Inside Higher Ed on the Modest Proposal

Inside Higher Ed discusses Eric and Mark’s proposal. (Thanks, MA!)

Barbara Winslow reports in comments:

Thanks to the hard work of the Coordinating Committee of Women Historians (formerly the Coordinating Committee of Women Historians/conference Group on Women’s History) which convinced both major history associations, the American History Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) that there can never be plenary or conference sessions that are all male (or all female for that matter) We did this almost 30 years ago.

9 thoughts on “Inside Higher Ed on the Modest Proposal

  1. “We did this almost thirty years ago.” Bet I’m not the only one who is going to have that echoing through my head, over and over again…

  2. Thirty years ago? That’s pretty amazing. My wife works with a woman who got her Ph.D. in a science about forty years ago here in the South. When she got her Ph.D., her school only had Ph.D. diplomas with male pronouns on them. When she graduated, the school had to carefully cross out the “he”s and “his”s and write in “she”s and “her”s. The diploma is hanging in her office now, manual strikethroughs and all. Every once in a while, someone asks her why she doesn’t just get a new one. She says “no way.” She is extremely proud of the fact that she made them do this.

  3. I’m worried about this statement. I found a 2005 report from members of the AHA, and they are definitely not happy campers.

    In addition to the studies of history and other disciplines that testify to the persistence of significant gender differences in nearly every aspect of academic employment and that find women disproportionately underrepresented at all levels of the academic hierarchy, several recent reports—most notably the landmark 1999 MIT report, “Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT,” which drew attention nationwide—have focused on qualitative as well as quantitative measures of women’s experience in academe and have reported findings just as troubling. The MIT study found that even those women at the very top of the hierarchy felt marginalized in their departments, discouraged and unsatisfied in their professional lives—and, most strikingly, that their dissatisfaction and sense of exclusion increased as they rose through the ranks. Junior women were relatively happy, but senior women were not. Gender discrimination, the report concluded, “turns out to take many forms and many of these are not simple to recognize.” It consists in “a pattern of powerful, but unrecognized assumptions and attitudes that work systematically against women faculty even in the light of obvious goodwill.”3

  4. But if the historians have implemented the goals of the Gendered conference campaign for 30 years and they are still unhappy, where does that leave us?

  5. Margaret, perhaps it leaves us with reason to doubt they have implemented the goal? I asked over in IHE if there was any statement we could look it. These policies can be fiendishly difficult to state formally because of the many contingencies; e.g., do you have to cancel a session or a conference if the diversity factor gets sick or misses her plane?

    I might mention that I was active in the Northeast Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (even its president at one point in the late eighties) and I never heard of such a practice, which I’m pretty sure I saw violated more than one.

  6. What are plenary and conference sessions, exactly? Would the equivalent APA rule say that any regular colloquium or symposium would have to be mixed gender?

  7. A plenary session is by definition “absolute,” so it’s a session that everyone attends (i.e., no concurrent sessions are scheduled against it).

    A rule that there can be “no conference sessions” of one sex is vaguer to me. Not one session? Sometimes a symposium is just two people. This seems not the way to go. If the phrase “conference session” means whole conferences, however, that’s different.

    I disagree with “or all female for that matter,” which ignores the problem with acting in the context of a male-dominated field.

  8. Right, so, the only plenary sessions at APA meetings are sessions guaranteed to have no gender diversity (e.g., Sally Haslanger’s this coming December). And many APA sessions have two or three speakers.

    In any case, a hard and fast rule (covering APA meetings) does not seem like a good idea. Maybe a general goal adopted by the Program Committees would make more sense. (I see that Mary Kate McGowan is Program Committee Chair for the Eastern APA right now…)

  9. Well. I think Anne is right. A friend directed me to the following paragraph from a recent OAH call for papers:

    We seek a program that includes the full diversity of the OAH and NCPH membership, so wherever possible proposals should include presenters of both sexes, members of racial and ethnic minorities, and historians who practice their craft in a variety of venues, including community colleges and precollegiate classrooms, consulting firms, museums, historical societies, and the National Park Service. We prefer to receive proposals for complete sessions, but will consider individual papers as well.

    She tells me that while OAH seeks, they don’t by any means always find. I have to confess that I am a little disappointed because I hoped that what was controversial among (some) philosophers was routine elsewhere, but perhaps this is not to be. But nevetheless, APA could seek too.

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