Let’s not just pick on the Nigerians

The oppression begins at home, and we can’t just blame the men.

I work at a bookstore. I was cashiering today when a woman and her two kids (a boy and a girl, both somewhere between 13-15) came up to the register. The mom was buying 2 celeb gossip magazines, and the boy put down a book. The girl then walked up and set down the newest volume of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

The mom says “You can’t buy that.”

Girl: Why?
Mom: Because it’s too big.
Girl: [Brother] is buying a book that big. It’s not very expensive.
Mom: [Brother] is a boy. You’re a girl. And girls shouldn’t read big books like that. It’s too thick. Boys don’t like girls who read thick books. You want boys to like you, don’t you?

The girl went and put the book away.

We really need an admissions test for parenthood.

(via Byzantium’s Shores)


  1. says

    What the…

    (Checks calendar…)

    Funny. Sez here 2007. This thing broken or somethin’?

    I mean, I thought feminism was now redundant, as we’ve got equality everywhere, and no parent on the entire planet would say anything so spectacularly, dazzlingly stupid as that. And, you know, all those folks still agitating for women’s rights are just beating a dead horse… Or a dead patriarchy. Whichever.

    Mebbe she got frozen in the fifties, just thawed out. Or is this maybe some ‘Blast from the past’ bomb shelter/time capsule type thing?

    Yeah. I bet that’s it.

    Anyway. For the record, I only like women who read thick books. To the degree that I actually married one.

  2. Colugo says

    If we’re going to pick on the US (as well we should), we shouldn’t leave out Europe:

    BusinessWeek, 2004: The widespread acceptance of sexual harassment in Europe

    “Across the channel, it’s hard for women even to initiate litigation. For a person to sue for sexual harassment in France, he or she would have to prove that it resulted in some form of professional or emotional damage, says Marie-Hélène Fournier-Gobert, an employment lawyer at Barthélémy et Associés in Paris. “An isolated attempt to kiss someone or a sexist comment would not be considered sexual harassment,” she says. … “The French definition of sexual harassment is what we Americans would call assault and battery,” says Michael Rubenstein, co-editor of the Equal Opportunities Review in London, who wrote the European Commission’s code of practice on measures to combat sexual harassment at work. …

    t’s a similar situation in Germany, even though legislation banning sexual harassment in the workplace has been on the books since 1994. “There is little awareness of the law,” says Kathrin Zippel, an assistant professor at Northeastern University in Boston who is writing a book on sexual harassment in the EU. … Most German women take their employers to court only after losing their job, Zippel says. “Women don’t trust their employers, the male-dominated unions, or the courts to be sympathetic to their claims,” she adds.”

    Newsweek, 2006: Europe’s glass ceiling

    “According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden–supposedly the very model of global gender equality–they hold 29 percent.

    Germany comes in at just under 27 percent, and Italian women hold a pathetic 18 percent of power jobs. … The real problem is that Europe has been consistently unable to tap the highest potential of its female workers, who represent half of college graduates in most countries. Women, it seems, can have a job–but not a high-powered career. …

    Despite the mythology of European enlightenment, retro attitudes toward women die hard. … In France, power brokers tend overwhelmingly to be graduates of the Grande Ecoles that were first opened to women in the 1970s.”

  3. Fernando Magyar says

    Is it really such a huge surprise that some women can be just as stupid as some men? Duh.

  4. Great White Wonder says

    We really need an admissions test for parenthood.

    LOL! Not if Tim Sandefur can help it.

  5. BlueIndependent says

    I’d say I’d bet 5 bucks this mother does everything her husband tells her to, but my guess is everyone here will find that the least of the obvious issues borne out in this situation.

    Nevertheless, what this mother has told her growing daughter is a form of active sexism on the part of one victim to, apparently, another.

  6. valhar2000 says

    While it is true that the idea of internalized repression has been used by many as a way to be highly elitist while still calling themsleves populists, it is undeniable that the phenomenon exists and is in full force all over the world.

  7. Mena says

    I would have loved to have seen this woman’s face if it was the son who brought that book up to the register. With any luck her head would have exploded.

