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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

Who Should Be Sorry N.O.W.?
Lawrence Summers’ “Feminist” Critics Owe Women an Apology
[Carol Platt Liebau] 1/24/05

Last week was a long and ugly one for Harvard President Dr. Lawrence Summers, who – as almost everyone now knows – made the mistake of committing candor and hypothesizing that innate differences between the sexes might explain the relative “underrepresentation” of women in math and the sciences. After days of battering by feminists in the press and the academy, sadly – but not surprisingly – Dr. Summers apologized.

His regret was no doubt real, but the apology was unwarranted. In fact, if apologies are to be made, they should come from his feminist critics, whose behavior has given more credence to misogynist stereotypes than anything Dr. Summers could possibly have said.

Take the reaction of MIT biologist and Harvard alum Nancy Hopkins, an attendee at the off-the-record lunch where Summers made his remarks. “I felt I was going to be sick,” she said. “My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow. I was extremely upset.” Hopkins reportedly left the room as Dr. Summers’ spoke.

Why didn’t Hopkins simply reach for her smelling salts and fall gracefully to her fainting couch? What an embarrassment. Generations of sensible women have worked to prove that we are capable of engaging in intellectual debate without resorting to hyper-emotionalism. Thanks to Professor Hopkins, that cause has just been set back at bit.

In fact, any scientist worth her salt would have challenged Dr. Summers with facts – and above all, respected the spirit of scientific inquiry in which his remarks were made. Not Hopkins, who was both the chief complainer and chief investigator of alleged gender bias at MIT. Some scientist. Apparently, she knows the answers before the research is even conducted.

But Hopkins was not the only critic. A Harvard faculty committee complained that Summers’ comments would “impede our current efforts to recruit top women scholars.” Really? Are they suggesting that female scholars are either intimidated by or hostile to original thought in academic discourse? How insulting. And even if some women would disagree with Summers, why on earth would Harvard be interested in pursuing academics – male or female – who can’t tolerate opinions that differ from their own?

Adding to the chorus of outrage came, predictably, the shrill denunciations of the National Organization of Women, searching desperately for relevance. N.O.W. issued a press release calling for Summers’ resignation last Thursday (but in a maneuver bespeaking more cowardice than “empowerment,” no N.O.W. representative was “available” to debate the issue on KABC radio with me last Friday). In the release, N.O.W. President Kim Gandy was quoted: “The notion that women are innately inferior to men is simply archaic.”

And there we have it. Judging from the N.O.W. press release – which claims to stand in solidarity with the purportedly outraged “women of Harvard” – women are too dimwitted to understand that the mere observation of innate differences between the genders is not tantamount to a hateful accusation of female inferiority. According to the Harvard faculty committee, top female scholars are too timid or intolerant to consider working at an esteemed university, so long as they disagree with its president. And thanks to Nancy Hopkins, women have once again been portrayed as oversensitive and hyper-emotional.

“It is so upsetting that all these brilliant young women [at Harvard] are being led by a man who views them this way,” Hopkins told The Boston Globe. Actually, it may be upsetting for her; in reality, however, most of the “brilliant young women” are simply too busy and too sensible to wallow in the orgy of righteous wrath and overheated indignation that she and her ideological cohorts have spearheaded.

Speaking as a Harvard graduate, Nancy Hopkins and her friends can spare me their “concern.” I’d rather have their apologies. tOR

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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