Clever clogs’? Or are clogs simply a male item of footwear… We need to know soon – so that we can get on with our actual lives…

    • Barney
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      Neither had I, but now that it was brought up, I considered the ‘-us’ ending, often indicating a derivation from a masculine Latin noun or adjective. And the OED says:

      “classical Latin genius male spirit of a family, existing in the head of the family and subsequently in the divine or spiritual part of each individual, personification of a person’s natural appetites, spirit or personality of an emperor regarded as an object of worship, spirit of a place, spirit of a corporation, (in literature) talent, inspiration, person endowed with talent, also demon or spiritual being in general (2nd cent. a.d.), a formation in -ius (suffix chiefly forming adjectives) on a base ultimately related to that of gignere to beget (see genital adj.).”

      So technically that one did have male connotations, though a long time ago, and I wouldn’t have thought many would think that way now. And I can’t see how ‘flair’ and ‘brilliance’ have any gender bias at all.

      • BJ
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        The vast majority of people neither know Latin nor the etymology of the words they use. Regardless, I don’t think she was using that excuse anyway, but saying that somehow these words are meant to describe what we see as somehow typically male traits *today*, which is absurd.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        This may be the problem with genius. But who cares? Other languages have a much heavier emphasis of gender-based pronouns in their language. This sort of policing will be far worse for French speakers, for example.

        • Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Or worse, German: “mädchen” is neuter, and it means “girl”.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            But Junge looks feminine but isn’t. Then again so does Käse.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Indeed, I have never thought that way…until now. Well done Ms. Gunn.

      Landau examined his place among giants (and Like PCC(E) I do not use that word lightly):

      http://www.eoht.info/page/Landau+genius+scale

      The fact that most lists may not include women is an historical artifact. There just weren’t many (or any) opportunities for women to be scientists or composers.

      Also, I would guess Georgia O’Keeffe would tell Ms. Gunn to grow up.

      • mikeyc
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Who is this Ms Gunn you folks are talking about? The photograher of Lucy Delap is called Warren Gunn. Did you confuse the two? I hope so because if not then I’m confused.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        I meant Dr. Delap.

      • Travis
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Aren’t geniuses biologically more likely to be male anyway? My understanding is that males are more variable in IQ (longer tail of the distribution) which leads to the smartest of the smartest people being almost entirely men, and the dumbest of the dumbest also being men.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          That’s also my understanding. A genius in my book is someone with a 140 or over IQ. Overall, there are more men in that category, just like there are more male idiots, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is 60 or below.

          • Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            140? I thought it was 160. Whaddya know, I’m a genius. I thought I was merely ‘very superior’.

            (It’s not big-headed when you are anonymous. Also, I had to take the test to rule out other conditions when I was being tested for something else.)

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      So, well done for that Ms. Gunn Dr. Delap

      FIFY

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Oops, sorry Mikeyc!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I only associate it with men when it references famous upper class Ancient Romans like, say, the Caesars as the family is of the gens julia and you sometimes read about the genius of Augustus, which has nothing to do with his IQ. If I were writing this piece of absurdity, I would have included that reference as being oppressive to women because it references a bloodline mostly known through males and it stretches back all the way to Roman days when women couldn’t be citizens. Come on people – if you’re going to be absurd, be absurdly absurd!

    • Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I thought going in it would be another person objecting to “master”, which is sometimes regarded as “sexist” because of the contrast with “mistress”, etc. (See the earlier thread about “actress” etc.)

      But no …

  4. Michael Hart
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    This seems like #3 of James Lindsay’s “Four Easy Steps.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_SCtHb61E

  5. Rita
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’m still laughing at the characterization of the word “flair” as being associated with men. That is hilarious! Though I admit Milo Yiannopoulos could be described as having “flair”.

    • sshort
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      When I hear “flair “, I think of interior decorators and waiters at TGIF.
      Not Newton or Einstein.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Yeah, “flair” is knowing where to put the ottoman, or if the wine in bin 14 is “corked.”

      • Zach
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        I think of waiters at Chotchkie’s.

        • BJ
          Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          Ha, first thing I thought of as well!

          “Why do they hate Jennifer Aniston?”

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        I had some jeans in the early to mid 70s with flair….

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          And now you’ve got the bell-bottom blues?