  8. says

    I went to a private high school with many children from successful fathers and idiot mothers. It was very obvious from such an experience that if you marry a trophy wife with little between her ears then you get idiot children, which to me seemed like a waste for a successful father to have.

    That observation influenced my mate choice greatly.

  9. Azkyroth says

    We do indeed have a long way to go. Even my parents, despite being quite progressive in most respects and despite an explicit commitment to helping us with the difficulties involved in managing college and family, have a fairly sexist idea of my wife’s and my long-term situation; they seem to regard my college education as more important than my wife’s, in terms of assistance and prioritizing. Maybe that’s partly because I’m studying something that they recognize as “important” and “challenging” (engineering) as opposed to applied social science, which they seem to unconsciously conflate with “humanities” or “liberal arts,” but there does seem to be a “you’re the breadwinner” mindset at work. I hate that term, as a result.

    On the positive side, none of my friends think I’m weird for feeling like smacking (or at least chewing out) every female authority figure who criticizes a girl for not being “ladylike.” Then again, that might have more to do with my friends than the times…

  10. Tyron says

    n dmssns tst fr prnthd?

    Myb w shldn’t ncrg 13 nd 14 yr lds t strt fckng s rly?

    Bt n ll srs, th prpsl fr tst f ths ntr smcks f Nzsm…y knw, gncs, Gltn, Drwn…ps! Srry.

    ddn’t rlly mn t.

    Drwn ws grt mn.


    H ws NT Vtrn ltst wh nvr hld n cdmc pst n hs lf nd wh thght ngrs wld b wpd t bcs thy wr svg rc nd tht wmn wr ntllctlly nfrr.

    N sr!!!

    H dd NT thnk tht.

    Y s, h ws jst prdct f hs tms.

    Lk Htlr.

    t wsn’t hs flt.


  11. Nick says

    While I hate feeding the trolls….

    1) PZ’s shown time and again that Darwin was far more enlightened than his peers
    2) The character of the scientist has no effect on the veracity of their ideas
    3) That whole “13 and 14 year olds” comment is not just a total non sequitur, it’s one of the more idiotic comments I’ve heard today.

    Unless you respond intelligently, Tyron, don’t expect any more engagement from me.

  12. kurage says

    My first reaction to this anecdote was disbelieving horror, but after some reflection, I’m starting to wonder if this attitude is all that rare. Yes, it’s unusual to hear such a retrograde notion of gender roles expressed so openly, but I’m willing to bet there’s still a significant percentage of parents who are willing to invest considerably more time, effort, and money in their sons’ intellectual development than in their daughters’.

    I wish I had been there in that bookstore. I would have bought that girl her book, idiot mother be damned.

  13. says

    I’m sorry, do you have a point?

    That the tests should also include a section on reading comprehension? That’s really all I’m getting from Tyron.

    And this is just disgusting. It’s Dorothy Parker all over again: “Boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses!” Blargh

  14. says

    Well, my daughter started reading the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants over the holidays, and we wouldn’t let her, either. My wife had just finished reading it, so I suppose refusing to let our daughter read it smacks of hypocrisy.

    On the other hand, we deemed the content inappropriate for a five-and-a-half year old.

    On the other other hand, we support and encourage her in reading bigger, thicker books all the time. She’s quite taken with The New Way Things Work.

  15. Margaret says

    feeling like smacking (or at least chewing out) every female authority figure who criticizes a girl for not being “ladylike.”

    Yes,Yes! I can still hear my mother: “Don’t take such big steps. It’s not ladylike.” and “Don’t frown like that. Smile. People won’t think you’re nice if you look like that.” etc. etc.

    Her efforts just ensured that I take whatever size step I like, wear whatever expression my current emotional state warrents, don’t wear dresses or makeup or women’s shoes, refused to learn to cook, rarely dated and never married etc.

  16. windy says

    Maybe we shouldn’t encourage 13 and 14 year olds to start fucking so early?

    Maybe ‘we’ should encourage them to read some thick books instead?

