bionet.bionette or bionet.women ?

S. A. Modena samodena at
Wed Sep 2 20:03:16 EST 1992

In article <5048 at> una at (Una Smith) writes:

What follows would never "sell" on Ophra or Donahue or Geraldo or

>Several months ago, there was a long discussion on WISENET
>about how women graduate students tend not to speak up, and
>the reasons for this.  There was fairly general agreement 
>that women are not repressed by the faculty or other students,
>but rather that they silence themselves.  One measure of
>success for a woman graduate student is learning to speak
  ^^^^^^                                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>up and participate fully in the educational process (and in
>reseach in general).  I am saddened to see evidence of the
>same phenomenon in the discussions here on bionet.  The 
>number of private e-mail messages I received on the topic
>of the new group name underscores the problem.  So, Steve,
>I didn't make up the numbers, but you're right to be bothered
>by them.
>	Una

I lived in Israel for four years....spoke Hebrew, dreamed in Hebrew,
and talked extensively to the _vatiquim_ (pioneers...first settlers).
For men and women who came in the late 20's and the 30's, times were
truly difficult.  The women in the kibuttzim worked fiercely,
put off having childern, died in the ambushes, fought the night
raiders, were arrested by the British, waded into the sea to
pull illegal immigrants ashore, shivered with malaria in their
swamp tents, had sex with any man they formed a consenting relation
with, hired out to unload coal in Haifa or crush rock for roadbeds,
showered with the men, went insane or went back to Poland or died
early from broken health.  

I knew women: who had stood on the water tower of Ein HaHoresh waving signal
flags in defiance of the British seige and dodged straffing from a Spitefire,
who specialized in driving a truck in convoys up the road to 
Jeruselem under fire, who was the only surviver among the fifty men
and women who attempted to break the Arab seige of Yeh'hyam, who was co-Leader 
of the Warsaw Ghetto Armed Revolt, who was co-commander of the only Jewish
(Lithuanian) Partisan Group that never allowed itself to surrender to
military/political control of the Red Army for the "right" to
savage the Nazis wherever they found them; who survived Mengele's

When the community decided that it was time and secure (enough) to have
childern, the childern were grouped in childern's houses and taken
care of by "nursemaids" (_metaplot_) so as not to tie up one-women-to-
one-child and sap the productivity of the community.

In the 70's:
It was painfully obvious that something had gone wrong.  The husbands,
now near retirement, often had jobs "outside" the kibbutz such as head
of an agricultural training institute or a big bureaucrat in kibbutz
organization headquaters in Tel Aviv or as Member of Parliment or as
managing director in the milk cooperative for the entire northern one-
third of Israel.

And the pioneer wives?  Cook in the communal kitchen; seamtress in the
laundry; auxilliary "nursemaid" in one of the many childern's houses;
switchboard operator.......

Hannah, how did this happen?  "It was just easier that way."  In a
community political structure that never waivered from the-vote-is-not-taken-
until-the-last-person-has-spoken and one-person-one-vote-simple-majority-
rules, the female pioneering ideologues ended up tending the hearth.

But a few women, like Golda Meir and Heika Gutterman (Warsaw Ghetto
Revolt Commander), remained "engaged" to the end.....powerful
personalities, dominant, fearless, and humanly vulnerable.  Golda:
"we can forgive the Arabs for all of our childern that they killed, but never
forgive them for forcing our childern to have to kill."

Back around 1976 I attended an informal talk at Smith College (a prominent 
woman's college in Northampton, MA) given by a well-known Israeli
female Member of the Israeli Knesset: Shoshona....I forget her family name.
A leader of the splinter Peace Now party, I believe....and a successful

In the room was Shoshona, three males (including me) and about 40
Smith women.  During the hour informal question-and-answer period,
questions were put forward by five persons: the three males (including
me) and two Smith women.  38 women uttered not a single word in the
presence of one of the most important and vibrant young women in 

Now scroll back to the top of this post and reread what Una said.....
for she said something terribly important in the matter of
"women's issues."

One of the great mysteries to me is this: how could any woman who
earns a reputable Ph.D. not be articulate?  Afraid or meek about
expressing an opinion?  Silent?  Needing to "hide" in a women's
circle: bionette, to discuss obstacles obvious and not-so-obvious
for women in biology.  

Well, we shall see.  Will the threads continually bash sexist,
domineering men as the root of all female biologists' obstacles?
Will it be the BioNet Donahue Show?

When I lived in Philadelphia, I played karate for a hobby.  One of
the group was an AfroAmerican who was a high school substitute
teacher for the Philadelphia system.  When we went to a tournament
at West Point, he was the tournament champ: 150 lbs, not muscular,
played with double hernia, faster and smarter than any of the other
brown belts.  One day we asked him about traveling to substitute
at city high schools like Bak HS in South Philly's Little Italy.
"Don't they give you trouble? How do you handle it?"

"No, I never have any trouble.  I pick out the one with the biggest
hat and the loudest mouth, walk up to him, stare straight into
his eyes and quitely, politely ask him 'Can we get started?'"
No, I never have had any problems *teaching* anywhere, ever."

Physical intimidation?  No.  Just seriously engaged in doing his
job of educating his students and not afraid to speak up.  And, of
course, self-confident, fearless and comfortable with his self-worth.


|     In person:  Steve Modena     AB4EL                           |
|     On phone:   (919) 515-5328                                   |
|     At e-mail:  nmodena at                           | 
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|                 [ either email address is read each day ]        |
|     By snail:   Crop Sci Dept, Box 7620, NCSU, Raleigh, NC 27695 |
         Lighten UP!  It's just a computer doing that to you.

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