          • darrelle
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            A friend of mine in about 6th grade had his grandmother make him the biggest bell-bottoms I’ve ever seen. Maroon velvet-like corduroy with purple triangular inserts running from the knee down to the cuffs. He was so proud of those pants. They were . . . awesome.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

              “Elephant bells” — although it pains me to acknowledge I know that. 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

            Don’t make me cry…

            Boy, you really love Clapton, huh? In the last week, you’ve referenced Ginger Baker at least twice, and now this 🙂

    • Filippo
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      And perhaps not a little “flounce.”

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Where I come from, flair is what you put your carpet on.

      • Filippo
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        In the southern U.S., “flares” are what the florist lines the aisle of the church with when the bride comes in for an emergency landing.

    • Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always associated the word ‘flair’ with style or elan rather than talent.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        Even Amadeus had it, according to Falco:

        Er war Superstar
        Er war populär
        Er war so exaltiert
        Because er hatte Flair

    • steve
      Posted June 16, 2017 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      Regarding “Flare”:

      It’s also the name of a women’s magazine for goodness sake. It’s a less provocative version of “Cosmo”, or “Vogue”.

      Google Image “Flair magazine”
      and see all the burly masculine men on the cover (sarc).

  6. Rasmo carenna
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    This level of silliness is bound to backfire. At some point, people will get alert fatigue and become desensitized to real instances of sexism and to legitimate attempts to confront them. You should only cry ‘wolf’ when there is a real wolf, not just an imaginary beast made up of smoke and straws.

  7. BJ
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    “What if the numbers were reversed and more women than men got firsts: would that also constitute a problem?”

    Well, we already know the answer to that in US higher education, as for some time now, more women have been going to college and getting college degrees (last I looked, it was about 60-40 in both cases, though it was still trending upwards and might be a couple percentage points more pronounced now). Instead of trying to help boys get to college and complete it, we’ve continued to bang on about how we need to now make every single subject of study that is not yet dominated by women at least 50-50. So, if the numbers are reversed, no, nobody will care.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say nobody will care. Some people will care, but yes, their numbers are steadily going down.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      “Instead of trying to help boys get to college and complete it . . . .”

      What help specifically do boys need that girls apparently do not as much need?

      Yesterday I had the (unsought) “privilege” of supervising a middle school “in-school suspension” class. (It was only an hour, but it felt like at least half a day, such was the borderline toxic, loutish attitude permeating the atmosphere. Every policy maker, politician, and Romneyesque MBA/JD corporate tyrant should have that wonderful experience, especially Betsy DeVos.) Of the approximately twenty, three were girls. One might dismiss that as merely a singular anecdote. On the other hand, I have substitute taught full-time for over twelve years, and my experience is that the vast majority of trouble makers are males (though the percentage of females starts to increase at the middle school level).

      • mikeyc
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        Yeah well as the father of a teen boy I can tell you quite definitely that some of those “trouble makers” are just normal boys forced to behave in a way convenient to the school. Schooling today is designed to put many boys at a disadvatantage, guaranting some will fail.

        • BJ
          Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          Indeed. We know from studies that boys, in general, do not mature as quickly as girls. Rather than taking this into account, schools now have decided that boys better act like girls their age, or else they’ll constantly be branded “troublemakers.”

          And either we’re concerned about equality no matter who is on the wrong side of things, or we’re only concerned when it involves women (frankly, I’m not all that concerned with disparities on either side, unless they become egregious and wide-ranging. I’m one of those “equality of opportunity, not outcome” people). But, at the very least, we should be giving everyone the tools they need to have a chance at success.

          When college acceptance and degrees are 60-40 in favor of women, it seems very strange to still have women-only scholarships and programs, but have no equivalents for boys. Or just get rid of all such biases and not have X-only scholarships in the first place.

          • Travis
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

            Here’s a good starting point which covers the deliberate feminization of physics education

          • Filippo
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

            ‘Indeed. We know from studies that boys, in general, do not mature as quickly as girls. Rather than taking this into account, schools now have decided that boys better act like girls their age, or else they’ll constantly be branded “troublemakers.” ‘

            Sounds like it’s time to have separate schools, private or public, for boys and girls, so as to minimize disadvantaging boys. And everyone should have the privilege and joy of dealing with adolescent male (mis)behavior.

            • BJ
              Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

              Oh, woe is you.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          I’ve got a boy and girl, twins, still in school. My experiences with the current day school public school system in the US led me to think that the system sets up students in general to fail. I see biases of course, but not based on gender. The biases that have stood out the most to me, so far, are based on household income and performance on assessment tests.

