Essay on Discrimination Against Women as Addressed in Cantor's Dilemma

Essay on Discrimination Against Women as Addressed in Cantor's Dilemma

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Discrimination Against Women as Addressed in Cantor's Dilemma  


In his novel, Cantor's Dilemma, Dr. Djerassi uses female characters to address sexist issues arising from women integrating into the predominantly male science world. The characters, Celestine Price and Professor Arderly, are used to show examples of how women have little voice in the field of science. The female characters suggest how women are often looked upon as sex objects rather than co-workers and they are given little opportunity to balance a scientific career with raising a family. By weaving these issues into his novel, Dr. Djerassi illustrates the following theme: Discrimination against women in the field of science is harmful to the progression of scientific exploration. If women are excluded from science, then an artificial limit is put on human resources. (The field of science will not utilize the potential female minds available.)

The first issue that Dr. Djerassi casually mentions is that women are not adequately represented in the field of science. The character, Celestine Price strongly desires a career in chemistry. She faces the challenge of how to plot her map of success while taking into consideration the male dominated world of science. Her old high school chemistry teacher advises Celestine that if she ever wants to get an academic position at a top university, she has got to get plugged into "the old boy's network." He says to her, "Make no mistake about it. Chemistry is still a man's world."1 Dr. Djerassi paints the picture of a boy's clubhouse with a sign at the door reading, "No girls allowed!" In this context, it is inferred that a woman has to prove her worth before the society of men will give her the privilege of working wit...


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...roblems of integration. If the science world takes advantage of undiscovered female talent, science as a whole will benefit greatly. For example, the original group of ENIAC programmers consisted of 6 women. In 1946, these women helped to develop the first operating stored-program computer.6 If female talent such as this goes to waste because of social neglect, the science world will never know what possible discoveries that could have been made with the help of women. If Dr. Djerassi is accurate with his examples of discrimination, the science world should take note of these problems and attempt to solve them.

1. Carl Djerassi, Cantor's Dilemma (New York, New York.: Penguin Books, 1989), 19.

2. Ibid. 45.

3. Ibid. 45.

4. Ibid. 45.

5. Ibid. 20-21.

6. web site: women in science/ women in computer science/ women involved in ENIAC program.

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