TCS Daily

What Women Want

By Val MacQueen - September 17, 2004 12:00 AM

A high-ranking British woman doctor, Professor Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, has warned that the British medical profession is shedding the prestige in which it was once held. She ascribes the diminution of respect to the high percentage of women who have entered the profession over the past 20 years.

Indeed, she is right to be concerned. Consider teaching. Fifty years ago, when most teachers were male, teaching was accorded the status of "profession." Now, with the great majority of teachers in Britain and Europe being women, teaching has seen its prestige plummet to the point where it is regarded as just another unionized job with pay and holiday issues.

Again, since British women flooded into the legal profession, especially as solicitors (essentially, non-trial lawyers) the law too has seen its score marked "diminuendo".

The Anglican Church has allowed itself to become sidelined to the point of irrelevance -- although to be fair, this is partly due to its adopting a loony left stance on most critical issues of the day. Nevertheless, the decision to admit women as vicars has diminished the Church's spiritual authority and shepherded it into an "issues oriented" profession rather than that of a provider of spiritual comfort and moral certainties.

People perceive women as anchored to issues as opposed to concepts. I recall seeing an interview with one woman who voiced dissatisfaction with her Anglican vicar, who was a woman. The woman complained, "I was spiritually troubled. I was trying to find my faith again, and the vicar kept drawing the conversation back to the lack of adequate childcare facilities in the parish."

Politics, too, once surely the most ruthless profession of them all, has seen the regard in which it was previously held, albeit always with a healthy skepticism in the Anglosphere, diminish since large numbers of British and European women chose politics as a career. Think Swedish female politicians, and now think how seriously you take Swedish politics.

The high regard in which the police were formerly held in Britain has taken a tumble since they first started recruiting women 40 or so years ago. Women were seen as better communicators than men, more able to tweezle the truth out of child molesters, wife beaters and people sheltering criminals, as though that were the sum total of police work. It wasn't long before battle-hardened male officers were being chided for being too tough, too abrupt, too insensitive. So began the disastrous road to an "understanding" police force in Britain, which, married to a new "profession" variously called social services and counseling, turned into a vast army of social workers rather than apprehenders of malfeasants.

So, jobs that have always had a high female presence -- real estate, sales, journalism, advertising, literary and performer agencies -- racket along as ever with nary a change in public perceptions. (Be it noted that although these are all jobs that require mental agility and an ability to capture a fleeting mood, they do not require years of rigorous study and grinding apprenticeship.) The professions whose corpus is still largely male -- architecture, nuclear physics, orchestra conducting, rocket science (indeed, all science) maintain their status and mystique.

It is solely those formerly male preserves which have had large infusions of women that are seeing their prestige become unmoored. As women have agitated for special dispensations, they have chipped away at the mystique in which their professions were previously mantled.

Dr. Black told London's Observer newspaper that female-dominated professions such as teaching no longer see themselves as "powerful" and pointed to the danger of feminizing medicine because they have been persuaded to make special dispensations for women and mothers.

I think that Dr. Black hit the nail on the head when she added that "women were unlikely to take top jobs, such as the dean of a medical school, because of the difficulties combining them with family life." She added that many women avoided more "demanding" areas such as cardiology. "What worries me is who is going to be the professor of cardiology in the future? Where are we going to find the leaders of British medicine in 20 years' time?"

Well may she ask, because as long as women insist on maintaining a dual role and manipulating their chosen professions to suit their family life, men will be less attracted to the field and the women who are in it will not make the sacrifices that males routinely make to establish a name for themselves and uphold the standards of their profession. In the British and European health systems, there are few top women consultants in any field except pediatrics. They don't seem to have the stamina or the mental rigor to become surgeons. Or perhaps they don't have the will. A 12-hour operation would interfere with their home life.

And women are increasingly trivializing the rigors of the professions by manipulating them to suit their family life by agitating for shorter working hours so they can be at home when the children come back from school, maternity breaks without loss of position on the rung, and extra time off for school events, and so on. The British Parliament, under touchy-feely Tony Blair, recently introduced shorter working hours in Parliament specifically so female legislators could be at home for supper with their children. No one asked why these Labour politicians went into politics knowing how unsuitable the hours are for family life. Under Labour, Parliament had to be massaged to suit young mothers. This is no way to run a country.