  17. Hairy Doctor Professor says

    For my 11-year old, punishment (rarely applied) is forbidding her to go to the bookstore. We’ve advised her that some books may not make much sense yet, but we’ve never refused her permission to read anything she’s asked for. We’ve also “salted the dig”, so to speak, with things that will be there when she decides she’s ready for them. I’ve heard that 90% of parenting is blood-sugar management and sleep management; the rest is just judo. Of course, teen-hood is right around the corner…..

  18. Wobert says

    Perhaps someone should point out to the mother that if her daughter was burying herself in books,she mightn’t be out experimenting with uneducated sex quite as often.

    I don’t know if that came out right, but we really encourage our 10 year old(going on 20)daughter to read all sorts of stuff, within reason. 740 pages of Harry Potter lasted 3 days,abruptly followed by the newspaper from front to back in a couple of hours.When it comes to the birds and the bees and other such life matters, I don’t know who’s going to be explaining what to who.But it’ll be easier for us than others because she will have dicovered a lot of the answers herself through big fat books.

    I hope that makes sense.

  19. frog says


    There’s another element to sexual harassment in Europe, at least as I’ve understood from colleagues: that women are expected to be able to fight. In Northern Europe, often literally – they expect an unwanted pass to be responded with by a (hard) slap or some other physical violence, and for that to settle the matter; if the man were to be caught then retaliating (in any way), public shaming would ensue. This is not to excuse acceptance of sexual harassment, but there does exist cultural elements to whether litigation and expanded bureaucracy are the best route to handling harassment.

  20. Zbu says

    I saw this all the time at a library: I was hired as a pseudo reference librarian and I would get middle-school kids coming up to me, asking them for books on a subject. So, I would take them over to the section that these books resided in, grab about five, and hand them over.

    99% of the time? These kids (and their parents) would look at me like I just grew a second head on my shoulder. “But those are BIG books! We’re only writing a ten page paper!” And these were those small ‘children’s encyclopedias,’ nothing major at all.

    Words cannot explain how viciously I wanted to bitchslap these people. I felt about telling them how college wasn’t going to be this easy and when I was in middle school, I wasn’t still on children’s encyclopedias but was on some really heavy stuff with absolutely no pictures or simplified language in them.

    Parents holding back their kids. Pathetic.

  21. says

    I wish we could blame this all on the religious right, but I think we all know how bad this also is in the sciences. Back in the late 70’s early 80’s I was an astrophysics major. A very prominent physicist at that time told me to “Go home and bake brownies. Girls don’t belong in physics.” Through the 80s and 90s while working in engineering I got the same stuff, and now my daughter is completing her Masters and SHE’S being treated sub-male.

    I’d like to see some of the archaic beliefs cleaned up in the “intellectual sector”. Right now we mothers hand our daughters big thick books and help them up the ladder so someone at the top can kick them back down.

    NOT that I am advocating NOT handing girls the books… I just find it hypocritical to be pointing fingers at how the religious right oppresses women when they’re getting the same thing in the lab.

  22. Keanus says

    Dorid has a point. My sister majored in phyics as an undergrad and then moved on to medical school, which she entered in 1958. There were four women in her med school class out of something slightly over a hundred. She remained in academic medicine (and bioiphysics) her whole life but constantly ran into outright sexual harassment or glass ceiling kinds of put downs all the time for the entire duration of her career. And the males who dished it out were almost never fundies.

  23. Jon H says

    On the bright side, the Bible is pretty big…

    Perhaps a moment of woo is in order. Everyone direct your thoughts at the girl, thinking “search Google for a sentence from the middle of the book you want and you might find a bootleg scan on the Internet!”

    Okay, enough woo.

  24. Colugo says

    “And the males who dished it out were almost never fundies.”

    Being politically progressive and/or nonreligious is no immunization against being a huge patriarchal / misogynist / harassing swine. The stories I could tell about academia…

  25. Cat says

    You know, one anecdote deserves another. When I was in high school (I graduated class of 2001) there were a bunch of boys who didn’t want girls who thought, they wanted girls who would cook, clean and fuck (my favorite boy-quote: “A woman’s place is in the oven,” I’m not kidding). The result was that with a certain percentage of the girls I could not tell whether they were dumb or just acting that way to be acceptable girlfriends. Sadly, there are still guys in the US who want a girl who won’t intimidate them by being more capable than they are, will need them for protection and everything that doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning and caring for the babies and can act both cute and submissive for them.