          The general set up for failure comes from the system being designed so that the end goal is to outperform other schools on student average assessment test scores and grades in order to get more money rather than being designed to provide as many students as possible with the best education possible. This leads to a curriculum that is narrowly focused on coaching students to do well on those specific tests rather than a curriculum focused on getting and education, thus short changing them. It also leads to lying and cheating on the part of teachers and administrators. For example, awarding students grades that they did not achieve.

          If your kids happen to be singled out for assessment for the gifted program that is really good for them. Schools devote a lot of their resources and the best teachers to those students. I am grateful that both of my kids got picked early for that. But if all students were given the resources that they’ve had access to? I am, emphatically, not saying that all kids should have the same standardized curriculum and resources. Quite the opposite. While it is probably unreasonable to provide for a one on one custom education tailored for each child we can sure as hell afford more flexibility and more even distribution of the best resources than what the current system does.

          Another set-up-for-failure issue that pisses me off is teachers and administrators that habitually treat the students like shit. No respect, rude and mean. I can perfectly well understand that the job, dealing with the kids, can be very difficult. Tempt the patience of a saint. Particularly over time. But if you become burnt out and jaded you should take a break or perhaps move on to something else. You’ve got no business dealing with kids when you are in that kind of state.

          • Filippo
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            Re: your last para.: the statistic is several years old, I reasonably gather that not a few teachers do take that advice and decide that they have had enough of that legal “in loco parentis” burden. Approx. 50% of teachers leave K-12 public education by the five-year point. (I don’t know how those leavings are apportioned among K-5, 6-8, and 9-12, but I speculate proportionally fewer leave K-5.)

            • darrelle
              Posted June 15, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

              I wouldn’t be surprised if pay and no support from the system and or administration is a significant factor in those numbers too. I know that it has been positively common among my kids teachers that they regularly beseech parents for donations of time and money and often use their own money to buy necessities for their class. That is asking a lot of teachers.

          • Filippo
            Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            “It also leads to lying and cheating on the part of teachers and administrators. For example, awarding students grades that they did not achieve.”

            Any thoughts on administrators who acquiesce to parents’ demand that their student get a higher grade than the student earned, and not supporting the teacher who is standing his or her principled ground on the matter?

            “Another set-up-for-failure issue that pisses me off is teachers and administrators that habitually treat the students like shit.”

            I’m sure it happens, and staff should be disciplined, dismissed.

            That said, do you have any thoughts on students who no less badly treat teachers? It was one of the great joys of my life to have an oppositionally defiant, obstreperous middle school male child say to me, “Get out of my face, Bitch!” (Wonder if he would try that in a courtroom with a judge?) And then, preening, strikes the classic rock guitar star with both arms thrust upward with pinkies and index fingers extended for the benefit of his classmates.

            That happened long enough ago that he would be the age of the noble students at Middlebury, Evergreen State, Yale, etc directing their warm and affecting burblings at professors.

            Hey, maybe the U.S. public school system bears the responsibility for creating these noble students.

            • darrelle
              Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

              “Any thoughts on administrators who acquiesce to parents’ demand that their student get a higher grade than the student earned, . . .

              Sure. Such behavior from parents pisses me off & disgusts me. Similar regarding such behavior from administrators.

              “That said, do you have any thoughts on students who no less badly treat teachers?

              I do. I am not sure how to, ultimately, best handle such students, the ones who are chronically badly behaved. But I am sure that neither teachers or the other students should have to put up with a badly behaving student any longer than the time it takes for the teacher to notify admin and the appropriate admin person(s) to come and remove the student. Too many incidents and the student shouldn’t be allowed back. I am well aware how difficult some kids and their parents can be and how poorly some admin and some parents deal with problem children.

              “Hey, maybe the U.S. public school system bears the responsibility for creating these noble students.”

              Of course. Because I must be so simplistic or self-centered that I think there is one clear and simple reason for badly behaved students and surely it can’t be the poor darling little children. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but no. I don’t fit your narrative. Reading your comments for a good while now, I well understand that you’ve had a bitter experience in your teaching career and I think that sucks. But the doom and gloom narrative you regularly push of worthless parents producing monstrous children in such numbers that our society is headed to ruin because of them is just not accurate. Yeah, they exist and they cause problems. But things are better in our public schools these days than when I was a kid, not worse. The most serious societal problems we have at the moment are coming from earlier generations, not problem students.

