Is he on the island?

I used to have a very elaborate inside joke with a few other women in media. It was called The Island, and the narrative went like this: All of the editors we know to be sexual harassers or professional bullies are on a plane together, probably heading to some sort of “ideas festival,” when the plane goes down on a small island. There, they are forced to live out the rest of their days with only each other to harass. In their absence, the rest of us go on to remake the media industry into a creative, forward-thinking, gender-equitable paradise. Fin.

It was funny to picture this scenario, but also sort of a sad coping mechanism. We knew these dudes were too professionally powerful, too entrenched to really be held accountable for their behavior. The Island became a code for telling each other who was a good guy and who was a bad guy—which upper-masthead men actually wanted to mentor us, and which ones just wanted the thrill of having a cocktail with an attractive younger woman under the guise of professionalism: “Is he on The Island or not?” Or, “Watch out, that guy’s totally on The Island.”

Such a familiar feeling, reading this.

(Thanks, R!)

Call for Letters Written By Women

The blog Letters of Note is issuing a call for submissions of letters and correspondences written by women after the author determined there was too much of a gender imbalance with what he himself was finding and posting.  You can send submissions to: shaun [at] lettersofnote [dot] com.


I really want to redress the balance and would love for you to help, as thousands of fresh eyes are better than two groggy ones. So, consider this a submissions drive. If you know of any interesting letters, by women — or girls for that matter — that haven’t yet featured on the site, please let me know; famous or otherwise. The letters’ writers can be from any walk of life: businesswomen, chefs, dancers, doctors, actresses, teachers, criminals, artists, mothers, daughters… the letters themselves must simply be notable and have the power to provoke an emotional response from you, the reader. Even if you’ve only heard of a particular letter and haven’t yet read it, get in touch and I’ll do my best to track it down.


It would be especially great if anyone knows of such correspondences written by philosophers!

Race and Gender in the Canadian Academy

Watch the video of the panel here.

During the afternoon of May 31, Frances Henry, Carol Tator, Carl James, and Ena Dua gathered to present their research and findings on the marginalization of racialized faculty in Canadian universities. Research was conducted using personal interviews, surveys, and site visits and the results were not surprising. As Tator explained, universities have been very slow to make positive changes to make their universities a more equitable environment for racialized faculty members. What often occurs is that administrations will pay lip service to equity issues for faculty but no real changes will take place.

The majority of faculty surveyed who identified as a visible minority were professors in the fields of engineering and business. Henry explained that it was even less common to see racialized faculty members teaching in the humanities and especially in the social sciences. Interesting, considering that these fields of study are those which inform the research on the discourse of race and gender.

According to James, racialized faculty have to work twice as hard as their colleagues to obtain the same recognition for their efforts and contributions to academia. The systemic challenges faced by these faculty members are issues that never affect non-racialized colleagues.

Dua expressed the difficulty she experienced in collecting information about race through common sources of statistical information, such as Statistics Canada. This complicated the research process and required the researchers to do a bit more leg work to obtain the data they required. Information about gender was generally more accessible.

While listening to what each panelist had to say about their research and how they were operationalizing racism in the academy, all I could focus on was the real experiences of their subjects. I understood that the nature of the research required complete confidentiality, but I did not hesitate to approach Dua to ask how these stories affected her as a researcher. Her reply was that it was much easier to listen to the stories of individuals from a research lens, but that she was fully aware of how racism in the academy profoundly affected many of her subjects. She agreed with me that these experiences can be horrific and shared that there have been instances in her own professional life where her colleagues were marginalized because of their skin colour.

It was interesting to hear how researchers operationalized racism, and what challenges they experienced while trying to collect data. Listening to the panelists left me with a similar question that Dua posed at the end of her presentation: What are the politics of gathering information on race as issues of race increasingly gain more attention from researchers and funding partners?

from the blog of the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Helen Gurley Brown, 1922-2012

The NYT obituary and the Salon obituary both give, in their different ways, good overviews of the work of the author of Sex and the Single Girl and the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.

It’s funny that just today, I was criticizing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic, for her statement that feminist are “simply airbrushing reality” by “glibly repeating ‘you can have
it all.’” I was snippily saying that I’ve never heard a feminist glibly say life would involve no tough choices or sacrifices, or that life was (some oddly capitalist-sounding) paradise in which we can have everything we want.

Then I read this in the Salon obit: “Her magazine prattled about the joys of women doing and having it all.”  And I recognized how right this was, having read my fair share of issues of Cosmo.  I find this fascinating, since it cleary indicates the source of that irksome but culturally pervasive view that feminists say something so glib and transparently false.  I could simply reassert my rightness and say, well, Helen Gurley Brown wasn’t really a feminist, then.  But there are sundry problems with being the Border Police for feminism, aren’t there!  The more one reads about her, the harder it is to say that this androcentric, femininity-enforcing culturata was in no way feminist.  For she was also proudly affirming of sexuality as something good and fun rather than merely shameful or wicked. She asserted that women were excellent additions to the workforce at professional levels.  She is not easily dismissed.  We should be so lucky to have someone say the same of us.