Yvonne Madelaine Claeys was born on Dec. 30, 1924, in St. Vital, a suburb of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her parents had separately immigrated from Flanders, in Belgium. Her father was a carpenter.
After the University of Manitoba barred her from the engineering program, she studied mathematics and chemistry instead and graduated at the top of her class. Her lack of an engineering degree did not prevent her from getting a job with Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Nobody had the right degrees back then, so it didn’t matter,” she told The Star-Ledger of Newark in 2010. “I didn’t have engineering, but the engineers didn’t have the chemistry and math.”
Yvonne Brill is rare example of female genius defined in traditionally male terms, and as I’ve argued before, when women of tremendous talent and ability and intelligence are born, the culture almost always makes room for them to rise. The University of Manitoba barred Yvonne from the engineering program because there were no accommodations for women at an outdoor engineering camp. Really? What kind of accommodations would she need? A menstruation hut? Her own tent? That kind of challenge was insurmountable for engineers? How stupid.
I’m guessing there was just very deep suspicion that women could actually perform in a discipline as demanding as engineering. These are some of the smartest people on the planet, and the higher up the intelligence distribution curve you go, the greater the gender disparity.
Men outnumber women eight to one on the curve after IQ measurement reaches 145.
Eight to one!
That’s not sexism. It’s biology. But it still didn’t stop Yvonne. She was the one, up against the rightfully suspicious eight.
Engineering is out? Well then, math and chemistry are in. Easy peasy.
“You just have to be cheerful about it and not get upset when you get insulted,” she once said.
Exactly, Yvonne. Jezebel threw a spaz because Yvonne, who went on to marry and have children, planned her life around her husband and her children, and seems to have been very happy to do so. She preferred to be called Mrs. Brill, and when her children came along, she stepped out of the workforce for eight years to care for them.
Apparently, she also made a beautiful beef stroganoff.
Well shock and horror! The lovely Mrs. Brill, at home in an apron with her children, knowing that her genius wasn’t going anywhere, and that supporting her husband’s career was just as important as her own ambitions.
Mrs. Brill followed her husband around as he changed jobs, and according to her son, Matthew, she was perfectly content to do so.
“Good husbands are harder to find than good jobs.”
Here’s what pisses me off about the Jezebel article, among other things: It should go without saying, but the problem with the original obituary is that a male scientist would never — NEVER — be hailed as a “the world’s best dad” before being hailed as an important scientific innovator.
First of all, although she sounds like she really was a wonderful mother, nowhere in the obituary does it say that Yvonne was the world’s greatest mother. It says she made beef stroganoff, took time off to raise her children, preferred her husband’s name and felt that a good husband was a far better investment than a good job.
Leaving that little sneering bit of contempt for mothering aside, it took me approximately two seconds to find an obituary for a male scientist that spoke of his family upbringing, what he liked to eat and the importance of his wife. Okay, he didn’t make a mean stroganoff, but apparently the rice and evaporated milk diet was important enough to mention.
Ah yeah, and he liked lizards and frogs, too.
And it took a further two seconds to find an eminent scientist who works cooking into his lectures.
In an article titled Ten Things You Need to Know About Stephen Hawking, the Mirror felt that four of those things should be about his upbringing, his family, his children and his hobbies.
These things are not buried in some deep, dirty, secret part of the internet that is almost impossible to access. It would have taken Jezebel ten minutes to find out that articles and obituaries that refer to male scientists are just as likely to talk about their family, their spouses, their children, their hobbies.
So what is the source of feminist bitterness about women, incredibly intelligent, accomplished, brilliant women who are capable not only of building propulsions systems that keep satellites in orbit, but ALSO of making beef stroganoff, being great moms and loving wives?
Personally, I think it’s the order of priorities that pisses feminists off. The feminist ideal is this:
Pissing and moaning
How much will I get if I divorce him now?
Should I fuck the new intern? He’s kind of hot.
I hope that asshole doesn’t think I’m making dinner tonight
Shit, I chipped my manicure
Should I get a venti or a grande?
Women like Yvonne have an entirely different set of priorities:
In that order. You would be hard-pressed to find a lady smarter than Yvonne, and she put that intelligence to work in BOTH caring for her family and designing rocket propulsion systems. Because you see, you CAN do both. But not at the same time. The simple reality of women’s lives is that we are on a time line that has built-in constraints, and if we want children, we need to have a completely different set of priorities than men.
Oh, and we need men, too. And that’s the real burn. Fish DO need bicycles, and those bicycles aren’t free. Why should they be? It comes down to realizing that women and men are not identical, and in feminist theory, that means we are not equal. According to feminism, the only way women can be equal to men is to meet them head on, achievement for achievement, and to deny, in the face of all evidence, that there are real, measurable differences in terms of what we can accomplish.
Rather than embrace a woman’s special genius, feminism denies femininity altogether. A rocket scientist who was also a mother, wife and excellent home cook? Only one of those things is worth mentioning. By denying that even the smartest women on the planet are still women, feminism inadvertently (or perhaps consciously and deliberately) hates women.
Why would I embrace a theory that hates who I am? Why would any woman? Loving your husband, taking care of your children and making a terrific stroganoff are not things to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Nonsense. They are the very things that make us happy.
All of us.
It’s not rocket science.
Lots of love,