              Your questions and your final statement there? To my mind it is precisely the same as you telling me I’m an idiot or an asshole, or maybe an idiotic asshole. It is the same, you just said it a little more subtly and without using curse words.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      There has been concern about how boys perform in elementary and high school.

      • Posted June 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Boys mature sexually a little later than girls. I do not think that their intellectual maturation is slower. But they are more unruly, more difficult to control, less likely to put up with demands that do not seem sensible to them. Girls are more hard-working and obedient. This creates an advantage for girls in elementary and high school. All my friends who have children of both sexes say that educating girls is far easier. I think that elementary education must try to be more fun, to include more video games and movies.(Though an adult supervisor must nevertheless sit next to the boy to make sure that he plays the educational game and not a very similar one without educational value.)

        In my country, some universities (including mine) use gender quotes to prevent feminization. Those universities where male applicants perform better have no gender quotes. What do you think of these quotes? I disapprove them. They mean that boys are given a pass while hard-working girls are forced to compete between themselves. This seems unfair to me. Of course, it would also be unfair if girls were advanced at the expense of better-performing boys. I think that we must try to optimize the entrance exams and then select students based solely on performance.

        • Merilee
          Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

          Gender quotes? Do you perhaps mean quotas, Maya?
          When I went to Stanford in the 60s they were still admitting 3X as many boys as girls😖

          • Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            Yes, quotas. Sorry.

            When my country had a draft service for young men, the male quota was subdivided into two parts, for those completed their service and for those still to serve. The latter had the service postponed until graduation.

            When serious talk begin about abolishing the draft, young men who got in the university expected never to serve. This motivated them strongly and created a natural experiment. So for 2 years at my university, the male “still to serve” applicants performed as well as females! This proved that if sufficiently motivated, young men can study no worse than young women.

            Then, the draft was really abolished and the performance of young men dropped back to its usual level.

            • Diane G.
              Posted June 18, 2017 at 2:50 am | Permalink

              What an interesting, if inadvertent, experiment.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

          I haven’t formed an opinion on how to deal with how one gender or the other performs in school, I just wanted to point out that the performance of boys is considered where it shows to be waning as well as girls.

  8. David Harper
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    The reason why the portraits around Cambridge University are dominated by men is most likely because for the first 700 years of its 800-year history, women weren’t allowed to enrol, and even as late as the 1940s, women students weren’t allowed to graduate with a full degree. Oxford was just as bad, of course.

    • Gordon
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      My late mother-in-law got a very cheap dig while at lunch at a Cambridge College. She being a medical doctor who graduated around 1946 was asked (in a tone that implied no where else mattered) if she was a Cambridge graduate. “Oh no”, she replied, “St Andrews,(long pause) I don’t think Cambridge gave degrees to women then”. Elderly male Don then spluttered something into his soup.

      • BJ
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        HA! Your mother-in-law sounds awesome.

  9. Randy schenck
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    If I were the boss of the person who came up with this, I would want to know if he or she had too much free time. This is the type of over reaching or exaggeration coming close to laughable. I would be far more concerned with who gets in at Cambridge than what invention can be made of a word.

  10. Christopher
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The only issue I’ve ever had with the word “genius” is the unintentional baggage often carried by the term which leads many young students, regardless of sex or gender, to believe that if one is a “genius” (or “gifted”), then it is innate and therefore requires no hard work by said “genius” or that those who are not “geniuses” will never be smart, or succeed no matter how hard they work at something. This can lead to “imposter syndrome” for those who succeed early in education and can lead to disability fear and anxiety of failing later or of being “found out”. Those who are not labeled as such,or are labeled by educators and parents as “dumb” or whatever, may also self-limit due to this idea of innate genius (that they are told they lack) and thus fail to thrive. I couldn’t say if these issues plague more male or female students, nor could I say how frequent they do plague students, but I’m sure someone has studied this.

    • Christopher
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I should also add that the job for parents and educators is not to protect, coddle, and infantilize students because of the issues mentioned above, but strive to assist students in becoming more resilient. We’ve failed them completely if we’ve raised and educated them in a protective bubble, only to see them implode once they are exposed to the world beyond our protective embrace. Much like seedlings we gardeners try to head start indoors, if we do not harden them to the conditions they will face out of doors, they are sure to perish.

