faster feminism · open letter · sexist fail · teaching

Guest post: Rape Culture, Social Media and Pedagogical Responsibility

Today we have another guest post. This is by friend and colleague Andrew Bretz at the University of Guelph. Andrew’s post reminds me of how we ‘celebrated‘ International Women’s Day last year.
_________________________________________________

Last year at Yale, Delta Kappa Epsilon, a major fraternity on campus, was formally reprimanded by the university for leading new pledges through campus chanting pro-rape slogans such as “No means yes, yes means anal!”  As a feminist and a member of a university community, I was disgusted by the actions of the fraternity, but at the time I attributed it to a misogynist Greek culture that dominates university campuses in the United States.
Until recently.
A pro-rape chant, delivered on a late night bus and not simply repeated on Facebook but expanded upon by students at the University of Guelph, forced me to take a good look at the state of rape culture on my own campus.  I couldn’t do nothing, but neither am I in a position to enact direct change myself.
I wrote a blog post about it.  Given that my blog is largely inactive (with perhaps two dozen pageviews over the past year), I thought that this would be my rant into the ether and nothing more.  My post, however, has started something well beyond what I could possibly have expected.
You can read my original post here

I posted a link to my blog on my Facebook profile and figured that would be the end of it.  Within the next 48 hours:
·      My blog had been viewed over 3000 times by places as far away as Lithuania; 
·      The discussion on the original Facebook page exploded and was eventually removed altogether:
·     The president’s office was drafting a response, now available here;  
·      The Central Student’s Association had an emergency meeting to draft a response to this situation;
·      A letter writing campaign to The Ontarion had been launched regarding this issue;
The posting had spawned a discussion board on Penny Arcade.com, available here
·    I had been interviewed by CFRU, the local campus radio station, bringing attention to the issue, available here (Starting 26.20).
I followed up the initial post with a second one that commented upon the storm of criticism that has occurred in the wake of the event.
So what is the take away from all of this?  The dialogue has begun.  The problem of rape culture on university campuses is not limited to any nation or any single campus.  At Guelph, the administration has been exceptionally supportive in their condemnation of such actions as were described in the Facebook post and has begun to take steps to ensure that students are made aware of the effects that their words have.
On a personal note, I find it horrifically fitting somehow that this happened all during SAFE Week (Sexual Assault Free Environment) here at the University of Guelph, which, by the way, has an undergraduate body that is mostly female.  Also, I have learned first hand about the incredible and instantaneous power of the internet for raising awareness, something that I intend to work into my pedagogy as I move forward from this event.
But again, this isn’t really about me. It isn’t about the individual students who wrote the chant down or added to it.  It is about the fact that as a community, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that sexual violence against women is not normalized or excused.
I hope that we can continue to talk about this over on my blog or here at Hook & Eye.
-Andrew Bretz
PhD Candidate, University of Guelph

sexist fail

This Month (this semester) in Sexism

We don’t make this stuff up.

  • The president of our university sent an email inviting all male faculty members, staff and (male) spouses to his home for a “Men’s Steak Dinner.” Follow-up for us: the “Ladies’ Spring Picni.”
  • How about the male colleague who applauds me for all I do, and then asks – at least three times – “Do you have children?” (implied: “Ah, that explains it”) or “You don’t have children, do you?” 
  • Recently the University Librarian at McMaster organized an important agenda-setting symposium on the “Future of Academic Libraries.” Of a possible 21 speakers, in the initial lineup were only 3 women – the rest men. Egregious in any context, but particularly insulting given that, according to CAUT statistics, a walloping 73% of Canadian academic librarians are women. Adding insult to injury, librarian bloggers who called out the organizers on the omission were accused of being disingenuous, “rattling the cage” and practicing reverse sexism. 
  • At a day-long, required meeting/professional development/conference, I watched a male administrator cut off, completely misunderstand, and then talk over a female instructor who was trying to ask a legitimate question. The morning of the conference thing was devoted to (mostly) male administrators telling us about their jobs and what they are doing to supposedly help us (but really, it was about how we needed to do better), and then the afternoon was devoted to the (mostly) female instructors (all instructors, not one of us on the tenure-track) talking about what we did in the classroom. Not one administrator stayed for our presentations. Not. One.

    I know how I feel about this: insulted, disrespected, and a little humiliated. And really, really angry. I’ve always been surrounded by strong female role models, so I could “hide” from the reality. But not any more. In a contingent position, however, I don’t know what I can do. 

La lucha continua.

body · broken heart · clothes · femimenace · righteous feminist anger · sexist fail

This is not the female empowerment you are looking for

Well, the shit has hit the fan, gender-wise, at Waterloo. Again. Please go read the news coverage to know what I’m talking about, and then come back. Let me just say there are bikinis, and Formula One racecars, a dean of engineering, and some corporate sponsors.

Wednesday’s headline: UW shuts down student car team over racy photograph

Thursday’s headline: Car sponsors decry UW decision on bikini photo

My reaction to these stories is complicated. Issues of money (corporate sponsors, the charity), power (the university, the engineering faculty), academic culture (grades and teamwork and academic integrity involved in facility use), sex (she’s not wearing coveralls in the photo), gender (the discussion of expressing femininity in a male-dominated faculty), and even feminism (the university’s efforts at equity and at female recruitment and retention, successful or not) intermingle in ways that are hard to disentangle, let alone understand.

I’ve tagged this post “righteous feminist anger,” but I’m not altogether sure who I’m angry with. I’ve tagged it “sexist fail,” too, without being able to say quite who has failed.

Overwhelmingly, though, this makes me sad. Here’s why:

  • I am sad that this student needs explicitly to look for an outlet to express her femininity–engineering is still a gendered course of study, I guess, and that gender seems to be male. Having part of yourself necessarily suppressed every day to fit in can make you wiggy.
  • I am even more sad that this expression–this self-expression!–of femininity takes as its form the the most clichéd of sexualized postures/costumes for the pleasure of the male gaze.
  • I am sad that the shoot was for a charity: how awful that the best thing a female engineer can contribute to charity is an image of her own hypersexualized body? 
  • I am sad that if we’re going to celebrate our beautiful bodies, we twist and contort them (hip jutted out, back arched, breasts out) instead of showing their strength and power. By way of contrast, this is beautiful and strong together, I think.
  • I am sad that I don’t know her name: out of delicacy, her name is deliberately never mentioned in the reporting. Her body we see, but her name is veiled. Is this to save her some anticipated shame at being exposed, while we are nevertheless entitled to enjoy our collective titillation, on the front page of the paper, over our morning coffee?
I don’t know what to think. 
I do know what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominate field. I started my academic life in a male-dominated field–computer science–and I hated it. I felt alienated, and unheard, unimportant, and disregarded. Sometimes, the teachers made fun of me. I quit and moved to English, where I felt freer to be myself. How brave, how strong, do you have to be to stay in one of those fields? What kind of daily strength and perserverence might that take?
I also know what it’s like to be a young adult–a young woman–testing out the boundaries and contours of what it means to be a woman in a world where that … is second best. I think I was 25 before I felt comfortable being called a ‘woman’–it seemed to me I was more a ‘girl.’ It’s hard, growing into this role, this identity, this putatively second-best self. 
I know what it’s like, too, to test out the limits of self-presentation in this overdetermined body: in my early 20s, I went goth, and the bikinis I wore in public were made of PVC, paired with combat boots and blue lipstick. There were photo shoots. Did people stare, look at my boobs, make rude or lewd comments? Sure. And I tried to feel like I was in control of that. At 38, though, I tend to side more with Stacey and Clinton: people read you according to the scripts we share as a culture. 
Don’t get me wrong: I like bikinis. I like high heels! I don’t, however, see much empowerment in wearing them together, for a camera, while someone aims a gas-powered leaf-blower at you for that wind-blown effect. The clothing, composition, genre says object of the gaze, rather than subject of action. And aren’t we, girls reluctantly become women, finally ready to be the subjects of our own narratives, rather than the (leggy, nameless) objects of someone else’s?
academic reorganization · global academy · righteous feminist anger · sexist fail · solidarity

Higher Learning

About a month ago readers were outraged to learn about the hate campaign targeting women at the University of Waterloo. A good deal of my own shock came from a naive assumption–proven wrong on a regular basis, mind you–that the university is a bastion of enlightenment. Or at least a place that people come to work towards higher learning. But what does “higher learning” mean? According to he UN International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, “higher education” is education that “shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

The term “higher learning” conjures two images for me, and they are both spatially-oriented. Firstly I imagine it as a place that facilitates the coming together of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences for the purpose of thinking in an open, discursive fashion. Secondly, I think of the 1995 film of the same name. If you haven’t seen it the film depicts a year in the lives of students at an unidentified American university. It didn’t shy away from depicting the insidious sides of a university. Rape, racism, homophobia, violence, and harassment were all depicted plainly. Not the subtlety required of great film making, perhaps, but the film made an impression on me. The spaces of higher learning need constant work, self-reflexivity, and care.

Still, the overwhelming and popular imagination (based on my experience and not research) is that the academy is a space of higher learning in the first sense. And when it isn’t working, it is–or should be–a place where due process is upheld, right?

Wrong. I admit I don’t generally keep track of what is happening at the Ivies, but the goings on at Yale over the past few weeks and, really, years, have caught my attention. Here’s a few highlights: In 2004 Naomi Wolf wrote an article for New York Magazine about her sexual harassment by the infamous H.B. While I certainly don’t agree with a lot of what Wolf writes, I am grateful for her very public consideration of what harassment did to her self confidence as a student. Just this past week the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights went public with its intent to open an investigation into Yale’s “its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX.” According to several news sources the legal complaint includes

The complaint includes personal accounts from five students, along with descriptions of these well-publicized incidents:

  • Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!” on campus in October 2010.
  • A September 2009 “Preseason Scouting Report” email, which was written and circulated by a group of male students. The email ranked 53 freshman women in the order of how many beers it would take to have sex with them.
  • Pledges from Zeta Psi surrounding the entrance to the Yale Women’s Center in January 2008 with signs that said “We Love Yale Sluts.”
  • Fraternity members stealing t-shirts inscribed with accounts of sexual assaults from the Clothesline Project in 2005.

What can we learn about one example of what is clearly a decades-long failure at only one space for higher learning? We can keep lists, and for the record I mean all of us because women are by no means the only group subject to harassment and violence. Further, since Heather’s pithy post on the ways in which jargon obscures meaning I’ve found myself thinking about some of the terms that circulate in the academy. Some of the news articles circulating refer to the “alleged misogyny” that occurred on campus. Alleged? We can create space for frank dialogue about systemic injustice. Finally, though I hold on to the hope that the spaces and places of higher learning will become the ‘equally accessible’ spaces of rigorous intellectual exchange they can be–and often are–we need to take note of examples like the current issues happening south of the border, and remain mindful that there is still much work to be done for all of us.

feminist win · openness · resolution · sexist fail

The Month in Review

If I recall what I learned in elementary school March is fabled to come in like a lion and out like a lamb. While I have vaguely fond memories of making construction paper lions and cotton ball covered lambs to adorn our class bulletin board, I also remember fretting: what if March came in like a lamb and left like a lion? Worse, what if March came in like a lion and left like one too?


Perhaps my grade-four self was already preparing for the academic life, where March in Canada equals not March break but mid-terms, final papers, and the downhill screaming roller coaster ride that takes us to the end of the semester. Or, possibly, I was just showing early signs of being a worry-wart.

March makes big, lovely promises. One step forward into spring. But March is difficult. Two steps back. Today’s post is a partial review of the month of March.

Last week ended on a high note. It is no secret that Stephen Harper has been no ally of the women of Canada. Among his administrations most egregious actions is the attempt to silence Sisters in Spirit. Inform yourself, and make the effort to get out and vote.

Mid-month we had a guest post by Shannon Dea that was picked up by jezebel.com and garnered Shannon’s post and this site more than 10,000 views in a day. Unfortunately Shannon’s post is about the lack of institutional attention given to a hate campaign that is being waged agains the women of U Waterloo.

There’ve been submissions to This Month In Sexism’s email account as well. Here are some of them:

-Recently the University Librarian at McMaster organized an important agenda setting symposium on the “Future of Academic Libraries.” Of a possible 21 speakers, in the initial lineup 3 were women – the rest men. Egregious in any context, but particularly insulting given that, according to CAUT statistics, a walloping 73% of Canadian academic librarians are women. Adding insult to injury, librarian bloggers who called out the organizers on the omission were accused of being disingenuous, “rattling the cage” and reverse sexism. You can read blog entries about it here and here (note the comments).

At a required professional development conference, one of our reader watched a male administrator cut off, completely misunderstand, and then talk over a female instructor who was trying to ask a legitimate question. The morning of the conference thing was devoted to administrators (predominantly male) telling us about their jobs and what they are doing to supposedly help us (but really, it was about how we needed to do better), and then the afternoon was devoted to the (mostly) female instructors (all instructors, not one of us on the tenure-track) talking about what we did in the classroom. Not one administrator stayed for our presentations. Not. One.

On the other hand, Heather has been writing about her experience of applying for promotion on the basis of teaching excellence. Read her posts closely, they offer templates for crucial, positive institutional change.

Further, some readers have found a moment to share some really positive personal accomplishments!

But then, as guest poster Katherine Binhammer documents, some things haven’t changed.

So where does that leave us? Putting one foot in front of the other purposefully, I’d say. Onward with a roar!
bad academics · bad news · broken heart · femimenace · righteous feminist anger · sexist fail · solidarity · turgid institution

How we’re ‘celebrating’ International Women’s Day at the University of Waterloo

Today is International Women’s Day. While we have much to celebrate–and indeed, have taken to celebrating here on this blog–it remains true that women do not enjoy the full complement of human rights in much of the world. Here at the University of Waterloo, a recent spate of incidents on campus and online demonstrate that even on the campus of a research university in Canada, women are still the targets of hate for some, and, perhaps, not taken fully seriously by others.

This is a guest post by Shannon Dea, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies in Philosophy, here at UW.

——

For just under a month, women at University of Waterloo have been terrorized by an anonymous propagandist who claims that women’s “defective moral intelligence” poses a serious risk to the planet. Starting on February 7, when student election posters for female candidates were covered by misogynistic flyers, there have been three waves of flyers (two of them attached to eccentric and disturbing email messages) and two Facebook messages disseminated by an author who has variously referred to himself as Lord Irwin, nath007, Feridun Hamdullahpur (University of Waterloo’s president), and Sylvester J. Pussycat. The rustic and syntactically idiosyncratic communications, the most recent of which was emailed to assorted students, staff and faculty members late March 1, have bit by bit advanced the thesis that women should not be educated as highly as men, and that universities should not teach gender equity, because woman’s deceptively weak exterior hides her evil interior. When women are educated and treated as equals, according to the propagandist, they pose a real danger to the planet. The poster girl for this campaign is Marie Curie, who figures prominently in all of the flyers, and is characterized by their author as the “mother of the Nuclear bomb,” as the “evil” woman responsible for the deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as the Eve leading a hapless Adam-Pierre Curie toward the apple of Nuclear weaponry.

Understandably, women at UW are frightened. The day after the first Marie Curie email was sent out, the student government (the Federation of Students) closed the university’s volunteer-run Women’s Centre and LGBT student centre (GLOW), out of concern for volunteers’ safety. And, rightly so. Both centres are obvious targets. And, while the propagandist’s misogynistic ambitions may not extend beyond distributing his paranoid ramblings, no one’s willing to rule out the terrible possibility UW might join the ranks of Polytéchnique Montréal or Virginia Tech.

Well, no one but the University, that is.

Throughout this business, the administration has had remarkably little to say about UW women’s fears that the flyers may be warning signs of a misogynist who poses a real danger to them. At first, the University’s newsletter, the Daily Bulletin, didn’t discuss the flyers, with at least one staffer there dismissing them as a “prank”. Then, when the propagandist sent an email in which he impersonated Hamdullahpur, the Daily Bulletin reprinted an official letter from the president deploring the offensive message conveyed by the flyers and assuring readers that the president wasn’t really the email’s author. Of course, no one had ever taken seriously the idea that Hamdullahpur might really have sent the offending email. This wasn’t the message the university community needed to hear. We needed to hear that senior administrators and campus police were concerned about our safety and knew that the only way to secure it was to devote all of their resources to apprehending “Lord Irwin.” However, in the various official communications since this all began, the university has remained limp.

In a discussion panel concerning the flyer campaign, audience members were disappointed to hear that the UW Police were pursuing the mystery man for charges of impersonation (of the president) and posting prohibited flyers. If they had any leads, they didn’t let on. Of course, I hope that the reason the UW Police are investigating misdemeanour charges against the perpetrator is that they know it’s important to catch him before he hurts someone and these misdemeanour charges are the best mechanism currently available to catch him. That is, I hope that the police are taking the incidents and the investigation more seriously than the charges they’re investigating would, in themselves, warrant. I hope that these charges are to the author of the posters as tax evasion charges were to Al Capone. While I hope all of these things to be true, no communication we’ve yet received from the University has warranted any confidence in these hopes. Instead, we get periodic reassurances that police are taking “appropriate action” and that all members of the UW community have the right to be safe and to feel safe.

Well, sure we do, but what I need right now isn’t a university administrator telling me “I really want you to feel safe.” What I need is a crack team of computer scientists – this is University of Waterloo, after all! – quickly tracing the emails and Facebook messages back to their author before he hurts someone.

Emblematic of administrators’ blindness to women’s fears was Associate Provost Bud Walker’s advice to audience members at the discussion panel that “You probably think everyone here is on our side, but there might be people walking through this room right now who don’t understand that women have a right to equitable treatment.” [Ok. Full disclosure: Walker has never in his life, so far as I know, uttered the sentence “Women have a right to equitable treatment.” But the foregoing is a plausible, if charitable, paraphrase of what he actually did say.] This shows just how wide the gap is between Walker’s experience and that of women at UW. No UW woman ever enters a public space on campus and assumes that everyone there agrees that she has a right to be there, and to be treated as an equal. As one after another audience member revealed in the Q & A following the panel, the climate for UW women is a chilly one at best, and sometimes it gets downright cold.

How cold is it? Well, cold enough that weekly flyers railing against the evil that is woman have become a thing here. And cold enough that, within days of the scariest of these flyers, the following remarks about the matter were posted on Bill’s Portfolio, a blog authored by a self-described UW student: “Yeah, the campus is full of big bad scary monsters…. Now, most UW students that I know are intelligent enough to know that this shit is wrong…. Yes, it is wrong, yes, it is inappropriate, but get a life if you are going to fuss and cry over stupid shit like this. Because if you do, you must be living in a sheltered bubble.”

Now that’s cold.

hiring · sexist fail · skeptical feminist

Attachments: Letters of reference, CV, teaching philosophy…and a headshot

Periodically we’ve been thinking here about appearance in/and The Profession. And today is December 6th, a day that, as Nicole Brossard says elsewhere, is among the centuries. A day that in Canada is for remembering violence against women, remembering women who were killed simply for being women. Violence against women–all women–should be in the forefront of national concern, though as one of our commenters noted, “The most terrible and egregious act of sexism this month was the Harper government’s decision regarding the ‘renewal’ of funding for Sisters in Spirit, a Native Women’s Association of Canada initiative that has documented 582 missing and murdered aboriginal women and is developing policy recommendations on [how to deal with and stop] violence against aboriginal women. In true Harper style, the feds reduced funding by one third for the next five years and made ‘renewal’ subject to the following conditions: that the initiative be called Evidence in Action; that their well recognized Grandmother Moon logo not be used; that they cease doing ‘research’ on the missing and murdered women (to focus on ‘action’); and that they not maintain their database.”

I found myself thinking too about Polytechnique. I was ten years old on 6 December 1989 when a man with a gun walked into Montréal ’s L’École Polytechnique. He entered a classroom, demanded that the men go on one side and the women on the other. He told the men to leave the room, and they went. He called the women “une gang de féminists” and then he shot. Fourteen women were killed. I remember sitting on the living room floor in my parents’ house in Ottawa, reading the newspaper and feeling scared. It was night time; I was at home alone. My parents had just started letting me stay home without a babysitter; I was responsible and I liked having space to myself. But sitting on the living room floor on the new blue carpet I was scared. How far away was Montréal? Was this man really dead? Or had he come to Ottawa? I closed all of the curtains, sat in a corner and read and reread the reports. One of the policemen who came to the school found his daughter murdered. One male student said that when he saw the corpse of a woman in the photocopy room he thought it was a sick practical joke. Since when was a dead woman a joke? The sadistic violence acted out on these women was, I think now, the first time I truly recognized that I was a woman. It was, certainly, the first time I realized that women were sought out as victims based solely on their gender, though I do not imagine I had those words at the time. Alone in my parents’ house that night I just had my fear and a heavy sense of isolation.


With gendered and raced identity at the forefront of my mind, naturally I thought of this discursive space when, while catching up on my blog reading this weekend, I came across an article from the New York Times. Called “Beauty Discrimination During a Job Search” the article considers research from social scientists that suggests looks have something to do with whether or not you get a second interview. Here is a wee excerpt:

How much do looks matter during a job search? A new study suggests that while handsome men do better while looking for work, good looks can end up hurting a woman’s chances of scoring a job interview.
Oy.

The gist of the research is that looking good is fine if you’re a man and bad (read: threatening) if you’re a woman.

After feeling whipsawed by the predictability of this article (and the more predictable commentary) I found myself thinking about how you readers would respond to this article. I also found myself thinking about my students.

I’ve just finished teaching a contemporary critical theory course. We spent the semester thinking about norms: gender, race, class, ethnicity, language, form. In short we engaged in consciousness-raising in a classroom. When these students were faced with a stunningly devastating binary they fought it. Fought to understand it, fought to unpack it, fought to think through alternative ways of being in the world that might upend extant inequities.

Did we get very far? In certain ways, no: we covered a huge amount of material in a semester. They may not all remember the difference of differ
ance, but some of them will. More of them might think about Peggy Phelan‘s work of the politics of visibility or Benedict Anderson‘s imagined communities.

I chose to organize the course in a rhizomatic structure. Modules, if you prefer. I was fascinated to find that when we reached the module on gender and sexuality–and read (among many others)
Rich, Cixous, and Mohanty. The students almost invariably gravitated to/were interested in Mohanty’s article on feminist scholarship and (post-) colonial discourse, while they found both Cixous and Rich prescriptive. Mainly, the concern was that the texts by Rich and Cixous showed their age. They weren’t prepared to say that there was no such thing as gender inequity, but they were resistant to the notion that it was so blatant, boring, and obvious.

So I find myself wondering what they would make of this article which, as it states, is based on social science research (you can link to the scholarly article informing the NYT one here).

And I find myself wondering what to make of it as well. Like my fellow blogger(s), I certainly think about my professor-y appearance. But this seems even more complicated than that. Certainly I’m not in a profession that is in the practice of asking for photographs to accompany applications (yet) but that seems beside the point. What does this say about “progress” for women gendered or made? What does it say about striving for ethnic and racial diversity?

Here’s (a teeny tiny top three list of ) what concerns me:
-what counts at “good looking” seems thinly veiled. This means ‘classic good looks,’ right? Which means heteronormative at the very least. And that, friends, is hugely problematic.
-as one commenter states, it seems that in any version of this scenario women are the most disenfranchised by this trend. This echoes my first concern: Are these women who look like, pass as, or choose to identify as women? Probably the former.
-in an attempt to “eliminate potential racial bias, the judges selected photos of individuals who appear to have a more ambiguous ethnic background.” So if you look too anything you’re out of luck? Wow.

