Reader, be forewarned: I am in fighting mood today.
What has occasioned this fundmental change from last week’s fatigue to today’s bellicosity? Well, some things that have made me angry, and others that have buoyed me to fight back. First, I received some disappointing professional news. Nothing new there, at first sight, as I’ve been receiving all kinds of disappointments on the job market. What was special about this specific piece was the obvious gendering of the two responses it comprised. One was generous, engaged, and constructive; the other one was resistant, belligerent, and angered. I do not mean to be reductionist, but trust me when I say it was obvious. They have made me reconsider my place within academia: is it worth pushing that rock uphill during application season, only to have it tumble down again and again? And how many times can I bear to listen to the adage “it’s not you, it’s the job market?”
What these responses have also made me rethink was all the other interactions I’ve had throughout my academic career from the point of view of sexism. You know, all the small delays, all the excuses, all the talking over and the talking down to; in other words, all the subtle sexism that the humanities are rife with, for all their declarative adoption of feminism. In my previous career, at least, sexism was out in the open. And so were my weapons. I’ve had to withstand and fight sexual harassment, but I was in full Buffy mode. But how do you fight the very subtle, insidious sexism of academia?
Needless to say, I was feeling hopeless and ready to say goodbye to my beloved academia. Because for all the statements about “women and minorities are encouraged to apply,” when it comes down to choosing between a male candidate and a female one with kids, the actual choice might not really live up to the declared ideals, in spite of everyone’s best intentions. S-u-b-t-l-e. Unexamined. Buried. Engrained. Sexism.
But then, this video, which I’m sure you’ve seen by now, started making the internet rounds:
Now, I know Julia Gillard has a vexed relationship with feminism. But it’s this video that’s put me in fighting mood. Because when women’s rights are openly trampled on everywhere, who even cares about subtle sexism, right? So, here’s a powerful woman calling a sexist’s bullshit in the Australian Parliament, and making the internet rounds faster than a new bug in a daycare full of babies. I think we need a model or two like that, coming up in the open and leaving their gloves somewhere else, because I’m tired of being nice to people smart enough to cover their sexism and bury it deep enough for a full forensic team to overlook.
The other thing that’s put me in assertive mode is this wonderful conference I’m going to: Women’s Writing in Canada and Québec Today. I’m going to spend the weekend engaging with some incredibly intelligent people talking about contemporary literature written by women. I’m also going to hang out with Erin! I’m going to talk about Margaret Atwood. Can you think of a better way to fight subtle or overt sexism? [And now I’m off to… ahem… revise my paper.]