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Watch What You Say

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To whom it may concern:

How disappointing to encounter the "sour grapes" attitude that led you to slant your presentation of the rise in female graduates with the usual old maneuverings in regards to the overarching problem of women's second-class status [City File, March 26].

While your bold heading "The ongoing horror of patriarchy" reflects more-of-the-same attempts to dismiss the problem as a nonproblem by implying it's a delusion of hyperemotional, overreacting women, the use of intended melodramatic sarcasm to belittle the experiences of others (in this case, half the species) says more about the speaker than those to whom they are referring. Fortunately we are all at least aware that proclaiming an exaggerated sense of smell in denizens living in a garbage dump does not magically make it a garden. It also inflicts a second wound on a population who has already been hurt enough in its attempt to undermine their perception of reality. I wonder if you would have used the same heading during another era to refer to "the ongoing horror of Jim Crow" in reporting a statistic about the apparent progress of a small subset of African-Americans?

Further, attempting to use the apparent progress of a very particular group of women in a very particular niche (25- to 29-year-old college graduates) as a refutation of the existence of an entire system set against them is ridiculously like "proving" America has become a classless society by pointing to the limited rise of a few lower-class members beyond some of their (difficult) circumstances. It is also a cheap tactic that would effectively nullify, and thus rob them of, the work they did to achieve such an accomplishment by deeming it unnecessary: If no such oppressive system exists to struggle against, their struggle becomes foolish and their achievement co-opted by a system that has beneficently provided for them. Finally, it provokes the question of how the status of all other women compares to their male peers' and even how the status of these same women will compare with their male competitors' when they begin vying for the same jobs. Let's hear some talk about that.

It would have been much nicer to have been able to read your statistical report as a celebration rather than an undercut. Sadly, due to your choice of reporting perspective, you managed to "give" and "take away" in one fell swoop. But that's OK. Progress is progress, however the messenger might attempt to twist it. I'm just writing to serve you notice: You should be more careful about what you publish. Someone might be reading it.

Ellen Palmer

Chicago

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