Her hair

I’ve never known how to live up to my maternal line, though I’ve burned up a lot of energy trying. Womanhood to me is the feeling of always striving. Striving even when there is no endpoint. I learned early on that to be a good woman—a strong woman—means scheduling, doing, achieving. You execute this series flawlessly and without any complaints. You survive in this world by showing up, pretty and prepared and perfect, hopefully more articulate than anyone else in the room—and always with done hair.

Wonderful essay by Rachel Wilkinson about one of the dilemmas of being a woman, the tension between feminism and beauty.

I believe I had a feminist childhood. I had the kind of upbringing where my mother gave me, at age nine, a book of 100 women who changed the world, and sent me to a middle school where we discussed the misogyny of The Little Mermaid. In my mother’s eyes, these were important lessons for me. Intelligence was the thing that would allow everything in my life to fall into place. She’d cultivated me to be the perfect millennial daughter: existing in a meritocratic world where looks didn’t matter so much because I could be anything I wanted if I were just smart enough. Like all parents, she contains contradictions.
Part of me loves her for telling such an exquisite lie. Not even a lie so much, but what she’d truly hoped would be true for me—a parental lie. I think about how much I’ve tried to let this shield me, to let it protect me from uncomfortable feelings. But with my 45-minute hair routine, I’ve only embraced her perfectionism—and her same contradictions. I wish her lie were true: that appearance didn’t matter, a nuisance held up against smarts. Or I wish I could care less about it—that I could hold to feminist principles, smash my blow dryer and somehow transcend the whole gendered mess. But even then, it wouldn’t be enough.
My head of hair is a perpetually living and dying thing: inconstant, uncontrollable, inescapably corporeal. It’s a promise that I am always a body—despite how hard I might wish to be just a mind.

I, for one, welcome our new female overlords

The great transformation of the past two centuries—the slow but relentless decline of male supremacy—can be attributed in part to the rise of Enlightenment ideas generally. The liberation of women has advanced alongside the gradual emancipation of serfs, slaves, working people and minorities of every sort. 
But the most important factor has been technology, which has made men’s physical strength and martial prowess increasingly obsolete. Male muscle has been replaced to a large extent by machines and robots. Today, women operate fighter jets and attack helicopters, deploying more lethal force than any Roman gladiator or Shogun warrior could dream of. 
As women come to hold more power and public authority, will they become just like men? I don’t think so. Show me a male brain, and I will show you a bulging amygdala—the brain’s center of fear and violence—densely dotted with testosterone receptors. Women lack the biological tripwires that lead men to react to small threats with exaggerated violence and to sexual temptation with recklessness.

From a good piece on how women are taking more and more leadership positions in the world, and why that's a good thing. The problem with men is testosterone, which manifests in aggression. That may have been useful in a state of constant hand to hand combat war, but it's counterproductive in modern society. When Ali G asked that feminist, “Which is better, man or woman?” it turns out he was on to something, even as she deflected the question.

I suspect the future ideal for humans to emulate in thought and action is a computer, a machine that is immune from the types of logical mistakes driven by emotion and human biology. That ideal brings its own flaws, including software bugs and a lack of some threshold of compassion which humans value so highly, but when it comes to large-scale optimization of measures like happiness, lives saved, misery avoided, computers are likely far superior to human brains.

Early adopters of illegitimate professions

When the movie industry first came into being in the U.S., it wasn't seen as a very reputable profession. Given discrimination against immigrants and women in other more established industries, it was only natural that they were first in line to grab jobs in Hollywood. Specifically, many ”screenwriters“ in those days (I put screenwriter in quotations because it was the silent era for movies so the job consisted of writing the interstitial title cards, not dialogue) were women:

Women had been a major force in the film industry during the silent era, particularly in the area of "screenwriting." Since dialogue wasn't needed, and inter-titles were a separate discipline, screenplays were called "scenarios", with the concept of "play" devolving onto the movie itself, which commonly was called a "photoplay" in the first generations of cinema.

June Mathis, who helped make Rudolph Valentino a superstar, wrote the scenarios and screenplays for over a hundred films, and also as an "editorial director" on many other films, from the mid-Teens until 1930.

Women directors were not uncommon during the silent era (In fact, the first "feature" film was directed by a woman, back in 1896).


After sound came to the movies, however, women started to be squeezed out of the movies. Why?

The era of the Talkie launched was followed closely by The Great Depression, and several dominoes toppled into each other in succession.

At first, movie studios were not hurt by the downturn in consumer spending, as Americans sought entertainment in the movie theaters. By the end of the Hebert Hoover Administration, attendance was declining as economic conditions worsened.

The studios were forced to turn to the New York money center banks to seek capital. The banks put their own representatives on movie studios' boards of directors. The financial experts brought in to the industry by the banks reorganized the business and imposed a corporate management paradigm on the studios. This outside influence exerted a great deal of pressure towards conformity and the imposition of strict hierarchies.

It is a truism of organizational theory that the more complex the structure, the more control is exerted over all aspects of the organization, and the more conformity is demanded from organizational players. The corporate hierarchies were dominated by men, and the pressure for conformity made the vertical, publicly traded studios inhospitable to women, who by their very gender, could not conform to the dominant corporate paradigm.


Notably, it was a woman, Frances Marion, who was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood from 1916 through 1935.

I think of this story when I read about discrimination in other fields. The life cycle of discrimination often repeats itself across industries, leading its victims to be early adopters of new and not yet socially respected professions.