    But in all serious, the proposal for a test of this nature smacks of Nazism…you know, Eugenics, Galton, Darwin…oops! Sorry.

    Don’t forget good old fashioned American values :). After all, it’s not like America’s ever banned anyone from imigrating on the grounds that they have a genetic defect like Epilepsy, autism and other genetic traits. No siree.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson says

    In Sweden–supposedly the very model of global gender equality–they hold 29 percent.

    This is too nice a description. In swedish boards, the number of females drops to less than 10 % IIRC.

    I believe it has to do with the lack of proactive legislation in this area. And subtle, or at times not so subtle (for example, discussions in the sauna are often mentioned here), mechanisms work against women making it on their own merits.

    What is more equal in Sweden is supposedly pay, typically at less than 20 % difference. Here the legislation is proactive.

  27. Torbjörn Larsson says

    In Sweden–supposedly the very model of global gender equality–they hold 29 percent.

    This is too nice a description. In swedish boards, the number of females drops to less than 10 % IIRC.

    I believe it has to do with the lack of proactive legislation in this area. And subtle, or at times not so subtle (for example, discussions in the sauna are often mentioned here), mechanisms work against women making it on their own merits.

    What is more equal in Sweden is supposedly pay, typically at less than 20 % difference. Here the legislation is proactive.

  28. says


    What explains the failure of the mainstream media to cover the purge scandal for so long, and so many other scandals? Do you think somebody just set up newspaper editors to cheat on their wives, and threatened to tell if the editors wouldn’t play ball when they come back some day and ask for something?

    It wouldn’t be that hard to do, when you think about it. People wouldn’t talk about it.

  29. Buffybot says

    This must be more common than you’d expect – when I was 8 or 9, back in 1980 or 81, my friend’s mother (who was the uber-bimbo), forbade her daughter from playing with me “Because you read too much.”

  30. says


    On the other other hand, we support and encourage her in reading bigger, thicker books all the time. She’s quite taken with The New Way Things Work.

    Good taste.

    The first edition of that book taught me what “dark humor” meant. I remember there was a two-page spread on nuclear weapons. The left-hand page described how fission and fusion bombs worked, and the right-hand page was titled, simply, “Fallout.” Under a few paragraphs of explanatory text was an arid desert landscape, with a few dead cacti, some blowing dust, and a concrete bunker. Down, down, down went the stairs, until near the bottom of the page was a tiny hollow filled with tinier people, dancing and singing, “Happy birthday to you. . . .”

  31. says

    OK, time for a horror story of my own. When I was a much smaller physicist, in first grade to be exact, I developed a big fascination for Leonardo da Vinci. It may have stemmed from catching Caltech’s The Mechanical Universe show on PBS one day when I was sick; I’m not too sure. Anyway, I did what we little kids were supposed to do. I went to the school library and asked the librarian for a book on Leonardo da Vinci.

    Her response?

    She looked down, down, down at me from way up there in her silver-haired height, and told me, “Little kids don’t read books like that.”

    If I’d been a girl, she probably would have sent me to the principal’s office and called a conference with my parents, telling them I wasn’t being brought up right.

  32. Stuart Weinstein says

    I’m sorry, do you have a point?

    Naahhh. He was just looking for an excuse to bring Hitler into the discussion.

  33. says

    That’s it. I am suggesting IQ tests for parenthood.

    Seriously, I thought we had left that crap behind 30 years ago. It is saddening and disappointing to see mothers who encourage their daughters to at least feign stupidity in order to win a mate.

    This woman is doing more than that. She is encouraging her daughter to be ignorant.

    I am depressed now – off to buy chocolate.

