a vast ramshackle machinery that elevates men
August 18, 2019 7:20 AM   Subscribe

One can no longer argue that equality can be achieved by simply waiting for young female scholars to emerge at the end of the academic “pipeline.” “The increase in women at later stages of the pipeline is the consequence of a slow ‘pull’ provided by the expanding pool of women at the beginning, not because of an effective ‘push’ that reduces attrition during career advancement.” Strengthening this push, however, means addressing the sexist practices that “push” men along the cursus honorum, because these practices tend to be the very same mechanisms that oust women from the academy. The zero-sum nature of this problem makes it difficult to discuss, let alone redress. Ugly small-brained misogyny explains only part — albeit an important part — of this result. More insidious are banal sexist practices that reinforce one another to compose a vast ramshackle machinery that elevates men to the pinnacle of the ivory tower. This durable, unjust structure largely depends on the attitudes and practices of three social groups: male scholars, male students, and male romantic partners.
posted by ChuraChura (32 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
The link times out for me. This is an issue that hits very close to home, so I'd like to read TFA before commenting.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:49 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

The link works for me, for what that is worth. The part of the article I've read so far is really good, thank you for posting.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:59 AM on August 18, 2019

Link times out for me too.
posted by emjaybee at 8:01 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another timeout. Looks like an issue with nplusone.
Edit: dang it. This hits close to home, I really want to read it.
posted by mfu at 8:07 AM on August 18, 2019

That is unfortunate about the timeout issue; it is worth reading and brings up a multitude of interesting points. One that jumped out at me is the impact of self-citations:

A fourth category of sexist practices, which might be collected under the heading of “vanity,” may be ridiculous, but it is no less pernicious. Self-citation is an excellent illustration of this problem. A male scholar is nearly twice as likely to cite his previous work than a female peer is to cite her own. Self-citation builds up the base of a paper’s citation count, leading other scholars to cite that paper at a rate of about four new citations for every self-citation...

As men publish more often than women, the self-citation gap quickly erodes into a canyon separating men and women in terms of their overall citations. The gulf between the genders in their output of publications varies by discipline, ranging from 20 to 30 percent; hypothetically, then, this means that if a man writes eight papers, cites himself 1.7 times per paper, collects citations from others at the expected rate of four to every one of his self-citations, he will end up with sixty-eight citations. His female peer, however, writes only six papers (assuming a 25 percent gap), each with one self-citation, and is cited by others at the same rate, leaving her with only thirty.

posted by Dip Flash at 8:14 AM on August 18, 2019 [10 favorites]

I read the whole thing. It's especially frustrating that progress is stalling on so many fronts. I have no idea how to make men respect me. Of course I don't - it has nothing to do with me and isn't my fault; it's a problem with men.

It's really easy to doubt yourself and to wonder whether feedback and evaluations are justified. You don't usually have controls for comparison in your personal or academic life.

One experience that stands out because it was different is when I was a TA for a large class that had multiple other TAs: three women and one man. We had different areas of expertise, but we were all the "most qualified" for some section(s) of the course and had to refer to other TAs or the professor for some questions in other areas.

We planned the class together. We wanted to keep the classes consistent between us so we covered the same material, used the same basic slides and activities, graded together, had the same office hours and email policies, and so on. When evaluations came back, guess who got dinged for not knowing the material and for being unprepared. Sigh.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2019 [34 favorites]

There are so many studies, so many details, so many facts, so many stories - you could read almost any paragraph selected at random from that long article and it would be infuriating (in a literal fills-you-with-fury sense) and also contain a standalone indictment of how unequivocally bad academia is, across the world, for women.

I don’t know how much good it will do, but I feel that this is somewhere that the ILO should be getting involved. Any country that’s a signatory to convention 111 should be pressured into summoning their vice-chancellors for an uncomfortable series of interviews and planning sessions with their regulator, and there ought to be an immediate effort to request advice and best practices from the unexpected hero of the piece: Turkey.

