Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Medieval vs. Modern

I'm currently rereading Barbara W. Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century." Some people think that history is irrelevant -- and really old history is really irrelevant. I disagree. People don't really change that much over time, and seeing how others act in similar situations to ours can be illustrative (plus there's the added insight of understanding how we got to where we are).

Case in point: a passage from Tuchman's book talking about one of the few female practicing doctors of the age:
At the University of Bologna in the 1360s the faculty included Novella d'Andrea, a woman so renowned for her beauty that she lectured behind a veil lest her students be distracted. Nothing is said, however, of her professional capacity.
And then this news item from last week, where Debrahlee Lorenzana claims in court papers that she was forced out of her Manhattan Citibank job because she was too good looking. Her male managers found her appearance "too distracting."

Two women at work, separated by almost 900 years. So how much have we really progressed?

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