  34. says

    I guess sisterhood is powerful — and sometimes on the wrong side. That mother is no doubt passing along the programming she absorbed from her own mother. My mother is a dutiful spouse and helpmate on whom my father is totally dependent (I believe he thinks of her as a remote control for the kitchen). My sister is less house-bound and therefore “not as ladylike” as Mom. It’s weird to see. (And would be weirder if we weren’t so accustomed to the reinforcement of these stereotypes.)

    One thing about this account struck me as peculiar in a different way. It was okay for the boy to buy a thick book? That’s odd. I was a sissy in school because I read big books — a couple of grade levels above my peers. When did that change?

  35. HCN says

    Tyron said “n dmssns tst fr prnthd?”

    Child, you need to:

    1) Fix your keyboard. It seems to be sticking on several letters, mostly vowels.
    2) Learn to type.
    3) Learn to spell.
    4) Realize this “style” makes you look like an idiot, and very few folks really want to go through the effort to decipher your blathering.

    I noticed a while ago that some person going by “Goldy” or something like that had a similar style. Is it the same person, or just some kind of stupid youthful trend?

    Because if the subject is on young women and their reading… My 12 year old daughter delights in humiliating folks who post like that on the Anime/Forums forums she frequents (and one she is a moderator on). She despises people who cannot write coherently (yeah, she is prejudiced against the deliberately illiterate, though she does understand there are people with learning disabilities like her oldest brother).

    She read _Watership Down_ in 6th grade, and is not interested in reading _The Traveling Pants_… she is presently hooked on Martha Wells fantasy stuff (they may be mass market, but the books are all twice as thick as _Traveling Pants_).

  36. HCN says

    Oh, cripe… just when I hit post do I notice that I wrote Anime/Forums instead of Anime/Manga!

    Must proofread better… but at least I used vowels!

  37. Azkyroth says



    “Disemvowelling” is PZ’s way of dealing with trolls. It consists of removing the vowels from the post and leaving the shredded remains. The original post was badly written but I believe properly spelled.

  38. Rey Fox says

    Had I been working there, as a guy, I would have said, “I like girls who read thick books.” Almost perfectly innocent, and it would be great to see how the mother reacted.

    I mean really, Travelling Pants? How thick are those books, a quarter inch? *checks Amazon* Okay, 416 pages, hmm. Still, I’ve seen issues of Cosmo that were at least that thick. How about phone-book sized wedding magazines, are those okay?

  39. says

    My goodness, despite this horror story probably being as mundane as dishwater (and I use the term “mundane” in more than one sense) it is still deeply disturbing.

    As for the horror at “big books”, I can think of one good riposte:

    “All the good stuff is in the big books.  Little books are for little kids.”

  40. AlanW says

    I heard a girl’s mother say something similar to her at the age of 14 to discourage her going to college. Unbelievable.
    Guess we can be thankful this woman is not Mary Masterman’s mum, otherwise she would have been swept off to the kitchen to bake cookies for her brothers to eat during weekly irrational jingoism watching.
    (There’s a 50:50 M:F ratio on those prizes too, which is nice to see)

  41. K. Engels says

    Even though I’m male I can relate to the little girl. I’m a humanities geek/nerd and had to constantly put up with my parents insulting everything I was interested in and destroying pretty much any chance of getting the career I wanted right out of college (I wanted to be a translator but didn’t get to start taking foreign languages until college because learning languages is ‘stupid’ and ‘this is America, we speak English here’). On the other hand my sister got a B.S. in Business 100% paid for by Dad & Mom because it was a ‘useful’ degree.

  42. says

    If I were the cashier, I would have paid for the book myself and given the book to the girl (after puking on the mother’s shoes, of course).

    I know of a PhD candidate whose mother constantly complains that she’s wasting her life with so much study: She should have gone to college for two years, and then gotten married!

  43. Stephen Ockham says

    This story is absolutely disgusting. Sadly, it reminds me of a related anecdote.

    Last Thursday, I took a city transit bus home from the downtown core (not unusual in itself, save for the fact it was 3:30). When I de-assed the bus, two young girls (grade 7/8?) also disembarked.