And policies on workplace relationships and sexual harassment need to be instituted nationally for the sector, and need to result in career ending consequences for offenders.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

Dip Flash, that was the only issue I really struggled with when I read the [excellent] article. Self-citations are problematic because they can be used as a feedback mechanism to enhance one’s own reputation, but they also can reflect the ways that a researher’s work builds on itself over many years. Speaking only for myself, I believe that the refusal of many researchers to properly cite the work of others is a much bigger problem than self-citation, and I see it quite often in my field. There is one very influential group I know that very rarely cites work from outside of that group, and it leads to a very skewed attribution of credit.
posted by wintermind at 8:40 AM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

form citation circles. don't think of citation counts as something that says anything meaningful about the value of the work or whatever. think of citation counts as a game to play. and play the hell out of that game. and play that game as a team.

people in the know will recognize the game you're playing, but people in the know are all already playing their own version of it.

(note: this is not intended as a solution to the problems in the original article. i'm mostly posting it because i sort of felt like i saw the matrix when i started noticing citation circles. academic rankings don't have anything to do with merit or whatever. they have to do with system-gaming. and the system-gaming strategies are ever-evolving, because the powers that be switch up their strategies when people outside the charmed circle notice them and start adopting them.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:51 AM on August 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

The author of the piece's other work.
posted by lalochezia at 8:54 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

My co-citation networks are all over the map. I’m the guy who ties groups together. But, anyway, this is going on Twitter so that I can hopefully get some people reading and thinking.
posted by wintermind at 8:55 AM on August 18, 2019

I have colleagues who study this. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to convince a male philosopher of science that the research on e.g. the gender citation gap is... you know... it exists.

What’s interesting is, from my own modeling work I’m convinced that the system would just stop working without the complicity of women. If we generally refused to work in spaces where people don’t respect each other, those spaces would be unmaintainable without the remaining women doing extensive work to prop up the system. Since there are personal rewards for being the one who does that work, the propped-up state is an unstable equilibrium in cultural evolution, contingent on the survival of those experts in the population.

It seems like many social structures — not only the acadamy, but the military, political system, many corporate industries, and while we’re at it large swathes of the internet as well — are already not maintainable, are being actively propped up by a diverse constellation of specifically exceptional women.

I don’t think most people realize how close we are to a Galt’s Gulch scenario— all it would take is for that social archipelago of women to collectively take the day off.
posted by emmalemma at 9:08 AM on August 18, 2019 [27 favorites]

it has nothing to do with me and isn't my fault; it's a problem with men.

No argument except to expand; I think it applies to men and women judging other women more harshly than men. Sexism gets ingrained and internalized.

It's not a panacea, but I think moving to author-blind reviews and employment screening is a step forward. While not perfect answers, blinding ameliorates some things like first author biases and hiring pool formation.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

For those with the link timeout issue, lalochezia's link to the author's site also has a PDF copy of the article.
posted by dismas at 9:09 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing I really appreciated was the point that women experience all sorts of structural disadvantages even beyond family and having children. So much of the conversation about women's professional development in my discipline relates to family and childcare that it sometimes makes me feel even more inadequate when I compare myself, my productivity, and my career trajectory to male colleagues. Like, if that's the main issue, why can't I get it together? But of course that's not the main issue, and also these problems are structural. I also appreciated the reminder that my individual experiences of misogyny and sexism are part of structures and there's a need for solidarity and institutional changes. It's not something I'm responsible for solving on my own in face to face conversations with people causing the problems.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:24 AM on August 18, 2019 [29 favorites]

The article makes the point that the more a field prizes genius, the worse the gender discrimination. It's notable that top-rated institutions have given perpetrators of the most egregious and repeated harassment a pass just because they are research stars in their field, even in the recent past when you might have expected things to have gotten better.

Two fun stories from my university:

1. This professor repeatedly harassed his wife's (female) divorce lawyer with a series of threatening and vicious anonymous emails, forcing her firm to hire extra security. The university's reaction? Norm Arkans, the associate vice president for communications at the UW, said the university would have no comment. “We would only be involved if this impinged somehow on his performance,” Arkans said. “This appears to be a personal matter.” The perpetrator now heads the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

2. This other guy did eventually get fired, but after a long time (six formal complaints over a decade of harassment) during which time he got tenure, acclaim, and a comfy life, while the victimized women were forced to leave the university.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:24 AM on August 18, 2019 [16 favorites]

The article makes the point that the more a field prizes genius, the worse the gender discrimination.

