Academia and credibility

Jender’s discussion of Rachel McKinney’s wonderful post on “grey rape” led me to McKinney’s site and a great discussion, with informative links, about underrepresentation in philosophy and engineering. And through those links to important information about women’s publishing in ‘top’ philosophy journals. And then back to Jender.

There’s a surely related phenomenon, and it’s mentioned interestingly enough in Female Science Professor’s Friday post, Training Wheels and Oracles.

One of my more oppressed female colleagues … had some new ideas for the course, but all of her ideas were ignored or dismissed except when one senior [male] faculty member stepped in to support her. Then her ideas were taken more seriously.

I have a young friend who has had a similar experience, except no one has stepped in to support her and, since she’s complained to one of the senior men, she now has a blot on her record which appeared in a report about her. She had not been asked for her side of the situation.

And it continues. I recounted a similar experience in a comment here.

I have often wondered why no one notices that the women are missing, as I did recently when one of my closest colleagues told me about a center director’s meeting. I should have been asked to the meeting, wasn’t, and apparently even a close male friend didn’t notice. Why is no one asking, Where are the women?

Let me invite hypotheses.  They should also account for the following sort of exchange I had many times when discussing hiring minorities:   August Male Academic Person:  We’d hire more minorities but the good ones all get much better offers from top universities.  JJ:  Actually, that is not really true.  Of all the African American PhD chemists graduated over X years from the top fifty departments, only 1 was hired by a top fifty department. (See here for the research on diversity and much more precise statistics.)  August Person:  O, so there aren’t any good ones.

Obviously, the August Person was not himself thoroughly involved in discriminatory practices.

Women have talked about the rampant discrimination for decades.  Why has it been ignored?

Female Science Professor again:

In fact, I do ‘see’ sexism quite frequently; that is true. When you have been told directly and/or indirectly nearly every day for more than 20 years of a career as a female science professor that you are not as serious, intelligent, mature, interesting, technically skilled, quantitative, creative, or professional as men with equal or lesser talents, you do start to get the impression that sexism is pervasive.

Why Don’t They Call The Police?

Standpoint theorists argue that certain standpoints in society are more conducive than others to (at least) certain kinds of knowledge; and that some standpoints will make it very hard to obtain certain sorts of knowledge.  Generally, the focus is on the way that less privileged people have access to knowledge that more privileged people find it incredibly difficult to get.  This is all extremely abstract, so concrete illustrations are useful.Several months ago, in the Dunbar Village projects, in Florida, a woman was raped by 10 men and forced to perform oral sex on her son, and both were temporarily blinded with bleach, over the course of 3 hours.  The walls were paper thin. The question was asked over and over:  why didn’t anyone call the police?   How could anyone be so morally corrupt that they just don’t care? But this question is based on the presupposition that the only reason for not calling the police is a lack of concern.  Here are some thoughts that undermine this, and that are very unlikely to occur to those of us who haven’t been black and extremely poor.

Do you really think that calling would have done anything when people call for help all the time, and it takes police and ER crews some times up to two or three hours to show up if they show up at all? A young boy here in detroit called 911 because his mother was dying and the 911 receptionist hung up on him. Hung up on him even when his gasping and wheezing mother got on the phone and pleaded for help. Why? because he was from the ghetto part of town and the 911 folks have a policy that includes not having to take the calls from that part of town seriously. 

  • Today I was listening to NPR’s Justice Talking, which was doing a program on New Orleans. They interviewed Ursula Price, from Safe Streets/Strong Communities. She told the story of a black mother of three who called the police because of domestic violence taking place next door to her. The police came, but instead of doing anything about the domestic violence they arrested her for a five-year-old traffic violation and put her in jail.
  • Just a few days ago we learned that the black woman who had just been imprisoned, beaten, and raped for a week by had been arrested for writing bad checks.  Her name came to the police’s attention through the horrific crime of which she was the victim, so they arrested her.

It seems completely and utterly baffling to those of us who are white and reasonably well-off that those who are poor and black might fail to call the police when there are crimes taking place. But if we listen to what those from these communities say, we learn that there are lots of very good reasons that a poor black person might not call the police.  What seems completely incomprehensible from one standpoint is readily understandable from another.  The fact that we can learn from each other this way is partly responsible for the fact that a lot of standpoint theory has mutated recently into a call for diversity and dialogue in knowledge-seeking.

  • And on a less intellectual note:  what appalling police priorities.