    They talked excitedly between themselves about an upcoming half-day of school, and one declared that she didn’t intend to show up, because she
    “only” had “Science and geography, nothing important — like cheerleading”. There was no hint of irony or humour in her delivery, and her friend registered no reaction.

    I wasn’t about to be the creepy guy talking up young girls at the bus stop, but I wondered where she got such an attitude; did it come from the parents; did it come from the media? Who failed this girl, and what percentage of her peers think the same way?

    On the lighter side:
    She’s quite taken with The New Way Things Work.

    The original version of that book was the greatest, and perhaps most important, thing I owned as a child.

    I pulled it out of the school library when I was in grade 2, kept it long overdue, and my grandmother, who bought me many books, presented me with a copy out of the blue later that year.

    I credit that book for nurturing my curiosity at a very young age, and teaching me to seek concrete reasons for all events and processes — in an odd way, it probably contributed to my early deconversion.

    Up until I got on the internet, it was still a book I picked up for actual reference. It still enjoys pride of place on my bookshelf, although I almost gave it to my nephew.

  44. Rakel says

    I strongly encourage parents NOT to cencor what their kids read. I have been able to read as long as I can remember, and I have always been reading a lot. Mostly books which might be cencored by anyone “sensible”. This resulted in a precocious child, but a healthyminded (I hope) adult.

    I think I was 8 or 9 when I first read Dracula, and at that age I had the habit of carrying whatever I was reading everywhere, so I had the book in school. My teacher saw it, and decided to call my parents to tell them that I was reading “inappropriate” books for my age. Lucky for me, my mom went almost mental on him :P He was told on no uncertain terms that it is not his business to cencor what I can read, nor it is anyone elses.

    I think kids tend to ignore stuff they can’t comprehend, especially in books. For example, in Dracula there are lots of sexual hints, innuendos and whatnot, but I didn’t pick them up when I was kid. It was quite a different experience to read it again when I was teenager :P

  45. says

    My parents never limited what I read either – altho I probably should have heeded them when they said “leave it on the shelf Daniel, we’re going out”

    My earliest memory is the broken leg that resulted from falling off the bookshelf, having climbed up after said book.

  46. says

    Blake Stacey:

    “Little kids don’t read books like that.”

    Thankfully, my daughter has been spared that. I was a little surprised the first time I took her as a four-year-old to the public library. I knew her grandma took her there fairly often. I didn’t expect that all the librarians already knew her by name!

    She goes to a little Montessori school, and they really encourage her to read and to do research. Not that it takes much encouragement. She’s pretty insatiable.

    And to Blake and Stephen Ockham:
    There is now a “The Way Things Work” game. The game itself is OK, but the question cards are really good for curious kids. And at more advanced levels, there are experiments to perform with simple machines (and mammoths, of course). My wife bought it for me, but my daughter took it over.

  47. NC Paul says

    Another anecdote to the pile – a graduate student I know conceals the fact that she’s doing a PhD when she’s chatting up guys because it intimidates them.

    I felt it necessary to point out that filtering out meatheads in this way was probably a good thing.

    It really should go without saying that smart women are sexy. Sadly though, it clearly needs to be said more often.

  48. amph says

    Am I the only one who is attracted like a moth to a flame to disemvowelled messages? And I am not even the puzzling type at all, I have never done a Sudoku or any of that shit. Sometimes it takes me more than 10 minutes to entirely re-vowel the troll’s excretion and then usually, and certainly in this case, it makes my brain hurt when I see what it had to say. And yet I know next time I start puzzling again. This way I spend more time on reading the trolls than on the good posts. One rational motivation for wanting to re-vowel is of course that I want to understand the comments.
    Why not either remove the troll posts or let them intact– or perhaps mark them with a troll alert icon? I know, the idea is “to remove trolls through humiliation”, but does it really work?
    Sorry if I missed any possible previous threads on this.

  49. csrster says

    “My parents never limited what I read either”

    Neither did mine, although they must have had some regrets about the effect all that Bertrand Russell had on a receptive teenage mind.