I think this both affects sexism, and also the disparity in the academy itself between tenured and adjuncts. Tenured and TT faculty pay at our local universities have been climbing - almost doubling over the last 15 years. The argument is that the offers have to be competitive, that if they don't offer these salaries, the university won't get "the best of the best". But from what I see, for every faculty member paid 100k, you could have two paid 50k - and that would be DOUBLE what the adjuncts already teaching most of the classes make.

But it doesn't suit the image of the university to hire the perfectly good adjuncts they already have working for them, they need a specific "genius" and thus throw money chasing the same few people as everyone else.
posted by jb at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Link's timing out for me now.
posted by doctornemo at 10:07 AM on August 18, 2019

Thank you for posting. This hit me hard, but especially the ending. I wish I could say things were improving, but it still hurts.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 10:14 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

It’s nice (uh, sort of) to have the label ‘gender devaluation’ for describing the transformation of powerful/authoritative roles, when occupied by women, into service roles. That’s not limited to academic environments.

It’s been a long time since I was in academia, but it seems like nothing is changing except the ever-increasing height of the pile of the research/documentation of inequity.
posted by janell at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2019 [14 favorites]

Every once in a while, I'm glad I failed out of my Ph.D program. This is one of those times.
posted by Mogur at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

No argument except to expand; I think it applies to men and women judging other women more harshly than men.

To some extent this is true - there is no doubt that women can also have misogynist attitudes. However, one of the major themes of this article is misogyny among men: how prevalent it is and how their misogyny holds women back when they dominate the upper echelons of academia. It discusses several situations in which it was demonstrated that specifically men have a misogyny problem, e.g. the difference between how male and female students rated classmates, differences between how male and female grant evaluators award grants, and so on.

Misogyny is absolutely a gendered phenomenon. Yes, we also need to discuss misogyny among women sometimes too, but it seems like that is a requirement; we can't have a discussion about misogyny without making sure that we don't single men out. Too often that functions to downplay or cover up the fact that it is gendered. The belief that it isn't gendered is also often used to argue against potential remedies, e.g. against promoting women to positions of authority to reduce the effects of bias in decision making.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:54 AM on August 18, 2019 [28 favorites]

It's still horrible, and not out of misogyny so much as gyn-amnesia. People forgot they didn't set aside money for you to have a technician, they just remember you always look harried. People forget to nominate you for awards. People forget to cite your paper. My citation problem has been fixed since I began co-authoring papers with males. Still, it astounds me that my female colleagues are either childless women with supportive spouses or single mothers. Think about that.
posted by acrasis at 11:18 AM on August 18, 2019 [10 favorites]

One thing I really liked about this piece is that it didn't stop with the phenomenon of being judged more harshly at work, but it got to something that I think is seriously neglected in most of these discussions: women's unequal position in the home. Doing your best work requires time and space to think, and someone whose brain and time are constantly occupied with housework and child care and life organization will be disadvantaged compared to the partner who benefits from this work. Doing your best work requires a position that is a great fit, and someone whose position is a result of following a partner to a less-than-ideal locale will be disadvantaged compared to the partner who benefited from such a move. All the parental leave and anti-harassment policies and unconscious bias training in the world will fix a lot, but they won't fix that.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 12:35 PM on August 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

Internet Archive link for the article that may work if the direct link is timing out
posted by XMLicious at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

This kind of thing is why I get angry when people say shit like "a mediocre man applies for a job when he only has 60% of the qualifications and women should do that too." No, a woman has to be spectacularly so much better than a mediocre man just to maybe get the interview, y'all. Or write 9-12% better, or pretend to be the guy tutor, or whatever.

Nobody WANTS women in these businesses.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:41 PM on August 18, 2019 [13 favorites]

Nobody WANTS women in these businesses.

