Affirmative action?

Mary Jane Nather natherm at
Wed Mar 22 11:52:17 EST 1995

On 22 Mar 1995, Coscolluela Eileene wrote:

> 	Maybe it's just me, but I just haven't experienced any
> 	really difficult situations.  I've been in classes when there
> 	have been almost all men and I've never had problems in 
> 	dealing with them.  I take on a very professional attitude,
> 	could that be why?  Could it be than in the honors classes,
> 	the attitudes are different than in standard classes?  I don't
> 	know, but I know that I've never had any difficulty in being
> 	a woman.  I've never had any more obstacles than my male
> 	counterparts, atleast none that I have seen.  I think I do
> 	things just as easily (or have just as hard time with something)
> 	as they do.
> 	Have I lived in a 'sterile' environment?  I just don't see it,
> 	so I don't care for things like affirmative action, because 
> 	I don't see the discrimination.  It's not like I can't see
> 	discrimination (I'm very active in gay, lesbian, bisexual,
> 	and transgendered rights), but I really haven't felt it 
> 	towards myself for being a woman or being a minority (a little,
> 	but not the extreme that I think affirmative action takes it
> 	to be).

Probably.  I used to feel as you do.  I have always been treated very 
well by men in school, because they *knew* that I knew my stuff.  In fact 
in high school, there was another girl (4 total) in my physics class who 
had a really snobby, superior attitude.  We were the top two students in 
the class, but all the guys told me that they respected and liked me more 
because I treated them as equals and didn't speak down to them.  

Now, I'm in graduate school and I'm in a lab with a true chauvanist.  He 
is older (in his 50's?), so maybe that's his "excuse" but mostly he's 
just a creep.  He treats all the women in the lab, or any who might come 
into the lab to borrow something, as if we were idiots and totally 
incompetent.  I could go on forever with stories about this guy, but 
that's not the point.  The point is, if this white male were in the 
position to hire and fire, I would bet money that the female applicants 
would end up in the trash. 

I also feel uncomfortable with the idea of affirmitive action in the 
context of hiring every minority available, regardless of 
qualifications.  But on the other hand, men like the one in my lab cannot 
by trusted to treat minorities with the basic respect you should afford 
another human being.  That's how affirmitive action got started, I 

Maybe it's just outlived its usefulness.  There is a lot of resentment in 
white males (young and old); I've spoken to several who feel that they 
are being maliciously cut out of the system for no reason except the 
color of their skin and their y chromosome.  Some might think "Good!  Now 
they know how it feels!" but I don't think affirmitive action should be 
about punishment. 

A friend tells me about some US Forest Service jobs that went to women 
recently.  No women applied, so some supervisors went out and actually 
recruited women to apply, some of whom really weren't qualified.  So now 
those women are struggling and giving all of us a bad name--you never 
hear a guy say "That guy's a jerk!  I'm never hiring a man again!" but 
it's said of women all the time!  Doesn't it seem like if only 30% of the 
applications come from minorities, then 30% of the positions should be 
filled by minorities, rather than rounding up some females, or 
African-Americans, or disabled persons so a company can look good on 
paper?  Sorry, I'm rambling.  

I agree that the goal should be to hire all persons based on their 
qualifications, but there are still so many people responsible for making 
hiring decisions that look at gender and race as a handicap to one's 
skills, I guess affirmitive action is the best thing we have for the 
moment.  I think the backlash is only going to get worse, though.   I 
hope that young, up and coming scientists like myself don't get seriously 
hurt because of it.

Dept. of Microbiology
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR

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