In fact, there is perhaps only one human being in a thousand who is passionately interested in his job for the job’s sake. The difference is that if that one person in a thousand is a man, we say, simply, that he is passionately keen on his job; if she is a woman, we say she is a freak.

I killed little Esmerelda because I felt I owed it to myself and to the world in general. I had, after all, accounted for two male children and thus done womankind something of a statistical favour. If I really had the courage of my convictions, I reasoned, I ought to redress the balance at least slightly. My cousin was simply the easiest and most obvious target.

It is convenient for the old men to blame Eve. To insist we are damned because a country girl talked to the snake one afternoon long ago. Children must starve in Somalia for that, and old women be abandoned in our greatest cities. It’s why we will finally be thrown into the lakes of molten lead. Because she was confused by happiness that first time anyone said she was beautiful. Nevertheless, she must be the issue, so people won’t notice that rocks and galaxies, mathematics and rust are also created in His image.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

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