That’s absurd.

There have been decades-long concerted efforts orchestrated from the highest levels to increase the participation of women in leadership roles in academia. That these efforts have underperformed is distressing. This piece does a good job of analyzing the reasons for the underperformance.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:46 PM on August 18, 2019

We had an all-faculty half-day meeting recently about the gender gap in academia generally and at our university specifically and what we are going to do about it (answer: draw more charts, mainly). At the end, the philosopher sitting next to me, whose group had been called out by the dean as the most skewed in terms of large numbers of women at the low end of the funnel and basically none at the top, he turns to me and says, he doesn't think philosophy really has a problem that anyone can do anything about.
Oh yeah? I ask. What about all these stats we just got shown?
Yeah. The thing is, he explains, philosophy is really HARD. Like, "girls" decide to take it because they think it's one of those soft humanities subjects, but actually it's more like maths or science, and women want more creativity in their life. They want to do things like art and music, so the "girls" end up moving into those areas instead.

And this is at an institution that supposedly is really good at gender. Like, we just got ranked number one in the WORLD for gender equality by Times Higher Ed. On the plus side, we have things like a perpetual pool of funding for anyone who has ideas for improving the gender gap or improving gender equity in other ways. On the minus side, we still have dinosaurs like this dude.
posted by lollusc at 7:54 PM on August 18, 2019 [17 favorites]

I’m hissing at that dude. Hisssssssss.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:00 PM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Nobody WANTS women in these businesses.

That’s absurd.

No it is not. Some people care deeply, and this article gives some reasons for why their efforts have not been that effective. However, in addition to things proposed in this article, there are tons of other evidence based strategies for increasing the number of women and minorites in academia that have not been done wholesale. If they had, the GRE wouldn't exist and every short list would have two women. I could name many others, but the changes that we know would help have not been implemented. Those are changes that can come and should from the top, and they have not.

It is no longer true that lack of progress is a passive reality. People actively, every day, make decisions to disadvantage women and minorities, and at this point they (should) know that they are doing so.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:36 PM on August 18, 2019 [18 favorites]

he doesn't think philosophy really has a problem

Philosophers are the worst in this regard. Straight up explicit bias. Still doing ‚hard‘ (?) philosophy 10 years after grad school, just not in academia, where I never felt welcome.
posted by The Toad at 9:09 PM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Nobody WANTS women in these businesses.

That’s absurd.

There have been decades-long concerted efforts orchestrated from the highest levels to increase the participation of women in leadership roles in academia.

No, there have been decades-long efforts to create the facade that administration and the institution want more women and non-whites in academia. If they actually wanted said minorities in their departments, chairs would hire them and promote them. If they actually wanted women in grad programs to succeed, they'd weed out the abusers and clean house. If they really, really wanted us to be in charge, they wouldn't undermine us every step of the way.

I was a student in a department that claimed to want diversity and better representation. There was a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men in the grad program. The head of grad studies for our department when I started was a very intense and strong tenured woman. She did everything in her power to herd the cats of the department into some sort of workable situation. She told the misogynistic prof who'd been there 40 years to straighten up and fly right. She told the bullying prof who'd been their for 20 years to learn how to develop his students without making them cry or else. She made sure that the young women in her department were safe and cared for.

After 2 years, the department pushed her out. She still taught, but she wasn't the head any more. Instead, they appointed a bumbling, genial dude to be the head of the grad studies department. This guy told female students to just avoid the old misogynist, just don't sign up for his classes, even though he was the only prof who taught classes in his field. He advised people to just not take the bully for an advisor or a referee, who also was the only one in his field. He patted the young women on their backs and told them they did good work and never did anything to promote them.

If an institution wants to women and other minorities to succeed, they do a hell of a lot more work than replacing a driven and competent woman with a genial lout because he's "nicer" and "works better with the faculty."
posted by teleri025 at 6:41 AM on August 19, 2019 [32 favorites]

« Older Is it “lead” or “lede”?   |   Trump’s plan to let employers discriminate against... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments