Lawrence Summers will never escape his past. In 2007, when he was disinvited from a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents due to faculty protest, opponents identified him as a “speaker who has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia..” You won’t believe what they’re saying now that he might return to the Treasury Department in the Obama administration.
Veronica Arreaola, at the Women’s Media Center, wonders:
Could the man who sold America on change seriously be considering appointing a man who suggested that Malia, Sasha and all of our daughters have a genetic disposition from not being able to math? Sadly yes.
Mark Ames, writing in The Nation, objects, unsurprisingly, to the Summers nomination for a variety of economic reasons, yet identifies his “sexist declarations” as “part of a disturbing pattern.”
Harsh words, yet, among the range of accusations about Summers’ judgment on matters of gender and economy, that’s pretty tame compared to the accusations a newly-formed women’s rights group, The New Agenda, have been leveling against him. Amy Siskind, a co-founder of the group, has alleged that, in effect, Summers’ raging and uncontrollable misogyny helped to pave the way to the financial crisis. From the Boston Globe:
Summers’s bias against women even played a role in the financial crisis because as President Clinton’s Treasury secretary, he rejected a warning from Brooksley E. Born, then the chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, that regulation of financial derivatives was needed.
“It was Larry Summers who called her up and screamed at her,” said Siskind, who argued that the financial meltdown might have been averted if Summers had listened to Born.
And yet Summers simply screamed at her because he is a “known misogynist.” If that sounds ridiculous, just read Siskind’s full argument, on the New Agenda blog.
Summers is no stranger to misrepresentation and absurd accusations; flip and inaccurate summaries of his 2005 remarks are legion again, now that his name is in the news. His mild inquiries about the role of biology in the numbers of females in mathematic and scientific fields, prefaced as “some attempts at provocation” have routinely been reported as ex cathedra proclamations on female feebleness and male superiority. Take Reuters’ description, last week, of his remarks as a “suggestion in 2005 that men had more innate ability in science and engineering than men.” No, that’s not true. That’s a potential answer to an element of the very broad question he raised, but one he made clear he did not embrace given available evidence. This is not difficult to report accurately, and yet so few make the minimal effort required to get it right. Instead, we’re graced now with exponentially more risible accusations that Summers’ failure to take the advice of a female colleague is proof of a hatred for women so great as to endanger the economy. This is farcical. And yet Summers’ troubles with women appear as the first citation under the Boston Globe’s description of his “baggage.” Ridiculous.