18
Jun
08

Beat Down

I’m realizing as this day comes to an end how beat down I’m feeling by the subtleties of discrimination in all its nefarious forms.

This election season has driven home with brutal force what most of us who are non-white-able-bodied-straight-affluent-men experience on a regular basis: the subtle dismissals, devaluations, and discounting of our worth.  Clinton has been martyred for the rest of us, and many still want to debate whether there was sexism in the campaign, and if so, how bad was it really, anyway?  C’mon now.  I’m sure “likable enough” is just arrogance, pure and simple, not couched in a gendered context in a patriarchal society.  And surely Whoopi wasn’t talking about colorism on that coffee-klatsch The View?  Is that what I just heard?  Colorism?  What’s that?  Aren’t they just gabbing, those black and white ladies?  We do live in a color-blind society, right?

Then tonight I read this piece today about gender inequity in academia, written by a female political scientist at UC-Irvine, in which 80 female faculty members talked about the subtle, enduring biases they faced in the academy:

Unintended bias and outdated attitudes: Many of the women in the study described a steady stream of comments, some of them ostensibly offering support, that suggested that the older men who made them didn’t really understand how to interact with women in a professional manner. These men generally had no clue that their attitudes were either patronizing, sexist or both, the report says. One woman is quoted as describing a job interview in a top department in which an African American scholar took her aside and said, “This is a great place for people like you and me, if you know what I mean, honey.” The report quoted the woman as noting the irony that “he simply did not realize that it might be as inappropriate to call a 26-year-old woman ‘honey’ as it would be to jovially slap a black man on the back and call him ‘boy.’ “

Devaluing positions once women hold them: At Irvine, as at most research universities, the last decade has seen a significant change in the number of women serving as committee chairs, department chairs, deans and administrators in a variety of capacities. And the women interviewed for the study praised this development, crediting women in various senior positions for being mentors or going to bat for their younger counterparts. But the women — across disciplines — described a pattern in which once a woman was named to a more senior position, others treated it as more service-oriented and less substantive. The paper dubs this trend “gender devaluation,” saying: “When a man is department chair, the position confers status, respect and power. When a woman becomes department chair, the power and status seems diminished.”

The report also found that the policies and programs schools enact to combat inequity often don’t work, or aren’t effective:

Activism vs. making it work: Generally, the women interviewed described the offices and services designed to help them as places that were focused on legal and technical issues, and given that many of their frustrations weren’t legal, they didn’t rely on these services. In addition, the women interviewed — citing in part a desire not to have their careers hurt — tended to focus on figuring out informal ways to deal with problems, rather than seeking policy changes. Women are “extremely adept at detecting the academy’s cues,” the study says. “Many feared backlash and retribution if they agitated openly for change.”

Surely to reinforce the study’s findings, UC-Irvine released this obnoxious and degrading statement on the research:

“Professor Monroe’s article draws attention to the persistence and toll of sex discrimination on women faculty. Unfortunately, the article cannot to be said to offer original insight into the promise and challenge of gender equity in higher education. The formulation of the problem overlooks research in a host of related issues, such as gender schemas, work-life balance, and leadership development among others,” the statement said.

Stay classy, UC-Irvine.  I’ll be sure to forward on my CV in about a year and a half.

Originally posted at NYC Weboy

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