On Society and Gender Inequality in John vs. Jennifer
Central to the foundations of the governing principles that the Founding Fathers channeled while forming the Union was the desire for freedom and equality as the goals for the new government. Apparently, as opposed to the monarchical rule that the English Empire imposed on its American colonists, the latter supported democracy as the ideal form of governance for the masses. Case in point the peoples’ endorsement of the American Constitution that guaranteed a “[balance] of power” within the government and equality through “the nation’s size and diversity” (Foner 11). However, as evidenced by Congress’s agreement to maintain slavery and the fact that men controlled the decision-making processes, the benefits sought within independence targeted the Caucasian male populace. By that logic, the conception of the United States revolved around both racial and gender formation that granted white skin and masculinity dominance in all spheres of society. With a particular interest in gender, the findings reported in Margaretta Midura’s John vs. Jennifer reflect an extension of the hegemony that existed as early as the eighteenth century. Accordingly, as Midura argues in her article, although it was hard to recognize gender formation in society, a closer analysis reveals an inequality that favors men over their female counterparts.
In John vs. Jennifer, Midura focuses her writing on the findings of an experiment conducted by a section of Yale University’s faculty to determine whether scientists are “immune to gender discrimination” (33). The assumption was that the training scientists receive so they could “think objectively” exempts them from preconceived biases when it comes to their respective fields (Midura 33). Subsequently, Corinne Moss-Racusin and her colleagues at Yale University sent out fictional applications in which a male and a female student sought the mentorship of science professors at research-intensive universities in the State. Interestingly, the respondents in the study favored the male student [John] over his female counterpart [Jennifer] (Midura 33). Consequently, against the variables of mentoring, competence, and “hireability,” John received more feedback that is positive than Jennifer did; additionally, the respondents were willing to pay the male applicant “$4,000 more per year” (Midura 34-35). Hence, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] fields, there are more women than men are because of pre-existing ideologies that perceive women as the weak sex. For instance, as Midura explains, some “claim that women are biologically less capable than men in quantitative fields” while others insist “women choose to avoid the lifestyle that comes with being a scientist” (34). It is as though a woman takes on more than she could handle when she ventures into the scientific fields.
Again, the findings from the John vs. Jennifer experiment defy the expectations one would have when it comes to scientific fields. In other words, and as the Yale University faculty correctly assumed, the science professors who formed the target populace in the study ought to have shown more interest in intellectual abilities than they did on the gender of the applicants. However, they did the exact opposite. In the document Patriarchy, The System, Allan Johnson explains that rather than look at individuals when dealing with oppression, such as in the case of gender inequality, there is a need to consider the society in the same. In the author’s words, a misunderstanding of the “patriarchy” and “the system” contributes to a broader misconception on how best to handle social evils and oppression from the societal to the national levels (Johnson 18). About the system, looking at a situation from an individualistic view denies one the opportunity to consider a concrete solution to a perceived problem. For instance, if the system were to explain warfare, it would argue that soldiers are “aggressive” individuals whose “natural brutality” propels them to “slaughter one another” (Johnson 24). Similarly, for the patriarchy, male dominance takes center stage as the axis around which culture revolves. That is why people readily accept that God is male and that masculinity correlates with god-like strength and abilities (Johnson 27). The problem with “the system” and the “patriarchy” revolves around the fact that they both ignore the intricate parts that go into creating their existence. Based on the illustrations given, soldiers could be people who sought employment and found themselves in the battlefields and the idea of masculinity representing strength and abilities exist because the same men consider women fragile.
Thus, people grow up “breathing and swimming” in a patriarchal society and are quick to blame the system for any problems that range from race to gender (Johnson 26). Hence, the respondents in John vs. Jennifer reflected personal biases, albeit subconsciously, which stemmed from the communities in which they lived. If Johnson’s work were anything to go by then the solution to the gender inequality reflected in the study would require more questions that target the environment in which the professors live. Naturally, dealing with the problem with the teachers in mind provides a solution at the university level; contrastingly, considering the society will provide solutions for all persons regardless of their institutions.
Foner, Eric. "Give Me Liberty!: An American History." Dimensions of Culture 2: JUSTICE. Edited by Megan Strom and Violeta Sanchez, Cognella, 2017, pp. 3-14.
Johnson, Allan. "Patriarchy, The System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us." Dimensions of Culture 2: JUSTICE. Edited by Megan Strom and Violeta Sanchez, Cognella, 2017. pp. 17-30.
Midura, Margaretta. "John vs. Jennifer, A Battle of the Sexes." Dimensions of Culture 2: JUSTICE. Edited by Megan Strom and Violeta Sanchez, Cognella, 2017. pp. 33-36.