Marin Alsop to be music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra


Marin Alsop has been selected to lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The development has gotten a lot of attention, presumably, because this makes Maestra Alsop (as she prefers to be called) the first woman to be named music director of a major U.S. orchestra. I saw her perform in Seattle earlier this year and thought she did a fine job. If I’d known she’d become a big newsmaker a few months later, I would have taken notes!

The focus on her “breakthrough accomplishment” just strikes me as odd. I thought we as a society were beyond being concerned about the gender of the best person for the job. I remember somebody asking, “What it like being from the first state in the United States to have your governor and both senators all women?” It never even occurred to me that all three positions were held by women. It struck me as silly as the question, “What it like being from the first state in the United States to have your governor and both senators all have blonde hair?” What kind of answer were they looking for?

(Curiously, if you ask Google Who is the governor of Washington?, it says the answer is Gary Locke. Don’t use Google to cheat on your civics exam yet.)

Comments (16)
  1. Rob says:

    Don’t use the Washington Secretary of State website either: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/library/governor/gov_table.htm

  2. Rich Ruh says:

    Denver doesn’t count? She was music director there for many years.

  3. rburhum says:

    You are right. Maybe we should all switch to MSN search because it is superior.

    How hot is it outside anyway? I think about 76 Fahrenheit. What is that in Celsius?

    http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=76+fahrenheit+to+celcius&FORM=QBHP

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=76+fahrenheit+to+celsius

    Can’t use MSN search to do any kind of conversions yet. Yeah, I thought so.

  4. oldnewthing says:

    Where did I say that MSN was superior?

  5. tsrblke says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the first page Google pulls up is for Christine Gregoire. Now I know little to nothing about Washington, but I’m going to guess she’s the current Governor. It is the Washington state website after all. Of course as a previous reader pointed out, the Sec. of State site had it wrong…

    However, as it were it appears she just took office in January. As did the Governor of my state (Missouri). Gooogle’s Automatic Answer Service, (According to http://www.50states.com/[State]) as named by Google, also got my state wrong. To me this proves 2 points:

    1) Some pages are way too slow to update.

    2) Common sense must be applied when using Google. If the Google answer doesn’t match the first page, I’d consider doing some further digging.

    Interestingly enough Google’s first 4 results for "Who is the Governor of Missouri?" Mention Matt Blunt, our current, and most recently elected Governor, compared to 1 result (that’s immediately apparently by reading the quick summaries) for Washington. Perhaps Washington just needs a better Web-Media relations team.

  6. alfons says:

    Uhm, what about <a href="http://www.giseleben-dor.com/positions.asp">Gisele Ben-Dor</a> of <a href="http://www.thesymphony.org/">The Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra</a>?

  7. Chris says:

    You Sure have a lot patience Raymond. I think I would have quit doing stuff like this a long time with people like rburhum.

    Just so you konw, I’m sure you already do, there are a ton of us out there who appreciated your blog.

  8. David Adams says:

    "I thought we as a society were beyond being concerned about the gender of the best person for the job."

    I don’t see how this is not a milestone. Assuming that until now no other women were good enough to conduct top orchestras, if your thesis is true, isn’t it significant that a woman finally "made it" so to speak? Alternatively, if women have been good enough but just never selected, then isn’t this still a milestone?

    But I think it’s dangerously naive to assume that we’re somehow so far past the sexism that was institutionalized everywhere until recently that we shouldn’t point out when barriers like this are broken. Any time there’s an area where women or minorities are woefully underrepresented, we should be asking ourselves why. Even if there’s no sexism or racism at work, shouldn’t we be concerned if there were no women "good enough" to conduct a big orchestra?

  9. foxyshadis says:

    "Even if there’s no sexism or racism at work, shouldn’t we be concerned if there were no women "good enough" to conduct a big orchestra?"

    Then why isn’t the focus on other women who are in or being considered for similar positions? The editor just wants a story that might interest readers; it’s just the novelty/celebrity effect. Newsworthiness. You don’t see women in the news for owning businesses or running for house/senate anymore, unless they become a celebrity for another reason.

    The individual questions asked only reflect a reporter’s judgement and intelligence or lack thereof; it’s the media focus as a whole that says something about the state of society.

  10. Paul says:

    rburhum: actually, you can do conversions in MSN search.

    http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=76+fahrenheit+in+celsius&FORM=QBRE

  11. boxmonkey says:

    I am a feminist. We might like to believe that we are beyond the point where gender matters anymore, but in reality we are quite far from it.

    Men still make more money for doing the same job with the same qualifications in most areas, far more men hold positions of power than women, and some positions have never been attained by women, such as president.

    Your analogy to blondes isn’t accurate because to my knoweldge, blond people have not been discriminated against or kept out of the work force historically. If they had been, and things were *still* not equal today, then yes, I think that a blond attaining this position would have been news worthy as well.

    I hope that within my lifetime there will be enough change that gender will really stop mattering, but I think we are a long, long way away from that. We haven’t even started accepting people who break the gender rules.

  12. Moz says:

    boxmonkey: once you include experience and hours worked the numbers even out a lot. In many places they favour women sometimes too. But until women as a whole stop taking time off work to have children, and do a lot more overtime (paid and unpaid) at work, the raw "dollars for job" numbers will continue to favour men.

    Of course, the cost to society if that happened would be appalling. But it would "correct" the dollars, so if that’s your only value…

  13. rburhum says:

    Chris: Contrary to what you may think, I actually do appreciate Raymonds writings. In fact, I believe Raymond’s blog is one of the most interesting ones in the Internet – no question about it.

    Paul: I guess the difference was the way I wrote my query in the search engine.

    "76 fahrenheit to Celsius" and "76 fahrenheit in Celsius" both work in Google, while in msn search only the latter does.

    Raymond: I didn’t say you stated that I msn search was superior. (Sarcastically) <b>I</b> said you were right about google’s ability to be used "to cheat on [a] civics exam yet". Then <b>I</b> said (sarcastically once again) that Msn search was superior. The only reason for my comment, is that to some people it may seem that you have been attacking Google with some sarcasm every now and then (for example in http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2005/06/21/431055.aspx ). If this comment offended you in any way, I sincerely apologize.

  14. Neyah says:

    The "Your search engine sucks cause it won’t convert fahrenheight to celsius" argument is rather pointless. After all, people who are employed such that they need to frequently do unit conversions obviously turn to their search engine prior to reaching for their calculator right?

    It takes fewer keystrokes to start->run->calc 76 – 32 [ENTER] * 5 / 9 [ENTER] (17 keystrokes, less if you have calc on your start tray) than it does to type "76 fahrenheight in celsius" (26 keystrokes). So it’s not any quicker either. I’d be willing to bet that more people know the conversion formula than know how to correctly spell fahrenheit anyway.

  15. boxmonkey says:

    Moz, I disagree. I have never seen any evidence of what you are claiming. If you look at salary as a dollar per hour figure, men with the same experience as women make more, even if you leave out women on maternity leave.

    This was evidenced at my college, when a professor conducted his own pay study and, much to the dismay of my school, published the results, which showed that, adjusting for experience and qualifications, male professors were, on average, making *twice* that of female professors. How much maternity leave would all the female professors have to be taking in order for that to be "fair"? Nevermind the fact that many of the female professors were beyond the age where most women are having children…

  16. Mormegil says:

    Sure, to cheat on your exams, use Wikipedia. ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington

Comments are closed.