I learned about “Women’s day” from Leonore and she in turn got the intel from a google doodle. My generation, or so it seems to me, has been brought up with considerable respect towards the feminine sex and for me personally it is simply incomprehensible, why societal differences are so pertinent in this regard. Maybe it’s better to put it another way: there are certainly monetary reasons for paying women less, for instance and it might be more comfortable for qualified men not to have to compete with equally qualified women on the labour market, but I don’t think, that this is the heart of the ongoing problems women are facing in their quest for equality. Frankly, I don’t even believe that religion or tradition in general has much to do with it. Most of them might come from women’s attitude. This is of course a matter of education, but it still seems, that women in general don’t like to be put in the front line of things, in politics or management for example. Hell, I wouldn’t do it for much of the world’s money – why bother? Much might come from a more serious, psychological factor: men, as I see and feel it, will surrender some of their own space and time, for respected equal or better partners. This goes for intellectual qualities and interests but also for what I would call body management. As far as sexuality is concerned, a woman with attributes that attract statistically more interessents, might find it more difficult to built up a definitive, respectable personality, and I’m not talking about choices of frequency and qualities of partners. I’m talking about the know how necessary to appear before other people as someone who is guided by her own intelligence. The definitive subtone here is, that everything that points too obviously to sexuality in general does not produce respect for a woman, because the nature of human sexuality suggests certain metaphors appropriate for the feminine and for the masculine part. Women might not be aware of this, when most of what they know about themselves they learned from men, being attracted, but not otherwise impressed by them. Think for example about a drug addict. You can have all kinds of feelings towards the person, but there will always be the impression of him or her being somehow weak, not self-determined, dependent. This lowers your respect and the same goes for the woman so typical for our media. Hence the problem might be on both sides: self esteem. Women have to learn, still and always, that there is a difference between attraction and respect and men need to expect more. And under all circumstances, society must be kept flexible, because if it is not, the problem won’t be solved, it won’t even be visible. The moment you have some tradition telling you that something is bad, somebody has certain qualities, something is good, something bad: you have to do work to actually discover the real problem, the reality behind empty phrases. Then, even knowledgeable people, which always make up only a fraction of a population, will likely misjudge. Otherwise it wouldn’t be understandable, why women composers, artists, physicists, mathematicians and what have you, were always faced with such ignorance and aversion.
If you find the above text unworthy, take my excuses. It’s a topic that troubles me, but of which I only feel one side. But I know that there have always been extraordinary women in all fields, even as far back as ancient egypt (Merit Ptah) and that some of the most beautiful and deep discoveries of our own age, are due to women researchers. In honor of the google doodle, I want to show you faces, that complement the list Leonore provided you with earlier today:
Sofia Kovalevskaja, a mathematician of the late 19th century, who became the first professor at a University in northern Europe. She is known for having discovered one of the three tops, whose motion can be completely described by integration.
Emmy Noether, mathematicion of the early 20th century, whose work I can even hardly grasp. Her most well known contribution is the theorem, that the physical laws of conversation are equivalent to the mathematical notion of symmetry.
Rosalind Franklin, british x-ray cristallographer, whose data was used by Crick and Watson to postulate the definitive model of the DNA. Her work was especially important, since Crick Watson and Linus Pauling were expecting the wrong structure, where the bases are on the outside of the helix.
Jocelyn Burnell, Irish astrophycicist who as a graduate student discovered the first radio pulsar. For the discovery, her supervisor and his collegue received the nobel prize, and she had not even been mentioned.
Now as I’m especially interested in classical music, I would also like to showcase women composers, but it so happens, that many of their works either fall into clichés or are too experimental for my ear. But three names have to be highlighted, because they contributed to the greater classical music forms and are unjustly kept outside of the concert canon.
Louise Farrenc – 19th century, romantic symphonic music
Florence Price – african american, late 19th and beginning 20th century, especially known for her Symphony in e minor
Sofia Gubaidulina – experimental classical forms, contemporary and innovative