      • Filippo
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        ” . . . if we do not harden them to the conditions they will face out of doors, they are sure to perish.”

        I agree with you but, from my experience, not a few student actively, even vehemently, resist teachers’ efforts to press them to develop some grit, perseverance, self-discipline, self-control, and overall good manners. And some parents aid and abet this behavior. A sense of entitlement obtains from sea to shining sea.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      I had a Classics professor rip us a new one for that thinking. I worked my ass off no matter what kind of talent I had….in fact, I was so happy to see results when it was something I was good at, that I worked even harder.

  11. murali
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    ‘I see this language policing as risible and offensive to women’. And some women see the current use of language as being offensive to women 🙂

    • Taz
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      The sentence you quote is referring to specific examples, while yours seems to be very general. So let me ask you straight out: which viewpoint do you agree with in the case of the word “genius”?

      • murali
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        ‘So let me ask you straight out: which viewpoint do you agree with in the case of the word “genius”?’

        That is a vacuous question, in that its implicit premise is false.

  12. Lurker111
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    There’s a word sort-of opposite to “genius” that applies here:

    Twit.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Wait, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Prof. Delap is correct that there’s been “a very long intellectual history” of those words being “associated with men.” The remedy then is to stop using those words, rather than to give women (both historical and contemporary) their just due — to stigmatize women further and to impoverish the language? B.S.

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    If you stop using these words, then they will definitely primarilty be associated with men. Why not keep using them now that women are on the scene, and let their associations change? I continue to wonder if the big battles haven’t been won, leaving us only with the trivial. If not, you’re misdirecting your energy.

  15. Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    If we stop using words such as “flair”, “brilliance” and “genius” does that mean we can’t use them to describe women when it seems appropriate?

  16. Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I can see the Puffho headline now. “Cambridge professor finds a genius way to help her female students struggling in a male dominated environment.”

    • Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      🙂

      • Merilee
        Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        I really don’t like genius as an adjective.

        • Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          I was amused because Prof. Coyne had mentioned in an earlier post that PuffHo authors keep using “genius” as an adjective, and he hates this.

          • Merilee
            Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            He’s not alone in hating it🙀 Another one I’m tired of is “deep dive.” I’m really not a curmudgeon😁

            • Posted June 16, 2017 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

              Curmudgeons rock!

              • Merilee
                Posted June 16, 2017 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

                🎉🎶

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 17, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

                Boil the ocean. That was one that drove me crazy. “We’re not trying to boil the ocean”. No, but I’m going to give you a good slap across the face if you say that to me again.

              • Merilee
                Posted June 17, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

                Never heard that one, thsnkfully.

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I have to say at risk of revealing too much about myself, – FYI

    children’s shows use the word “genius” enough to make you ill.

    And it’s not enough to say the word – they laden it with vocal yap :
    “GEEEN E yu-UH-uh-UH-sss!”

    Ugh, pit-tooey pit-tooey.

  18. Posted June 15, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The word genius is from the Latin, gignere, meaning beget.

    Which is also the root of the Old English ‘begieten’ meaning ‘to obtain by effort’.

    I can see why snowflakes might object to that.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Word connections: genesis, ingenious, gene, genetic, generator, ingénue, engineer, ingenuity.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      It was commonly used to reference families, as in gens Julia (Caesar’s family). The genitive form of gens is genius.

      If one wants to be inclusive, I say use the convenient Latin neuter: genius. 😀

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Genium. Stupid auto correct.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted June 16, 2017 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      Excellent points

  19. Paul S
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I believe my sister, who unlike Dr Delap is a genius, would take offence at this nonsense.

  20. Merilee
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    All of it ridiculous, especially the take-home exam idea.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      If we take the exam home do you think Paul S (comment above) will let us borrow his sister to help?

  21. Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I will confess that I have stopped using the word ‘seminal’ with reference to groundbreaking or other formative discoveries. I occasionally jokingly use the word “ovarial” if the work was by a female. 🙂

    • darrelle
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      On occasions when you have, did any one get it? Or did you have to explain?

      • Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        The biologists generally ‘got it.’ 🙂

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      I enjoy saying fallacious because people thing it’s a double entendre but it isn’t.

