Academia

Recent posts

Obstacles To Teaching About Racism And Sexism

Discussing structural racism in the classroom recently made news when a professor who lectured on this topic was reprimanded for making white students feel uncomfortable. The Slate article reporting on this makes a number of excellent points, which I’ll summarize here and apply to other educational situations. Article author Tressie McMillan Cottom points out that “When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.” We know that gendered and racist micro-inequalities and micro-aggressions persist in academia, which is ironic because the ivory tower is supposed to be a place of free thinkers and intellectual inquiry. Continue Reading →

Sexuality and Tenure

An assistant professor at Indiana University Northwest reports that she has been denied tenure because she is out as a lesbian. Her publishing record is excellent, and thus she suspects discrimination. This isn’t surprising, given how we’ve seen transgender professors denied tenure. I don’t think it’s fair to ask academics with non-mainstream gender/sexual identities to remain closeted. But that’s essentially what these actions are doing: enforcing a heteronormative ban on behavior that is different. Continue Reading →

Academia’s Hostility To Women

The Guardian documents a new study reporting on why women in the sciences are leaving academia at much greater rates than men. According to the study’s results, the number of women in science PhD programs who report wanting to remain in academia plummets the longer they spend working on their degrees. Women learn, by observation and experience, that their gender will be an impediment to their progress, and they reported more than men did that the great sacrifices demanded of them were too large. While this study focused on the sciences, I think it might apply in the social sciences and humanities as well. Academia is full of gendered micro-inequalities, though women have largely made progress over time. Continue Reading →

Tips For Male Allies In Academia

Don’t be that dude: handy tips for the male academic is a lovely post aimed at male professors who are sympathetic to the sexism and gendered micro-aggressions that many women in academia face. I like that the post recognizes the importance of collaboration in achieving gender equality, and I think a lot of the tips are applicable outside the ivory tower as well. Continue Reading →

Queer Scholarship In Song And Story

Queer theory is known for being dense, almost unreadable at times. That’s why it’s all the more impressive that Kay Turner, a folklorist at the Brooklyn Arts Council, dedicated an evening to performances of queer-theory-oriented songs. And even better, the New York Times wrote up the event in a blog post documenting the songs and attendees. Why is this noteworthy? Queer theory had its beginnings as an offshoot of academic feminist theory, gay and lesbian activism, and other influences from the humanities, social sciences, sexuality studies, and the public sphere. Continue Reading →

Experiencing Gender Differences In Spatial/Visual Abilities

We’ve all heard it before: boys are better at math and spatial reasoning, girls are better at relational thinking and language skills. There’s always more to the story than that, however. The fact that scientists and scholars are still trying to disentangle cultural conditioning from biology means that these concepts must be treated with nuance and approached skeptically until empirical evidence is brought forward to clarify them. But what’s a feminist scholar to do when life experiences rub these supposed gender differences in her face? Over dinner with my partner once, we were playing a spatial reasoning game (Pentago, for those who want to check it out – it’s actually a pretty fun game, when I’m not constantly losing). Continue Reading →

Women’s Progress In Academia

Caroline Walker Bynum’s memoir-like essay of being a female professor in the 1960s and 1970s strikingly explains some of the cultural factors that allowed women to begin advancing in academia. At a time when women were not allowed to dine in the Harvard Faculty Club or join certain learned societies, there was of course backlash when women began breaching those bastions of old boys’ clubs. Yet as Bynum points out, “Women, who had never been in the club, didn’t notice much when it disappeared. Sometimes quietly, sometimes aggressively, they began to fill some of the few places that were available.” This is true in other spheres of society as well – and it carries warnings to women, not to get so caught up with in-fighting that we let distrust of each other weaken our already-tenuous positions. Continue Reading →

Unconscious Gender Bias Among Academics

While we may tend to think that educated and open-minded people are less likely to hold unconscious biases, a study by Yale found that scientists responded to the gender of names assigned to CVs as much as a control group did. They judged the men to be more competent candidates and deserving of higher pay. The female as well as male scientists made these assessments, demonstrating that both genders have internalized gendered values. Hopefully openly discussing the prevalence of gender bias will make people more aware of its influence on them. Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Continue Reading →

Disclosing Relationship Status In The Classroom

I wonder, sometimes, whether my relationship status matters to my students. Right now, I’m teaching an introduction to folklore course, so I’m not a straight-up sex educator or researcher, though I do frequently bring gendered topics into the classroom. Still, Dr. Debby’s post on how being considered conventionally attractive influences her pull as a sex educator/researcher resonates for me. I know that dressing smartly in the classroom helps to hold students’ attention. I take pleasure in fashion to a degree, and I tend not to subscribe to the belief that beauty and brains cannot coexist. Continue Reading →