Gender dynamics in the Obama administration

A couple tidbits from the Suskind book. From The New Yorker:

During the early months of Obama’s Presidency—“Confidence Men” covers the first two years—his White House, Suskind says, was a testosterone-fuelled boys’ club where important female staffers and agency heads felt bullied and ignored by their male colleagues. “Friction over the role of women in the Obama White House grew so intense,” the Washington Post wrote, summarizing Suskind, that the President “was forced to take steps to reassure senior women on his staff that he valued their presence and input.”

But the really astounding bit is cited in this article in Mother Jones. Turns out Larry Summers was, on at least one occasion, more insightful about gender than Obama.

Many thanks to Bijan and Mr Jender. Sorry for delayed posting.


Suppose you organise society so that only men are allowed to work outside the home. Women are confined inside to be childrearers and housekeepers. Since women cannot work, their chances for survival depend on being supported first by their parents, and then a husband. Parents must pay for a man to take their daughter off their hands. Suppose also that there is no welfare system, so parents must rely on their children to support them in their old age. If you were a parent, you’d inevitably prefer a son, who would receive a dowry when he marries, and take care of you when you’re too old to work. Daughters are of no use to you, and a drain on your already meagre resources. It would be no surprise if you aborted/killed any baby girls. Others take the same line as you, and so the ratio of men to women becomes skewed. Now what happens when your son(s) try to find a wife? There aren’t enough women to go round. So what should one do? There are various solutions. You could arrange a wife for one son, who will then be shared amongst many brothers. Or you could kidnap a woman to be a wife for your son(s). Or you could buy a kidnapped woman, sometimes at an open auction. Since women are viewed as inferior beings in your society – you killed your baby girls, remember? – the women shared and bought will be yours to treat as possessions. Welcome to rural India.

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