food for thought: laboring under illusions of gender

Most of these links revolve around gender in the workplace.

Many of you may have already read (or attended!) Roxanne Shirazi’s presentation on the concept of service in the academy, and how it specifically intersects with the pink collar profession of academic librarianship:

While I welcome calls to make visible the intellectual labor of librarians, such as that issued recently by Trevor Munoz at the Data Driven conference, I don’t want to further isolate and denigrate the important yet often intangible support work that needs to be done and is done by librarians. Let’s focus instead on expanding our conception of what work is valued in the academy: “support diversity of work.” Let’s join our colleagues who are struggling with the narrow system of rewards that favors individual research over (collaborative) service work. The same system in which women, people of color, and queer scholars disproportionately shoulder the burden of committee work, community building, and “service work” that reproduces the academy.

In other academia related news, Historiann reflects on the bias in tenure review and letters of support, noting that women are more likely to receive nit-picky critique even in the context of being recommended for a tenure position:

In the four years I served on that [tenure review] committee, I observed that even in positive reviews recommending tenure, women’s research portfolios would still be picked apart, and reviewers took the time and trouble to rate and rank each and every article and book for its rigor, its creativity, and its impact.  Men’s dossiers rarely received little of the same article-by-article, book-by-book scrutiny.  When in fact a male candidate had some evident weaknesses in his record, such as having no single-authored articles and having only his Ph.D. advisor as his co-author!–reviewers would go out of their way to explain why this obvious weakness was in fact evidence of his awesomeness.  And yes, it was female as well as male reviewers who were hard on women candidates and excused weaknesses in men candidates for tenure.

Women whose work requires an active, participatory online presence (an increasing number of workers — particularly information/knowledge workers) have been asking with an increasing sense of urgency and impatience, Will the Internet Ever be Safe for Women? Samantha Allen observes:

We are accustomed to thinking that the prevalence of sexist Internet harassment is a problem with people rather than a problem with technology. Accordingly, most efforts to make the Internet a more hospitable place for women are reactive approaches that seek to address problems after they take place, rather than proactive approaches that seek to prevent harassment at its technological roots. The only way the editors of Jezebel could try to stop their “rape gif problem,” for example, was to “individually” and “manually” delete comments and ban commenters. Even then, commenters could continue making new accounts and posting more explicit images. Gawker Media has since stepped in with a back-end fix that hides comments from new users until Jezebel or another approved commenter has approved them.

Shweta Narayan offers up some psychological and sociological framing to understand how structural/cognitive categories work to aid and abet oppression:

This is all pretty innocent when it comes to birds! But there is evidence that this sort of category structure is everywhere in human cognition (e.g. people will say 4 is a better even number than 1374.) Now, robins excluding emus from the bird-category, or claiming to understand how emu-ness works because of their experience as robins, might sound like the stuff comic strips are made of; the human dynamics are less funny, and far more harmful to their targets.

So, moving domains to socially relevant categories:

1) Able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men are considered to be prototypical humans (prototype here = privileged default). So. If you ask people to think of famous people, they will think first of famous able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men. And their exceptions will normally fall outside this prototype in only one or two ways.

This is how a lot of casual erasure happens. (btw it’s also what’s happening when editors “just happened to think of” a lot of poets/writers/artists who aren’t marginalized, and when poets/writers/artists “just happened to think of” prototypical characteristics to portray.)

2) If someone is not an able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian man, it will generally take people longer to categorize them as human. And the further they are from this prototype the longer it will take to make the judgment. Now, if people take that extra time, we’re probably good; but do they? When they sort resumes / run job interviews, when they’re trigger-happy cops, etc?

(h/t to Geek Feminism)

At RhRealityCheck, women’s health reporter Amanda Marcotte interviewed researcher Christopher Carpowitz about his new book, co-authored with Tali Mendelberg, The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions for her podcast. A full transcript is not available, but I highly recommend listening to the interview if you are able (begins at 7:58 and lasts about ten minutes):

The research explored how often women spoke up in participatory decision-making meetings, such as school board meetings or other majority-rule or consensus processes. It will likely not surprise most of you that the research showed that when women were in the minority within a group they spoke up disproportionately less (less even then their small numbers would predict). Men in the minority experienced no such drop. Furthermore, when women were in the minority, when they did participate they experienced a high proportion of negative engagement (disagreement, dismissal) rather than positive engagement (agreement, encouragement, thoughtful reaction). As gender imbalance shifted, not only did women experience more positive interaction due to more women being present, but the men in the group also became more positive. Perhaps because the men did not perceive the women as “out group” members or exceptions to their boy’s club?

And finally, directly relevant to the founding of this group, the SAA Council moved to adopt new terms of participation for the Archives & Archivists list, part of which will explicitly require app A&A participants to adhere to the newly-adopted Code of Conduct. Now the question becomes whether anyone will monitor whether these new terms are actually followed — and whether they solve the problem of marginalization that was at issue.

As always, if you have a link you would like to share in the weekly food for thought, please send it to me an email: 

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