For the next few posts I will be working through Susan Pinker's The Sexual Paradox.
Pinker is a clinical psychologist. She has worked mostly with boys with problems. She is also a second-wave feminist who knew many highly promising girls. The central theme of this work is that second-wave feminism erred in expecting liberated women to achieve - to want to achieve - the same kinds of things at the same rate as men. Pinker wants to argue that neither sex should be taken as the model for the other; they each have their distinct tendencies, vices, and virtues.
Pinker has been a psychologist long enough to see how many of the children she worked with turned out as adults. Her very interesting finding is that the boys with difficulties often found ways to be successful adults nonetheless; at the same time, many of the girls with great promise chose paths that did not lead them to run the public world.
One small finding that Pinker notes on the way caught my eye. All of the women that she talked to, even the most successful in their public and private lives, wanted her to use pseudonyms for them, and hide all identifying details of their stories. None of the men wanted pseudonyms, even though many had very troubled beginnings.
I am not sure what to make of this exactly. I think, though, that even the most successful women worry that people will not like them "if they knew the truth." Men, on the other hand, expect to pay their dues and make mistakes while climbing the ladder, so are less troubled by whatever past they have.