Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Women geniuses - have there been any new ones discovered in the past fifty years?

It is a tenet of feminist 'scholarship' that there were women geniuses who were neglected; and a large part of feminist scholarship has been dedicated to raising awareness of women geniuses.

That there are women geniuses is clear - examples abound especially in literature; but I do not think feminist scholarship of the past fifty years has come up with a single 'neglected' example of a woman genius.

Instead there has been a combination of the pretence that real women geniuses were 'previously neglected' until feminism came along; plus the hyping of women non-geniuses (such as Hildegard of Bingen as a composer and spiritual writer, the DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin, and playwright Aphra Benn).

But I ask - are there any examples of

1. real women geniuses, who were

2. indeed neglected or unknown, and were

3. re-discovered by feminist scholarship of he past half century?

"I ask merely for information" - as Algernon said in The Importance of Being Earnest; when enquiring why his butler, Lane, had been drinking so much of his master's champagne. Having acted both Lane and Algy, this is a line I recall well.



Nicholas Fulford said...

Sometimes genius expresses itself with subtlety. Not all those who have shaped the past have done so in so obvious a way, and I suspect that women geniuses have often done so through social genius - which is to be expected.

The problem is we often look for genius that is obvious, (i.e. the big bang in your face variety). True genius may change the landscape in such a way that the hand that shaped it is all but imperceptible such that people have absorbed the change and a direction has changed with little overt opposition. When an idea or theory seems obviously true it strikes us that the idea itself was self-evident, whereas prior to it surfacing it may have been anything but. These ideas become deeply embedded and can come to feel as just part of the fabric of things.

Again, my suspicion is that women because of their social position, and limitations in terms of what they could do were often operating more subtlety - beneath the surface - while men were allowed the position of front man in the band. This makes identifying women geniuses from the past much more difficult. Since women make up ~50% of the populace, I would expect that there are women geniuses - though not necessary representing 50% of recognized geniuses.

We have to be careful in how we hunt for these women geniuses, because their genius will on average be more subtle due to the societies in which they existed as well as other differences.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF - Well, in Literature there is nothing un-obvious or subtle about the recognized real genius of the likes of Jane Austen, or George Eliot, or Emily Dickinson! (Or, at a lower level, and in my opinion, more recently Stevie Smith, or JK Rowling when she wrote the Harry Potter books.) No special concessions need be made for them in any way. They match-up to the majority of men geniuses on their own ground and by the same evaluations.

August said...

Celia Green comes to mind, but it seems she's been ignored largely because of feminism and the larger collectivist agenda.

Bruce Charlton said...

@August - Now that really is synchronicity! (WmJas - are you reading this?). I spent half an hour reading stuff on Celia Green's website this afternoon, something I have never done before (although I have heard of her).

I have no idea whether CG is a genius, and if so what field her genius may have shown itself; but she certainly is bad tempered and I have never come across anyone who so often and persistently complains about her lot and asks for money!

Clearly a difficult personality, and my impression was someone who brought troubles on herself. But then plenty of geniuses are of this type, as I have often documented; and if we want the fruits of their genius, we must put up with them, and support them anyway (to at least some minimal extent; which presumably CG has been, since she has published several books and got her name known in a devoted circle).

August said...

Her complaints, as you might imagine, are even stranger to an American's ears, yet the complaints, combined with various insights she's shared over the years have led me to believe she's right. I have my own experiences with academia, and the realization they are engaged in rent seeking, diversity, and politicization, rather than what they are supposed to be doing.

Bruce Charlton said...

@August - Oh yes, that's all true, I agree: