These data apparently surprise researchers who sought the reasons for such choices in physiology, education, or at the door or glass ceiling of the workplace. But they found that it’s not about brains, aptitude, ability, or out-and-out barriers; it’s mostly about choice, they say. Women choose freely.
Yet, McArdle reports that researchers don’t know why women choose as they do. They don’t know how experience and socialization work in shaping women and their choices.
But doesn’t the answer about selecting jobs lie exactly there, in the answer to the question of how culture shapes women and their choices from infancy?
We have a willful and collective blindness, in certain quarters at least, about the role of ideology in shaping people’s choices, especially when it has to do with the role and place of women in our society.
We are not so blind when it comes to subcultures, though. It’s interesting that a couple of years ago in Texas, with the FLDS cult, we had no such trouble understanding how constant exposure to certain ideas from infancy shapes women’s beliefs and makes them accept behavior that is harmful to themselves and to their children.
I am frankly pessimistic that researchers will even look to see the results of exposure to beliefs about what it means to be a woman in a dominant culture. If they did, they might have to admit that women actually have less choice than they “find” in the research McArdle reports.
Researchers will continue to look everywhere but where the truth lies. The real answer to the Freudian question about what women want is that it’s only a rhetorical question.
Elaine McArdle is a writer in Cambridge, Mass. She has co-authored a book with Dr. Carolyn Bernstein called The Migraine Brain.