Hysteria -- A functional disturbance of the nervous system, characterized by such disorders as anaesthesia, hyperaesthesia, convulsions, etc., and usually attended with emotional disturbances and enfeeblement or perversion of the moral and intellectual faculties.
-- Oxford English Dictionary
WASHINGTON -- Forgive Larry Summers. He did not know where he was.
Addressing a conference on the supposedly insufficient numbers of women in tenured positions in university science departments, he suggested that perhaps part of the explanation might be innate -- genetically based -- gender differences in cognition. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.
He was at Harvard, where he is president. Since then he has become a serial apologizer and accomplished groveler. Soon he may be in a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp somewhere in New England, relearning this: In today's academy, no social solecism is as unforgivable as the expression of a hypothesis that offends someone's ``progressive'' sensibilities.
Someone like MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, the hysteric (see above) who, hearing Summers, ``felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, ``I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill.'' She said that if she had not bolted from the room, ``I would've either blacked out or thrown up.''
Is this the fruit of feminism? A women at the peak of the academic pyramid becomes theatrically flurried by an unwelcome idea and, like a Victorian maiden exposed to male coarseness, suffers the vapors and collapses on the drawing room carpet in a heap of crinolines until revived by smelling salts and the offending brute's contrition.
Hopkins' sufferings, although severe, were not incapacitating: She somehow found strength quickly to share them with The Boston Globe and the ``Today'' show, on which she confided that she just did not know whether she could bear to have lunch with Summers. But even while reeling from the onslaught of Summers' thought, she retained a flair for meretriciousness: She charged that Summers had said ``that 50 percent'' of ``the brightest minds in America'' do not have ``the right aptitude'' for science.