Affirmative action?

Janet Bryant jl_bryant at
Tue Mar 21 13:25:10 EST 1995

In article <3klg6a$n48 at>, Pearse Ward <wardp at> says:
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>>      Subject: Affirmative action?
>>         Date: 17 Mar 1995 07:44:59 -0800
>>         From: emklann at MARLIN.BIO.UMASS.EDU ("Ellen M. Klann")
>> Organization: BIOSCI International Newsgroups for Molecular Biology
>>   Newsgroups: bionet.women-in-bio
>>    --------------------------------------------------------------
>=7F=04> What do other people (both genders welcome) think on this timely 
polite snip.....
>> Are women in general comfortable with affirmative action?   The usual argument in favour of this obvious injustice 
>boils down to "the end justifies the means" (for an example of this 
>faulty, though admittedly compelling, reasoning, see Janet Bryant's post 
>on this thread); that is, unfair measures are acceptable if their stated 
>purpose is to redress past wrongs. 

>Christie Malazdrewich
>Department of Veterinary Internal Medicine
>Western College of Veterinary Medicine
>University of Saskatchewan
>Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Thanks for the "compelling" comment Christie....I'm glad to hear
that my debate skills didn't entirely go to pot over the years....:-)

I am obviously struggling with "fair" ways to fix a broken system.

In fact, I had a fabulously uncomfortable growth experience last week.
My 10 year old son was told by his dad/my husband that "mommy won
an award at work....1995 Battelle Woman of Achievement...."

Michael (the 10 year old) said, "...That's great mommy!  Who won the
1995 Man of Achievement Award?"

I thought my husband was going to choke on his tongue!  and he said,
"...well, mom.  How do you answer that?"

AND I STRUGGLED.  I tried to explain that the award was part of a 
celebration of National Women's History month; and that women's
value to our society is often overlooked and that this effort caused us all
to slow down a bit and recognize contributions made to both the workplace
and the community specifically by women.

But I didn't FEEL convincing.  And if I may be so bold, my achievements
DO match up to my male colleagues since I have awards alongside them
based on technical achievements.  SO WHY do I feel so damn uncomfortable
celebrating Women's History Month in this manner?   Proud, yet ashamed 
over the "unfairness"?

And what about my husband?  Obviously proud that his wife got this
award - yet uncomfortable over the fact that it IS a discriminatory award
in that men weren't eligible.

LOTS of mixed feelings over this one.

I decided to enjoy all the fun and merriment and 15 minutes of glamour
ala Andy Warhol.  

I came back down to earth 2 DAYS later when the Little League spots
for the "major league" were announced.  My 10 year old son made the 
majors.  His 12 year old sister did not.  (He IS a better player than his
sister - but not too much better).

HOWEVER,  six (count them) six, 12-year-boys in Heather's middle
school classes also made the majors.  They were in the same 
tryouts as Heather.  She caught all her fly balls; fielded all her grounders;
and hit 5 for 6 pitches with nice hard grounders.  All 6 boys dropped at least
one of the fly balls; none hit better than 3 for 6; and all of those boys
booted at least one of the grounders they fielded.

She was heartbroken.  I had a heart-to-heart with Heather about 
performance-based achievements and try-outs in the game of life when 
you are a minority.  Life is not fair.
No one said it was supposed to be.  The coaches obviously saw something
in the boys that we didn't immediately see.  Perhaps size was an issue and
they were afraid she'd get hurt.  (Heather rolled her eyes at me....)

Nice message for a 12 year old girl, isn't it?  At school her male buddies
came up and told her that she got rooked.  Unsolicited reality check for her.
That made her feel a little better.

So now,, she goes on to play in the minors this season.  She will (I 
believe) be outstanding on her team and get a chance to be a leader for
the rest of the team with her good attitude and hard work.  Next year, she
only has the choice to go play girls softball.  Babe Ruth won't accept
someone who didn't make the majors.

But what if she had made the SHOW????  She'll never know.

I'm not asking for her to make the team because she's a girl.  I'm asking
for gender blindness for her AND for me.  And I keep seeing the subjective
qualities breaking the ties between male and female.

He NEEDS the job; he has a family to feed.  (And SHE doesn't?)
His personality fits in better here. (He went to the same school as me).
His aggressive demeanor is better-suited to this assignment (He belongs
to the same fraternity as me).
He understands the game better that she does...(We play golf together).
We already HAVE a girl on the team. (We already have affirmative action here)

SO.  Maybe affirmative action isn't the cure-all.  Anybody got another
alternative?  I'm open to suggestions.  Meanwhile, I'm gonna go keep the 
scorebook for her team and maybe coach some at third base...

Janet Bryant
jl_bryant at

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