  22. Marlene Zuk
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    An interesting paper in Science in 2015 addresses the question of “brilliance” and gender; here’s the abstract (I assume it’s behind a paywall but the citation is below as well):

    The gender imbalance in STEM subjects dominates current debates about women’s
    underrepresentation in academia. However, women are well represented at the Ph.D.
    level in some sciences and poorly represented in some humanities (e.g., in 2011, 54% of U.S. Ph.D.’s in molecular biology were women versus only 31% in philosophy). We hypothesize that, across the academic spectrum, women are underrepresented in
    fields whose practitioners believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for
    success, because women are stereotyped as not possessing such talent. This hypothesis extends to African Americans’ underrepresentation as well, as this group
    is subject to similar stereotypes. Results from a nationwide survey of academics
    support our hypothesis (termed the field-specific ability beliefs hypothesis) over three competing hypotheses.

    Leslie et al. 2015 Science 347 (6219) 262-265

    In my own experience as a scientist, I definitely found people much more likely to describe men as brilliant or geniuses, and there’s also evidence from a study of letters of recommendation of the same. Whether the efforts at Cambridge will help or not, I don’t know, but there’s certainly an issue here.

  23. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Hahahahaha! Here, I’ve fixed genius for all the ladies: genia.

    How absurd. I’m insulted that someone thinks genius is only associated with men.

    • Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I also thought that “genia” is better than “genium”.
      A periodical magazine column for outstanding female scholars could be named “Genia” or the plural of it (what will it be?). The unknown word will draw the attention of readers.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 16, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        geniae (pl masc) or genia (plural neuter but also singular fem so maybe the better choice)

  24. Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Some of those words, in particular genius, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male.

    This is an argument that could be applied to almost any word not associated with making babies or looking after your husband simply because of the inequalities of the past.

    Replace “genius” in the quote above with almost anything, and the argument works just as well.

    Some of those words, in particular scientist, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male.

    Some of those words, in particular engineer, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male.

    … footballer …

    … professional …

    … professor …

    … doctor …

    … taxi driver …

    You can do one of two things: ban the word or remove the obstacles that stop women from being associated with the words. I think the latter is more constructive, if harder.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      I don’t thinks it’s harder. Banning the words seems so difficult as to be futile. But words losing their past associations? That is happening continuously all the time without any specific effort as the general cultural zeitgeist changes.

      For example, how many people have a clue that the word genius was once associated only with males let alone intend that association when they use the word? Not many I think. Rather than paving the way to an even more egalitarian society this professor would, unwittingly perhaps, have us dredging up old divisive crap from the past that we have already managed to half bury.

      • Posted June 17, 2017 at 3:56 am | Permalink

        So I shouldn’t have said “ban the words”, I should have said “write futile articles and give pointless interviews calling for the banning of these words”.

  25. Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I guess “keeping people from ever becoming uncomfortable” is now the ultimate value.

    Which makes me ask: How will you ever learn anything if you are never made uncomfortable and have no discomfort with your lack of knowledge?

    • Merilee
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      + lotsa

  26. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what a clever girl Dr Delap is, to have discovered all by herself some words that might make other girls just like herself feel unhappy.

    She will go far. Some day she might even make a lovely little wifie for some lucky fellow!

    Yes, of course I’m being facetious. But that’s what this absurd story seems to require.

  27. Susan Davies
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I, for one, would love to be called a “genius”, it has no sexist connotations for me. Why doesn’t this woman – who must have some sort of brain,otherwise she wouldn’t be where she is – get upset over really important things that affect women in many parts of the world, like the denial of reproductive rights, repression and subjugation,arranged and child marriages, FGM, etc, etc. That would be a more intelligent use of her talents (flair? brilliance?)

  28. BJ
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    “Why doesn’t this woman…get upset over really important things that affect women in many parts of the world, like the denial of reproductive rights, repression and subjugation,arranged and child marriages, FGM, etc, etc. That would be a more intelligent use of her talents (flair? brilliance?)”

    Because that would involve criticizing many cultures/religions/regions that are almost exclusively populated by “people of color,” and not very many that are the domain of white people. This is verboten.

    This is what really gets me: the combination of making up problems so they have something to fight at home, while ignoring truly awful things happening to other women in other places, simply for the convenience of not having to criticize certain groups.

    • BJ
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, this was a response to Susan Davies in the comment directly above.

  29. Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    There have been many women “geniuses” throughout history. They just have tended not to be acknowledged as such or given the credit they deserve for their achievements.

  30. Diane G.
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    sub

  31. Posted June 16, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I hereby promise never to call Dr. Dunlap a genius.


%d bloggers like this: