That this got as far as two committee members actually resigning after two years without a woman nominee, while reportedly the museum still does not understand the objectors’ counter-proposal, suggests organizational problems and failures of internal communication.
Two female researchers tasked with helping to recognize the top scientists in the country have stepped down from their duties to protest lack of recognition for other women in the field.
Judy Illes and Catherine Anderson resigned from the selection committee of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame this month after realizing that no women had been nominated for induction two years in a row.
There’s a lot of buzz this morning about a new study which seems to show a preference for women over otherwise identical men. I haven’t had a chance to look in detail yet, but so far I am struck by one fact about the study: Rather than giving subjects CVs to evaluate, the experimenters gave them vignettes which included marital status and history and number of children– that is, precisely the stuff you’re not allowed to ask about in hiring. In reflecting on why this study has obtained such different results from all the CV studies, I find myself suspecting this played a role. Perhaps being explicitly given such prejudicial information put people on guard in a way that led them to overcompensate for possible biases.
At any rate, this certainly doesn’t count against my view that as much of hiring as possible should be conducted anonymously. Indeed, it shows that such anonymity may be necessary to block the operation of different biases under different circumstances.
A teenaged woman, call her Amy, reports her frustration and even her despair at constantly having the least valued opinion when talking with men and boys. People will sit around and BS; alleged facts will be pulled out of thin air (or worse places); strong opinions will be conjured on topics of little prior reflection. That’s all good. But even this BS is at least taken seriously enough to be worth counter-argument when it comes from men. Whether the dismissal of her opinion is scornful, or indulgent with a patina of affection, she finds her (relatively rare) contributions in social situations treated as silly or naïve by default. And when she tries to point out that this is happening, this observation too is treated as silly or naïve, and dismissed out of hand as well. She can’t break through the attitude of dismissiveness, even to point out its existence. “What do I have to do to at least make you recognize that I’m serious about this?” she muses. “Do I have to stab you to get your attention?” Amy is the least violent person I know, making this both very funny and a clear sign of her being truly fed up.
“Is this just how it’ll always be?” she wonders. Smiling avuncular pooh-poohing of her contributions to social discourse dominated by men?
On one hand, my conversation with Amy is a spur to continued activism, including micro-level social awareness. On the other hand, it leaves me at something of a loss when I consider what advice and guidance is available to Amy.
I can listen sympathetically and validate her experience, certainly. We can talk about epistemic injustice, and I can help explain how that connects with epistemology and justice more generally. I can help situate the failed uptake of both her conversation and her remarks about the conversation relative to notions of speech-act silencing or quieting. On these topics I count as relatively expert; and helping her to theorize or understand the phenomena more richly is plausibly some form of assistance. But what about practical suggestions? Amy would prefer to be able to improve or repair social situations, rather than blowing them up; firebrand is not usually her style. I can offer my own personal take on how to broach socially hard topics or correct anti-social behaviour; or talk about things I’ve seen other people do that worked (or didn’t). But this all feels pretty idiosyncratic. There is a huge range of strategies that people marginalized by social prejudices use to confront and mitigate the situations that trouble Amy, the success of which vary according to all sorts of factors. Is there already a sort of online clearinghouse of strategies that people have used to good effect when facing this sort of dismissiveness? Or a good book that gives practical advice of this sort? (Something aimed specifically at young women would be particularly valuable in Amy’s case.)
Or could people share their favoured approaches here? Choices of tone, gesture, turns of phrase… broader social strategies (including “get better friends”) — what has worked for you?