  50. FishGuyDave says

    Let me add that I find women who actually read big books to be rather sexy, hence the reason I married my Ph.D.-holding wife. (Oddly enough, she’s the one with the tenure-track prof position first, but I digress…) Also, should the occasion ever arise, it’s also far easier to play “dumb” than play “smart” — just a thought when planning for daughters to walk through the current cultural minefield.

  51. Louis says

    Bah this is ridiculous. I can refute that idiotic mother’s words in a simple phrase:

    Kama Sutra Pop Up Edition.

    Find me a man who doesn’t like a girl reading THAT thick book.


    P.S. Damn did I miss the point? Hmmm maybe I’ll get my wife who I met at university and who has a PhD to explain it to me. Pffff boys don’t like girls who read thick books my sainted pants. They’re the best kind.

  52. ajay says

    From a purely selfish male point of view, girls who read thick books are great. You can buy them a thick book as a present for less than £20 and the response it provokes is every bit as delighted as the response provoked from a non-reader by £200 worth of jewellery.

  53. Dale Austin says

    My junior high school had a grade level assigned to every library book. A librarian prevented my younger sister from checking out a book “above her level.” We were new to town, so they didn’t know what would happen next. My sister complained. My mother intervened, and my sister got to read whatever she wanted.

    And the filet o’ librarian we had for dinner that night was delicious.

  54. says

    I’m a first year University student, studying Biomedical Science, and this kind of thing is pretty much what I put up with everyday from my mother. The current range is from “You should put more makeup on!” to “Did you flirt with any guys today?” to “Don’t study so hard – you’ll be a nerd and no one likes nerds!” Never mind the fact that I am already pretty nerdy in terms of taste, hobbies, and amount of reading I do on a regular basis (but unfortunately I don’t look nerdy enough yet to be immediately distinguishable).

    I’m actually quite surprised that she still holds onto this notion of “guys don’t like smart girls”, because she’s very modern and liberal in her outlook on almost everything else (she’s also very smart herself). She did encourage me to read and learn when I was younger, but now that I’m at a marry-able age that’s somehow not as important as finding a “man”.

    Anyway… I sincerely hope that this idea of patriarchy gets shamed out of cultures everywhere as soon as possible, because it’s becoming very annoying.

  55. says

    I wish we could blame this all on the religious right, but I think we all know how bad this also is in the sciences. Back in the late 70’s early 80’s I was an astrophysics major. A very prominent physicist at that time told me to “Go home and bake brownies. Girls don’t belong in physics.” Through the 80s and 90s while working in engineering I got the same stuff, and now my daughter is completing her Masters and SHE’S being treated sub-male.

    I have read that Dr. Lisa Randall doesn’t like to be thought of as a “woman physicist” because she doesn’t think that people should see her as an exception. But I really want to see her be able to demonstrate her theories on gravitation once the LHC is fired up and the results are in.

    I’ve always thought that such sexism is stupid from an economic standpoint because it wastes half of our resources. Come to think of it, racism is stupid for the same reason.

  56. HCN says


    Okay, I have learned something new… but it would help if it were flagged as such. I usually ignore trolls, but I guess this makes it easier to ignore them.

  57. nacky says

    As to europe. Around 1985, Germany, studying Chemistry. Then there was the Organic Chemistry Professor who declared in a lecture that us women folk could study chemistry, but we shouldn’t expect to ever get a job in the field. It would be far better that we should be, for example, physiotherapists and work alongside our husbands, the doctors.

    There was a bit of a to-do among us Frauenzimmer, which led to a meeting with said prof. We were then told that it was fine that we studied, we could keep our children from having an excessive fear of chemistry. It was just the way it was that the industry didn’t like to hire women. He, by the way, never took on female doctoral students because it hurt him so much when he had trouble trying to help them find them a position after thesis competion.
    Not to forget the story I heard about the woman who took, as her contribution to the foodstuffs, a cake to an anorganic department get-together. She was asked by a professor what she was doing studying as she could bake so well. The implication was not, “Wow, this is so good you could be a baker:”, But “Why aren’t you married yet, you can bake.” Her snarky retort was along the lines of, “Don’t worry, I’m only here to get a husband.”
    I could go on.