There was even loony lefty talk at one point -- endorsed by Blair -- that Members of Parliament who were nursing mothers should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in the debating chamber. The Conservatives saw this notion off pretty quickly. The mind boggles.

So the sense of entitlement is another factor. The ancient professions should be manipulated so women can have their "fair share", despite not taking them seriously enough to make the very real sacrifices that men make as a matter of course. Is this feminism or is it socialism?

Dr. Black is correct when she notes that many women do not enter the really difficult realms of their profession because they are reluctant to commit the time required. In Britain and Europe there may be one or two neurosurgeons, or there may be none. Although they cling around the lower rungs of the ladder, few women in the British legal profession have thrown themselves into the cut and thrust of being barristers, which requires long hours that devastate family life and the ability and the will to master several briefs at the same time.

The Labour party hypes Blair's wife Cherie as a "hot shot" barrister, but she's not. She's strictly paint by numbers. She handles publicly-funded "human rights" cases and is a comparatively low earner. What she earns comes not from individuals who have retained her for her abilities, but from the public purse. In other words, she takes the easy work. The high achievers in the legal world in Britain are still fiercely clever, fiercely ambitious, ruthless males. With the exception of Helen Kennedy, I cannot think of a single outstanding woman barrister in Britain.

So women don't put their profession first. They grab all the soft options and, indeed, create new ones. And, with the endless stream of employment legislation, who will dare say them nay?

Men are increasingly becoming disenchanted with professions that heretofore required steely determination and sacrifice to get to the top. The gates have been thrown open and without the competitive factor, many men don't know how to cope, or simply lose interest. They don't like not being set against the ruthless cut and thrust of other males and they are deserting professions that have become feminized. What's the point of having all that testosterone if a colleague is going to accuse you of being "too aggressive" and go and have a little weep in the ladies restroom?

It is male aggression that built civilizations and furthered the sciences, not women sitting around forming cooperatives and sharing childcare.

The women who rise to the top of demanding professions, rather than drifting comfortably along the slipstream at the bottom, do so in spite of their sex, and because they possess some of the male characteristics that infuse a discussion with certainty and confidence.

Margaret Thatcher, although many men found her very attractive as a woman, has a mind with qualities commonly thought of as masculine. In debate, she gave no quarter and asked none. It is interesting that she holds a degree not just in law, but in chemistry as well. There are other ambitious and brilliant women in Britain who possess clarity of thought and vision, who have made sacrifices to achieve their positions and are well rewarded. But by and large, they are not in the professions. Or if they are lawyers, they aren't practicing but deploy the skills they developed in law elsewhere.

In socialist Britain and socialist Europe today, there is a conscious demasculization under way. All those wars: bad. All those hours spent away from the family dinner table building fortunes or careers: bad. All that deferring to rank: bad. Ruthlessness: bad. Inclusion, cooperation, "understanding": good. Good for what? Who knows?

None of this is new. It isn't often addressed because in countries infected with radical socialism, it is simply too incendiary.

Men want to compete. Women want to cooperate. Or so runs contemporary received wisdom. This may not be true. It might be that, once the feminists announced that the professions weren't "caring" enough, the type of woman given to weaving mental macramé was drawn to demand her rights and shove her way in. Certainly the early, and rare, female doctors and lawyers in the early part of the last century were as focused and determined as any man.

In my opinion, this deconsecrating of the professions is a socialist, rather than a feminist, construct. The feminists were handy fodder. There is a disconcerting leveling down in Britain and much of Europe today. Excellence is derided for "excluding" those who are not excellent. If further proof were needed that this is an exercise in class warfare, as medical science, in the fields of both knowledge and new treatment, expands at a formidable rate, Labour is currently hacking away at the profession by reducing the length and thoroughness of British medical education to make it "more inclusive".

A reasonable question might be, will the profession continue to prosper although males desert it?

Another reasonable question might be, why is it American women have entered the professions at the same rate, and are not only doing well in many fields and excelling in some, but doing so by accepting the same sacrifices that men make and playing by the same rules?

The fact is, whether it is a deliberate leveling down policy or simply a social evolution, once women predominate in a profession, that profession loses its attraction for clever men. Will we see the social status of medicine in Europe sink to the same level as that of teachers?

Well, it did in the USSR.


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