Lyle Burkhead (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 03:05:22 -0500 (EST)

QueeneMUSE writes,

> The venus post is interesting because it measures women's sexuality
> against men's math abilities.

Well, I wasn't thinking in terms of "measuring against"...

> My answer would be, you perceive a kind of power she holds,
> which is at least as influential as math, or any of the traditional
> male domains.

Almost true. Venus (maybe we should say Frigga, in view of J's nordic
background) has as much power as Hermes, Vulcan (her husband), etc.
She yields to Jove, however, and how she stacks up against YHWH is
another matter entirely.

> If she did math well, she would still have that power...

She already did math well, on an elementary level. But that's not
what it means to be a mathematician. What if she were as obsessed
with math as you are with art? She would have to reorganize her mind
at a very fundamental level, and it would change her feminine psyche
into something else.

You have seen the Newtonian side of my personality come out a few
times. You're right, I can be abusive. You don't know the half of it...
Can you imagine a woman with a Newtonian personality? She might
be beautiful, in a way, but she would be Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS.
She might have power, but not the same power Jennifer had.

To be a mathematician, you have to form the habit of cutting through
the bullshit and getting to the point. I use the word "cut" advisedly.
It's a masculine idea. Cut. You do it with a sword. Even the gentlest
mathematician (most of them are much nicer than Newton) always has
that sword, and at any moment his eyes may flash and cut right through
you. Jennifer could have learned to do that, but she couldn't do that
and still be the magical creature that she was. Lady MacBeth is not

David Viscott wrote a book about his experience as a medical student.
I gave the book away years ago, and can't even remember the title, but
I remember an incident that illustrates what I'm trying to say: He went
to a hospital where he didn't know anybody. I don't remember what he
was doing, but he had to interview some women who worked at the
hospital. One of them stood out from the others. Her body language
was tighter, her manner more brusque, her speech clipped and to the
point, her glance penetrating and comprehensive. She had "doctor"
written all over her. Sure enough, it turned out that she was the only
doctor in the group, the others were all nurses.

If you think about something all the time, it changes your personality.
It even changes you physically.

One thing I'm trying to do with the Jennifer story is to get away from
the idea that this is an argument about chromosomes. It's an argument
about the mind, and the relation between mind and body.

Some little girls grow up in a hothouse environment. Their parents
want them to be pianists, or gymnasts, or ballet dancers, or swimmers,
or tennis players. They spend many, many hours practicing whatever
discipline has been chosen for them. Some of them end up Olympic
champions, or Wimbledon champions.

In a few rare cases, parents want their little girls to be chess players or
mathematicians. The results prove that intensive training can turn girls
into chess players or mathematicians. The Polgar sisters are the
daughters of a chess player, and Emmy Noether was the daughter of a
mathematician. They were brought up to be prodigies. It can be done.
But at what cost?

If all little girls were brought up that way, then what would the cost be?
The assumption seems to be that when girls are brought up as girls,
it somehow deprives them of the "right" to be mathematicians or
engineers or truck drivers. But if girls are taught to deny their
femininity, if they are forced to be androgynous, this deprives Jennifer
of the right to be Jennifer.

> you may ask yourself, why this story? why this issue....

This is ultimately about politics. It's about what kind of world
we want to live in. I want to live in a world with Venus in it. I don't
want to live in a Socialist Realist world, in which we are all machines,
and Jennifers are extinct. In the modern corporate world, there is
no place for Venus, except as a commodity. I don't like that. I am
trying to understand how we got into this situation, and trying to
imagine a viable alternative.

One of the Extropian presuppositions is that the mind is just a
computer, and that its connection with its physical substrate is
inessential. We can reprogram ourselves, and detach ourselves
from our bodies, with impunity. I don't think so. Hubris is always
permitted, but it always has consequences.