What do you think readers?
sexist fail

This month in sexism: November edition

  • SSHRC’s mat leave policies
  • I’m collaborating with another prof (also female) on an edited collection. One of the contributors (male) continually refers to the two of us as “ladies” in his emails, but to the male contributors as “professor x” or “professor y.” It’s driving me up the wall.
  • From my friend’s teaching evaluations: “She should spend as much time on her lectures as she does on her outfits.”
  • Which is the worse form of sexism?: A female colleague tells the honours seminar, “All men are rational, scientific.” When challenged (by a student, bravo!), she responds, “Yeah? Are men ever called irrational?”
  • After showing a film clip to her class my friend is asked by a student to “complete the lecture in a sexy voice like the woman in the movie.”
  • “Be sure to put on your application that you only took a 6 month maternity leave. That makes you look more serious.”
  • The most terrible and egregious act of sexism this month was the Harper government’s decision regarding the “renewal” of funding for Sisters in Spirit, a Native Women’s Association of Canada initiative that has documented 582 missing and murdered aboriginal women and is developing policy recommendations on violence against aboriginal women. In true Harper style, the feds reduced funding by one third for the next five years and made “renewal” subject to the following conditions: that the initiative be called Evidence in Action and not Sisters in Spirit; that their well recognized Grandmother Moon logo not be used; that they cease doing “research” on the missing and murdered women (to focus on action); and that they not maintain their database.
sexist fail

This month in sexism: October

  • Why, when my male colleague is out of the office, do students expect me to know when he’ll be back? They don’t ask him the same question when I’m away.
  • I’m the only woman at a meeting along with one senior male academic and two junior male academics from the same department. We’re discussing a grant we have recently received. When I make a suggestion, it is ignored. Until the senior male academic says *the same thing* and the junior male academics say gushy things like ‘excellent point — very strategic.’ Now I know what you’re thinking: this is too much of a cliche to have actually happened. But it did…three times in the same meeting!
  • On one of the student evaluations, in response to the question “What aspect of the course and/or the instructor’s teaching did you find the least valuable”: “prof’s loud, shrill voice.”
  • On the weekend, the subject of being a stay at home mother comes up in conversation and this woman says to me – “But if you were a stay at home mother, what kind of role model would you be? I mean, who would your daughter look up to?” Wow.
  • Directly copied and pasted from rateyourprofessor.com: “BEST PROF EVER, AND WHAT GREAT GAMS!!” (and what is even more embarrassing is that I didn’t know what “gams” were until a colleague of mine explained it to me…I naively assumed that it was a comment about my sense of humour in the class)
  • Being referred to as “Miss.” This is a pet peeve of mine, but a default option (at the very least) should be “Ms,” and I’m sick of feeling guilty or elitist if I correct people and say “Dr.”
  • By the end of the first year of a tenure track job I started taking pre-natal vitamins. One clock was ticking louder for me than the other one. When one of my senior (female) colleagues found out she said, “You better not get pregnant. I could be on your tenure and promotion committee, you know. hahahahahahaha.” So not funny then, and it still annoys me. But: I now have a kid, tenure, and promotion. hahahahahahaha.
  • I had a meeting with a senior partner at a law firm to finalize some documents we began drafting in April, when I was a few months pregnant and just starting to show. When I met with him in September, his first words weren’t “Hello, how was your summer” but rather “Wow, you really were pregnant last time I saw you – you look way better now.”
  • I learned that my son’s grade five teacher will insist that we use Miss. Yes, that’s right, Miss. Not Ms. and not Mrs. as she’s single (and, BTW, maybe 25, at the outside). Apparently it matters whether she is married or not. I also learned that this concern is based on MY (said, with capitals, by the accuser, “YOUR”) value system and does not reflect on her teaching skills or style.