Aside

I use this blog as a thinking space; it’s not polished/organized, and that’s on purpose. You’ll find entries that relate to my interdisciplinary interests (see word cloud in sidebar). While I will be excited for comments here and in other venues, lurkers are very welcome.

Gender Bias in Academe

This is such an important resource:

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/03/08/gender-bias-in-academe-an-annotated-bibliography/

A Day Without (Some) Women

I participated in the Day Without A Woman by virtue of being in recovery from a medical procedure. That said, I would have participated wholeheartedly had I been well.

Since I spent the day on the couch, I had lots of time to read a variety of opinions about Day Without A Woman. They seemed to fall into three camps: 1) People who support DWAW; 2) People who support feminism/women/equal rights but think DWAW is elitist and therefore suspect; and 3) People who don’t support DWAW. As someone who falls firmly into the first category, this post will address the latter two positions.

For those who support DWAW but think it’s elitist, the main critique seems to be that this was a movement of privileged women. Some women can’t take paid days off work. They can’t outsource the kids for the day. They don’t have partners who will make sure the family gets fed without them. They risk their jobs if they call in sick. And I agree. THIS IS THE POINT. A day without women’s work is completely unfeasible–and the organizers of the event knew and acknowledged this. If even a small percentage of people noticed that the country would come to a grinding halt if all women actually refused to engage in labor for a day, then this was a win. If even a small percentage of people were made aware that some (many) women don’t have the resources to not work for a day, then this was a win. And, yeah, I think that those women with the resources to participate helped make this reality more clear, more tangible for those who hadn’t given it much thought. Having privilege and using it for good is nothing to be ashamed of. So to allegations that this was an elitist movement, fine. But it was a movement. It was ACTION. And the action was intended to help all women, not just those with the resources to be active.

Most of those who vocally didn’t support DWAW seemed to be of the opinion that gender equality has been achieved. (These, I might add, are the people that the folks in group #2 should be talking with about elitism.) I am happy for people who believe we have achieved gender equality. Their lives must be pretty good. I would also encourage them to look to the experiences of the many, many people telling them (with mountains of evidence at their backs) that this is not true for all or even most women. Since this movement focused on economy, I’ll note here that women in this country still make less than men for the same work, on average. How much less depends on the study–they range from women making 66% to 82% of what men make for the same work, varying significantly depending on ethnicity, age, ability, etc. Keep in mind that these numbers are adjusted for things like FMLA leave. Not adjusting for FMLA would alter these numbers further to women’s detriment, since women are primarily responsible for child and elder care as well and they, for the most part, accept this hit to their economic well-being as a matter of course. Of course, it’s hard to talk about this problem with anyone in power since women are perceived as dominating the conversation (and thus get shouted down) if they speak upwards of 30% of the time. Thus, a day of inaction is a pretty powerful way to make a point.

Want more? Here’s one of the best pieces I’ve found on DWAW:

http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/3/8/14850984/day-without-a-woman-strike-privilege-solidarity-international-womens-day

 

 

Women’s March

I attended the Women’s March in Raleigh on Saturday. It was an incredibly positive experience. The streets were full of people marching for equality. I have more to say, but just pictures for now.

Women’s hearts

Carrie Fisher’s recent death has caused a lot of discussion about feminism, science fiction, role modeling, mental illness, and more. One thing that has been mostly left out is heart health. Since Fisher died of a heart attack, this should seem odd.

But it’s actually not unusual at all. We tend only to talk about certain parts of women’s health.

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An article from Next Avenue about Fisher’s death prominently featured the following quote from  Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes, a cardiologist and founder of the Women’s Health Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn: “Many women, because of the focus on reproductive health, on breast health, on breast cancer, they think that’s their biggest risk, and that is their main focus on health prevention.”

Read the full article here

Actually, heart disease is widely cited as the leading cause of death among women. While Fisher’s significant weight loss for her role in The Force Awakens may well have contributed to the heart attack she suffered, her age and gender put her at risk regardless. The CDC further explicates: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.” (CDC source page)

Since clinical trials have focused on male bodies for decades and data reporting from clinical trials remains undifferentiated by gender (see Alana Baker’s smart work for more), women are incredibly vulnerable to a variety of health risks. A colleague and I are at work now on a chapter that shows just how much of work on women’s health is actually only about reproductive health–and it’s a LOT. (Thus far, we’re finding that about 75% of work on women’s health is about reproduction.)

