15 thoughts on “What we’re doing about what it’s like

  1. I’d strongly suggest merging “What’s It Like” & “What We’re Doing”. It dilutes the message of the blog somewhat, but their contents are still intimately related.

  2. Well, that’s kind of the way it used to me. What it’s Like has a section, Try This at Home, devoted to positive stuff. But that was almost always overlooked in discussions of the blog, which focused solely on the negative. Hence we thought it might be good to try a positive blog. We also allow discussion on What We’re Doing and not on What it’s Like.

  3. I would second the suggestion to merge the two blogs. Is there perhaps a way to enable comments for the `try this at home’ posts, but not the others?

    (It’s also the end of the academic year, at least for semester-based schools in the US. People might simply be too busy.)

  4. Perhaps more cross-linking would help? Even if it were just a monthly or biweekly post on What It’s Like providing brief one-or-two sentence summaries of recent posts on What We’re Doing to catch people’s interest, and reminding people to send their stories to it might help a bit, by sending What It’s Like traffic to What We’re Doing. (I also wonder if people are reading the ‘We’ of What We’re Doing as a personal rather than a collective pronoun, and thus just aren’t thinking to send in things that people other than themselves have done that worked very well, and so need to be reminded that those count, too.)

    I don’t think it can be expected that What We’re Doing will ever take off like What It’s Like, in part because it’s much easier to find problems than to find things that seem to work, given the kinds of problems being dealt with. And people will naturally have more of a sympathetic interest in problem blogs than in solution blogs. So I think assessing whether What We’re Doing is sustainable requires a much longer-term evaluation than would be required for something like What It’s Like.

    I also wonder if maybe it might help to expand the repertoire of What We’re Doing a bit — e.g., put a periodic word out here and at What It’s Like for syllabi (or maybe just summaries of the structure and readings for the course), especially for Intro and Ethics, that recognize the contributions of women philosophers, or for departments that could be highlighted as having a good gender balance, or for upcoming conferences with good gender balance among invited speakers. The last of these would allow a link with the Gendered Conference Campaign, and there’s bound to be an untapped goldmine somewhere of good ideas for the first. The one potential drawback for these kinds of suggestions that I can think of off the top of my head is that the requests for suggestion would have to be thought through very carefully so that people would send the right kind of information, and in enough detail, that it wouldn’t end up being a massive amount of extra work for the blog editors to sort it out and put it in usable form.

  5. Reading my comment again, the parenthetical at the end of the first paragraph didn’t come out as sounding at all like I intended. My intended point wasn’t that people might only be thinking of things they themselves had done but that they might not be thinking so much in terms of resources, institutions, and the like to which they themselves don’t have an immediate link even if they’ve found them useful. There have been some posts of this sort on the blog; but I was wondering whether it might be the sort of thing that people just don’t think explicitly about when asked for positive stories, unless explicitly reminded.

  6. 1) Maybe put out a specific call to organizations like SWIP and the Women’s Caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association?

    2) I think that one of the issues is that folks who are doing something about What is it Like Issues, are burned out and absurdly overburdened. Here is an interesting article on the costs of doing something about What it is Like: http://advance.wvu.edu/r/download/89563
    Creating Status of Women Reports: Institutional Housekeeping as “Women’s Work” Sharon Bird; Jacquelyn Litt; Yong Wang NWSA Journal; Spring 2004; 16, 1; Women’s Interest Module pg. 194

    3) I think that a lot of what folks are doing reaches beyond philosophy, for example, creating parental leave policies that are institution wide. Maybe it is not clear whether or not these sorts of efforts are appropriate for the blog?

    4) I think that many efforts to do something about what it is like fail. Especially given the impact of the financial crisis on university hiring and organization. Is the blog open to ‘good tries’ that might work in other places or in better times?

    5) Maybe add a category, What One Could do about What it is Like? I can think of a very long list of possibilities that I have not had the resources to try out. But, maybe making these possibilities public can facilitate the work of other people?

    6) Maybe add a category where we can report things that other people have done? I am thinking about successes from the Gendered Conference Campaign, or professional organizations that have stepped up with regard to gender issues.

    7) Perhaps send a message to the leaders of professional organizations and editors of journals, and chairs of big departments inviting them to tell us what they are doing? I suspect that most of them are doing nothing, but if there is a place where their comments are welcome, the absence might speak volumes and be motivating. And perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised.

    8) I think that What it is Like tapped a deep well of (mostly individual) anger. It makes perfect sense to me that it took off like a rocket. The consciousness raising impact of What it is Like, is one of the most powerful actions that could fit under the What We are Doing category. I know this does nothing to increase the response to the new blog, but I mention it as a gigantic Thank You.

  7. I just went back and read What we Are Doing Again. I see that some of my suggestions are already there. Maybe naming them will help.

    I also notice that alot of the posts are long, as opposed to many of the pithy and horrible stories on What it is Like. I don’t know what to do about that, but it makes it less ‘instantly’ accessible. One suggestion is to create categories so folks can more easily get at what they need–mentoring, collegiality, searches,… . I know this is asking for more work, and it is expensive.