  58. False Prophet says

    I am a librarian, and I encourage all girls to read thick books. Boys too (and it was just a couple of years ago that educators and the like bemoaned that boys weren’t reading).

    Help us all if women stop reading books. Ian McEwan thinks that “when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

  59. says

    Unbelieveably, in the late Roman – early Christian era it was considered unfeminine for women to read lyric poetry and history, etc. (this was before “novels”). Women read devotionals, philosophy, and mathematics, because that was what was considered “proper” for a lady. With the rise of women reading novels and poetry, they were denounced by men as “trash.”

    Interesting, isn’t it?

  60. Leon says

    Oh, that’s just sad. It’s only lunchtime and I already want a drink.

    I feel really sorry for that poor girl. Her mother is deliberately and systematically limiting her own daughter’s future.

    I married a woman who is very well educated, partly because I happen to think educated women are sexy, thank you very much.

    I also have a daughter, though she’s a little younger than the one mentioned here. She’s growing up surrounded by books, and I’ll be delighted if she chooses bigger books than her (little) brother. I’ll be sorely disappointed if she doesn’t go to college someday, though I’ll try to live with it if she doesn’t.

    What the hell is wrong with these people?

  61. dAVE says

    What a recipe for disaster.
    Being sarcastic now: It would be one thing if the mother, while discouraging her daughter to read, encouraged her to learn how to be a good lay. Because if you’re dumb as a post, and a lousy lay, you ain’t gonna get no man no how anyway.

  62. dkary says

    I have to admit that my mother (inadvertently) sold me on what became one of my favorite books when I was in grade 7. I had just picked up “Cannery Row”, and she saw it and said “When I was your age, I wasn’t allowed to read that book.” Needless to say, I had it finished in no time, and I’ve read it many times since.


  63. Kseniya says

    I am glad to say that my story is the polar opposite of this one. I was encouraged by both parents to read whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, as long as it didn’t interfere with homework or chores. We weren’t really allowed to watch TV, but we got Discover and National Geographic every month – and my mom was usually the first one to read them cover to cover.

    Nobody ever told me that my being interested in reading and learning was some kind of social liability. But by the time I got to eighth grade I couldn’t fail to notice that some of the girls I knew were dumbing it down a bit for the boys, and I did start to wonder…

    It didn’t take me long to realize that a guy who wanted me dumbed-down didn’t really want me at all. Problem solved. As for the guy who actively helped me see that, well… it’s no wonder I fell in love with him.

  64. Kseniya says

    For me the “lure” book was I Will Fear No Evil by R. A. Heinlein. I devoured that one the summer I turned 14… I think Mom and Dad were mildly appalled when they found out, but only mildly. Hey, it’s not like it was the Pop-Up Kama Sutra.

  65. says


    “When I was your age, I wasn’t allowed to read that book.” Needless to say, I had it finished in no time, and I’ve read it many times since.

    My mother-in-law used to teach high school English. Every year, she would post the list of most-banned books on the wall of her room. Needless to say, that got kids to read as many of them as possible.

  66. brightmoon says

    my youngest son just thanked me for letting him be himself …and then i go and read about this idiot parent, who was a lot like my father. ..his favorite sentence was “girls can’t do that”

    well i hope she doesnt hate her mom too much when she gets older …the best way to fake out a stupid parent is to agree in the house and think for yourself outside ……you really can’t argue with stupid

  67. Azkyroth says

    Looked this post up to show it to someone as an example of something, decided to respond to this:

    When I was in high school (I graduated class of 2001) there were a bunch of boys who didn’t want girls who thought, they wanted girls who would cook, clean and fuck

    Cooking, cleaning, and fucking are all important and valuable skills, necessary to an appropriate level of self-reliance and/or a fulfilling and enjoyable life. Consequently, we will be teaching our daughter the first two and encouraging her to have a positive attitude towards the third (while waiting until she’s ready). The really pernicious thing here, I think, is the implicit assumption that valuing and being skilled in such things is incompatible with thinking.