So, as we’re remembering Carrie Fisher and all the important work she did in a variety of arenas, let’s also talk about women’s hearts.

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Rolling Stone on Fisher quotes

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The election, blaming, and emotional labor

In the wake of last week’s presidential election, I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional labor. Many of the posts I see on my social media accounts are about blame. I understand this as an initial reaction–I think it’s fascinating to figure out what messages resonated with which voters based on turnout–but I’m really struggling with some people’s sustained obsession with casting blame. In particular, I’ve seen many people blaming women.

Let me just repeat that and be a bit more specific. Liberals are blaming women–especially white women–for the outcome of this election.

I’ve had liberal friends talk about how white women handed Trump the election. I’ve had them tell me that straight women aren’t politically conscious and just listen to their husbands to decide who to vote for. I’ve had them tell me (simultaneously!) that white women won’t be affected by the things people fear from a Trump presidency and also that they don’t understand how women could vote for him given the ways he treats women.

And I have just one question. Why are we so obsessed with holding women accountable? A whopping 63% of white men voted for Trump, compared to 52% of white women. College-educated white women were the only white demographic group I’ve seen reported on who didn’t break for Trump (though admittedly by only a few points). About 33% of Latino men voted for Trump as well as 13% of Black men; both of those numbers are significantly higher than women in the same ethnic groups.

Liberals blaming women for Trump’s election–while utterly failing to hold men, especially white men, accountable in any way–is a symptom of the very same sorts of rhetorics that scapegoat women for unwanted pregnancies, discriminatory pay practices, and domestic abuse situations.

Clearly, as a white woman, I have a stake in this argument. But on top of the scapegoating behavior I’ve described above, I’ve also found myself being asked to do emotional labor for others–often others who have more privilege than I do–even while being blamed. And I’ve seen this happening to other people, too–consistently and powerfully. The article I’ve linked below (“50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor From Women and Femmes”) is, I think, instructive. Here are a few of the problematic patterns it notes, with direct quotes in standard texts and my additions in italics:

  • 2. Friends offload their problems – sometimes serious problems that we’re not equipped to handle – onto us before we have agreed to talk about them, often expecting an immediate response or requiring that we engage with the things that are bothering them specifically, and with no acknowledgment that we are also struggling.
  • 7. If we are in professions that involve interactions with people, those we serve expect us to act as their therapists and to be on call at all times (see above) even in the midst of our own crises.
  • 11 & 12. We have to justify decisions … again, and again, and again, while watching others make the same decisions we are punished for with no repercussions whatsoever
  • 30. We’re expected to keep the peace with our cohabitants under all conditions, even if this means sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others’ emotional and mental health and self-interest
  • 33. In the workplace, we have to worry about presenting our ideas in a non-threatening manner but also in a way that allows us to claim credit for our labor when someone else, inevitably, discredits or colonizes it.

I hope that those struggling to make sense of the world today might, in the future, do a better job of doing so in ways that value cooperation, shared accountability, and intelligent inquiry. I, for one, am about to start holding myself accountable for intervening in patterns of woman-blaming when I hear them.

50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes

Age and Pedagogy

A recent Chronicle article discusses age and teaching through the lens of a magazine article called “Confessions of a formerly hot woman.” The author does a really nice job of pointing out how problematic associations between bodies and knowledge nevertheless manifest in very real ways in the classroom. A single pedagogy may not work forever; pedagogy must shift along with teacher embodiment.

“… in recent years, as I have moved into middle age, the concept of the “formerly hot woman” has returned to me in a different manifestation, one related to my professional identity as a professor of English. . . .  students are beginning to react differently to my pedagogical and advising strategies . . .”

I find this fascinating, and a little troubling. Moreover, I’m  a bit appalled at the lack of research in this area. (Maybe I’m using the wrong search terms.) Aside from this Chronicle piece, my initial searches have turned up only one relevant article on how pedagogy might change as teachers age. Everything else is focused on the age of learners, or turns up sources about the information/digital/internet “age.” The one piece I did find–an article from the journal Feminist Teacher–introduces some fairly insulting stereotypes about female teachers of reproductive age. I refuse to believe that the only way we can value the teaching of older women is by denigrating that of their younger counterparts, and thus I’m left with very little in the way of resources to think about how pedagogy changes with age. Perhaps this is an important direction for future research on teaching and embodiment.