Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Dr. Estelle Ramey turned academia and corporate America on it's collective ear - head over teakettle. Some may think as they read about her, "Oh that was 40 years ago" and they would be right, but most thinking women and men know that things have only changed on the surface.

Below the surface, tradition fiercely battles any attempt to acknowledge the human-ness of women. Proof positive of this is how openly misogyny and sexism is flaunted with very little blow back; the continued need for battered women's shelters and the lusty slave trade in women's bodies.

Dr Ramey's pithy comments, like this one, can stop people in their tracks and kick start thought:

"The women's movement has been greatly misunderstood. It's not a cause but a symptom. A symptom of social changes instituted by -- men."

In one of her lectures she explains that the way to make a man understand what it's like to be a woman is to have him remember what it was like when he was a young teenager and completely dependent on his father. He would have to ask him for everything; wheedle, pout and manipulate just to get the use of the car or increase his allowance etc . He was reduced "to be essentially an outsized child". That's the situation women are forced to be in all their lives; our society never allows them to grow out of it without a huge struggle on their part.

As women started to get out into the work force in positions higher than secretary or nurse or cleaning woman, they found that it was necessary to tread lightly. But while being careful not to wound the male's fragile ego, their own ego was being pummeled.

Some women have networked and shared their common experiences. Every woman remembers being the only female in a group of males charged by management to come up with ideas. After grabbing her courage in both hands, she offers a suggestion and is ignored. At the next meeting, Pete or Fred offer the same suggestion and it is hailed as a super idea. Ramey never let herself be cowed by men. She went right up into their faces with science.

In a 1973 lecture, Professor Ramey flung the gauntlet at her male colleges.

"Testosterone is not a bad hormone as hormones go and is is said by some to be the `take charge' hormone. But what it does to the heart and blood vessels bears thinking about. However, very little research has been done on what testosterone does to the blood vessels - that's because men do the research.

"In order to do research on the effects of testosterone, these men would have to face up to the fact that there may be a weakness in males, so they don't do the work. Out of sheer altruism, I have put in a application to the NIH to work on this problem. I care about the men in my life; I care about my husband, my son, my grandson. I think they are pretty valuable people and I would like to know what can be done to keep them alive longer."

That challenge and the telling results of her studies of the male hormone got male scientists off their collective, egotistical asses nearly 40 years ago. It also resulted in better studies of female hormones.

"As far as intelligence is concerned, everything we know about intelligence says that women are indeed members of the species Homo sapiens: IQ's average out the same for both sexes. Women can think. It is a disadvantage to them to do so, but the potential is there ...

"If all the rare genius that resides in human brains, including female brains, had been utilized, might we have a cure for cancer, or a cure for the aging of male blood vessels? Excellent minds are so rare. Can we afford to waste any?"

In the 40 years since she wrote this, countless women's minds were wasted. How much has civilization lost by denying women's leadership, women's voices and women's creativity? Well, for one thing, sexism and misogyny deprived us of a president who would have brought women and men as equals into the White House with her.

The United States Senate Sep 18, 2006 Section 24

Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-NY]: Mr. President, on September 8, our Nation lost a great American and my husband and I lost a wonderful friend of over 20 years. Dr. Estelle R. Ramey was a respected endocrinologist, physiologist, and feminist. She was a woman of great wit and wisdom who fought gender discrimination in the scientific professions and in the conduct of medical research. Dr. Ramey died of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 89.

Estelle Rubin Ramey was born in Detroit and raised in New York City. Her mother, a wise but impoverished and illiterate immigrant, insisted that her daughter be educated. At the age of 15 in the midst of the Great Depression, Dr. Ramey was able to attend Brooklyn College for the price of a library card. [ for the rest of this tribute, click on this link]

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1 comment:

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