    Maybe folding What we are doing into What it is like–a set of parallel categories, would get that information out more effectively.

    I see two strengths in What we are Doing: (1) showing that we are presenting options that can lead to change and not just stating problems, and (2) providing strategies that others can use.

    I like the strategy sharing angle because it can save energy in terms of reinventing the wheel. Along these lines, I wish that more people in philosophy were aware of the activities that are being tried by NSF ADVANCE institutions around the country. Many people are doing this work, with financial support. Here is a link to the ADVANCE Portal: http://www.portal.advance.vt.edu/index.php. The point of this page is to provide a forum for different ADVANCE institutions to share what they are doing about what it is like in STEM.

  8. One problem, perhaps, with posting to What We’re Doing is that it might sometimes be hard to anonymize the particular effort, but then there might be various reasons that one doesn’t want to call attention to the effort itself or to oneself.

  9. Here’s a suggestion that goes to the pairing of the two blogs. After all, there are only so many global strategies that can be deployed — meetings, discussing implicit bias, facilitating networking, and others that are well documented. The trickiest tasks are dealing with what goes on in very particular cases at the local level — what are constructive ways of responding to the kinds of episodes detailed in the what its like blog, as well as other more mundane sorts of issues: what do you do when a student complains about a prof’s anti-woman remarks? what about when you are told you are a better man as if that were a compliment? what about when your colleagues give a woman undergrad great grades but no encouragement? If there were a way to encourage the sharing strategies of how to deal with the mundane everyday challenges of being a woman in philosophy without compromising anonymity — something akin to the sorts of model cases on that MIT website, that would be great. So I wonder whether the new blog might take a particular story from the original blog and start a discussion of how one might handle the case. The problem would be the trolls and spam, so there would be work of managing comments, work that may or may not pay off.

  10. For what it’s worth, there will be a post on What we’re doing this week at NewAPPS. The plan was to do it before, but we thought it wouldn’t get the attention it deserves amidst the Synthese drama.

    And even if the blog doesn’t get as much attention as What it’s like, it’s there, it exists, and is a repository of important experiences

  11. For what it’s worth, there will be a post on What we’re doing this week at NewAPPS. The plan was to do it before, but we thought it wouldn’t get the attention it deserves amidst the Synthese drama.

    And even if the blog doesn’t get as much attention as What it’s like, it’s there, it exists, and is a repository of important experiences that people are having. There’s no way around it, people relish in sad stories and are less moved by stories where people modestly try to do something about sad stories. But it’s important that it’s there, and that it can be referred to whenever appropriate in discussions etc.

  12. The comments so far are so good that I’m hesitant to say much. Also I’ve been working all day on semi-neuroeconomics and am brain fatigued. In fact, part of neuroeconomics is concerned with how humans go from information to action. I think that to get other people to do that is exceptionally hard. And in a way, that’s the problem here.

    It does seem to make sense to try to combine the blogs, but I’m wondeering about underlying problems. One thing that strikes me concerns what a blog is good at and what it isn’t. Not that I really know, but I’m struck by the fact that the audience is one of readers, which is a fairly passive position politically. Maybe we shouldn’t wonder that once positioned passively the audience does not grab onto the possibilities of action.

    I’m wondering if we all were supposing in some hazy way was that the incentive to try to institute change and the means to do so were already there for a lot of people in philosophy. And so they’d say what they are doing. Perhaps either the incentives or the means aren’t there and that fact needs addressing.

    It might be a good exercise to think of what a blog would look like if it was to get people to try to change things for women. One thing is that there are a lot of topics that might be addressed: strategies, means, incentives, and so on. Another is that some impulse to action needs to be conveyed.

    In any case, given that blog readers start off as somewhat passive readers, then it might be necessary to link what to do with something else, either FP or what is it like. Passive readers like stories, but it isn’t really surprising that they aren’t wild about descriptions of things they might do. We may need to get people out of that passive mode, if my conjecture here is right.

    And faculty are typically actually a pretty passive lot, at least until someone really tries to screw them over.

  13. A few thoughts:

    1. I agree w/ Brandon’s point about the natural reason that What We’re Doing would have fewer posts that What It’s Like, and would add that it is also the case that there are probably many more people in a place to be victimized or to observe victimization than those in a place to do something significant about it (or, at least, to feel like they can).

    2. I think it is valuable to keep them separate.

    3. I actually don’t think it is a problem for the posting to be pretty slow. Many people have RSS readers to update them when new posts arrive, and some of my favorite blogs in general are updated VERY infrequently. This is fine, because I usually catch them when they come up. Second, a lot of people will happen on the blog for the first time and find a useful set of resources, and the fact that it grows slowly is no serious problem. As long as it keeps growing, with periodic reminders of its existence here and there, I don’t see why it should be shuttered.

  14. Thanks for the advertisement, and thanks for all the great ideas. You’ve given me the impetus to continue on a bit longer, as well as loads of excellent ideas to try out. There may, however, be a slight delay in carrying out said ideas, as I’m currently swamped.

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