Archive for the ‘double standards’ Category

My department distributes a yearly award for excellence in teaching to its graduate students. Of the past six winners, I am the only woman. In all other cases, the recipients were notified of the award and congratulated in a mass departmental email during the spring semester. The awards committee forgot to notify me and the department of my award until the fall semester of the following school year. As soon as the notification about my award went out, a general discussion on the graduate student list-serve began, questioning the “reasonableness” and “transparency” of the decision-making procedure that the awards committee employs in selecting the recipients of this award. Nothing approximating such a discussion has occurred after the award has been given to any of the other (all male) recipients.

I am writing this to tell any potentially discouraged readers to hang in there. I have experienced sexual harassment, dismissiveness, discrimination on the job, and other offensive behavior throughout my time as a grad student and professor in philosophy. Yet I love doing philosophy and teaching so much that none of this can dissuade me from my purpose. I feel lucky to have this rare opportunity to be a philosopher, and nobody’s sexist crap is going to stop me. Don’t let it stop you either if you love philosophy.

As an undergrad philosophy major, I cannot count the number of times I made a point that was dismissed or ignored by the professor, only to have a male student make the same point and receive praise. All of my male undergraduate professors actively discouraged me from applying to grad school on the grounds that my abilities were not up to par. Nevertheless, I was accepted by four top-20 programs.

My grad school mentors were wonderful, supportive, and egalitarian. Unfortunately, from other faculty I witnessed several instances of both physical and verbal sexual harassment of female grad students. For three years, I was the only romantically unattached, heterosexual female grad student in my program. I was pestered and harassed almost daily by the male students, including everything from offensive sexual comments made in the middle of class to relentless efforts to hook up. The specific physical attributes of female students who took philosophy grad courses were enthusiastically discussed in our dept. lounge. Every time the department sought student input into a hiring process, my preference for a candidate was attributed by the other students, in front of the faculty, to my supposed romantic attraction to him. I was frequently quizzed by fellow students about which faculty member(s) or student(s) I would be willing to have sex with, hypothetically, despite my refusal to respond.

When I began attending conferences and APA events, my trusted mentors had to tell me which male professors I should avoid being alone with. Sometimes they accompanied me to parties so that I wouldn’t be harassed. While this may seem like a negative story about the prevalance of sexism, it’s just as much a positive account of the other guys who had my back and wouldn’t tolerate bad behavior. Eventually I received many interviews and a few job offers, and all of my success on the job market was directly attributed by my fellow male students to the fact that I am female.

Once I became a professor, I learned what it is like to work closely with men who cannot seem to visually acknowledge your head up there above the breasts. I learned to deal with male students who tried to intimidate me about grades or come on to me. (Specifically, I learned to keep my office door open, and to inform someone else as soon as a student started behaving strangely toward me.) I do not work in feminist philosophy myself, and apparently that has encouraged several male professors to share with me their view that feminist philosophy is junk and not really philosophy. For a while another single female worked in my department. Some male professors hoped that I might be able to report on her sex life, about which they knew nothing but suspected everything. I have had to listen, in the department office, to my colleagues’ descriptions of escapades at strip clubs.

Though all of the aforementioned events were annoying, they did not intimidate me. The sexism that nearly shook my resolve came later, in the form of having my research devalued because I was female, being judged according to different standards from men in pre-tenure reviews, being pressured to take on more teaching and advising duties than others, and eventually being treated unfairly with respect to family/medical leave. Luckily, my resolve is fairly stout. In the hiring process, I have seen numerous female candidates ignored either because their cvs mention the word feminism, or because they are perceived to do “soft” work in ethics. In awarding scholarship funds to our own students, my colleagues consistently downplay females who have stronger records on paper in favor of males with whom they are friendly. My teaching evaluations are good, but male faculty have often commented (in direct contradiction to the facts) that this is probably because I am not a rigorous teacher or strict grader. I am treated like a secretary whenever menial tasks like note-taking must be done, and one of my colleagues (who happened to vote unsuccessfully against tenuring me) told me in all sincerity that I would make a good secretary.

I’m now past worrying about what my colleagues say to or about me. However, I want to create a terrific climate for our students, insofar as it is in my power. I have had to choose my battles for the sake of preserving both job and sanity, but in the long run I’m winning the war. To all the women and men who want to change things: don’t lose heart!

On introducing speakers

Posted: April 17, 2012 by Jender in double standards, trivialising women

I attended a fabulous session at the Pacific APA this week that opened with dismaying introductions. There was one primary speaker (a male) and two commentators (one male and one female). The male chair opened the session by introducing all three presenters. When introducing both men he mentioned several of their notable publications and spoke very highly of each of them. He then introduced the woman by stating her name and institutional affiliation; that was it. He did not mention any of her publications (of which she has many!), nor did he “talk her up” in the way he did the two men.

I leaned over and whispered to the female graduate student from my department who was attending the session with me that the introductions seemed sexist to me. She said that she had been thinking the same thing and was glad that I had said something. At least I was able to validate her interpretation of this event as an instance of sexism, though I failed to speak up more vocally on behalf of my accomplished female colleague.

A list of worries I have for female assistant professors…

These worries, which may be a little clumsy, constitute a sort of working list that I stay more or less conscious of. I just keep seeing these issues arise, and have dealt with them first hand in my own case. In every case they echo [stories I have recently seen in discussions on the internet]

Do not coauthor, you will not get credit for your work like a male colleague would.

You are expected to be a good teacher, so the outlier comments on your student reviews will be a focus of your colleagues. They will expect you to satisfy the class entirely, since you are female.

You will not get credit for any invited publications, regardless of where they go. (This happened to me.)

Invited talks will not count.

You will be asked by your colleagues “who you know” when it comes to any invitation. Again, you will not get credit for these like your male colleagues will.

You can gauge the low expectations your colleagues have for your work by their first reaction to news of a publication- what question do they ask? If it reveals the expectation that your publication is in a lower quality venue than it in fact is, then you have an uphill battle. Your tenure packet will need to be much better than it would be if you were similar but male.

The poster sent a follow-up email noting that despite these worries she did get tenure.