AN UNLIKELY ADMIRER – AND ALLY – OF THE GOOD PARLIAMENT: RICHARD LITTLEJOHN

By Sarah Childs

the-good-parliamentI am the unnamed woman he couldn’t ‘make up’; I am the author of The Good Parliament Report; and my name is Sarah Childs. I am Professor of Politics and Gender at the University of Bristol, not ‘gender politics’ as was inaccurately reported, although to be honest I’m happy with that label. You can read the report here.

The Good Parliament makes 43 recommendations that would make the House of Commons a more representative and effective institution. The report addresses equality of participation, parliamentary infrastructure, and parliamentary culture. Predictably he focuses on transgender toilets and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is apparently something women do to ‘show off’ whereas I thought it was about feeding a baby. His criticism goes so far as to suggest a recommendation I’d never thought of – nappy changing in the Commons.

There’s no need for transgender toilets, he says, as there are currently no transgender MPs. Presumably when there are, his opposition will fall away. In the meantime, what about the needs of House employees and visitors? He needn’t be scared. I was only suggesting that there should be some men’s, some women’s, and some unisex toilets – I imagine he prefers that term. And where is his campaign to abolish transgender disabled toilets? I’ve never seen a disabled women’s or a disabled men’s toilet. Maybe he has. Mind you, if you ban assistance dogs on the grounds that other MPs will want their pets in the Chamber too, there won’t be any disabled MPs in the House in any case… so he’ll have solved that one.

No doubt inadvertently, he ends up supporting two of The Good Parliament recommendations: a crèche and maternity leave.

Chloe Smith MP could not, as he suggests, have dropped off her baby at the House of Commons crèche – there is no crèche. There is a Parliamentary nursery. But a nursery does not provide ad hoc care for the late night, or even 7pm, vote. It provides full-time and permanent childcare. A crèche, by the way, would enable not just MPs but visitors and employees to ‘drop’ their kids off for an hour or so. He is, then, a welcome addition to supporters of this recommendation.

Neither does he realise that Chloe Smith could not have been on maternity leave – there is no formal maternity leave for MPs. He also forgets that in these days it is maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption leave. As elected officials MPs are not covered by legislation. They must individually negotiate with their parties. MPs will likely be granted leave, but they can and will be asked back for votes – just like the ill and dying. Has he not seen ‘This House’? And sometimes, as he acknowledges, MPs will want to come to the House to vote.

Maybe he will support one of the solutions suggested in The Good Parliament: MPs on maternity leave could vote remotely, or have a proxy vote. Does he not realise just how radical he might become if he follows the logic of his argument? Or is it that he wants to make the motherhood gap in the UK Parliament worse than it already is? Why, he asks, couldn’t the grandmother (he seemingly forgets about grandfathers) or the nanny have looked after the baby. That’s right: MPs all have their mothers just around the corner or are rich enough to have a nanny. Maybe it is mothers as well as the disabled that he’d like to see gone from our Parliament. Is that what he means by preferring an ‘antiquated’ Parliament?

Finally, I wonder why he didn’t name me. Last time I was in the Mail I received a very nice pink present – a ‘Guerrilla Girls’ tea towel from the Baltic Mill art gallery. The card was signed ‘Mathew’ – do you think it might have been him?

Posted in Blogs & Commentary, Gender and Politics in the media, News Items | 2 Comments

Diversity, Inclusion, and Doctoral Study: Challenges Facing Minority PhD students in the United Kingdom

By Kate Mattocks (Liverpool Hope University) & Shardia Briscoe-Palmer (University of Birmingham)


“I would like to stay in academia; however the future is very bleak for black female academics within political science. I would have to break that glass ceiling which will be another hard struggle on top of all the other struggles I face. However I would like to be able to path a way for those undergraduates behind me who also have the same aspirations as myself but see no-one like them standing in the distance”
(survey respondent, disabled BME woman).

mattocks-shardiaIssues of underrepresentation and discrimination in the discipline of political studies are ‘both urgent and longstanding’ (Mershon and Walsh, 2015: 441). Inspired by our own experiences as PhD researchers and motivated as well by the relative absence of literature on the academic labour of those at the start of their career, last year we undertook a small project – now published in European Political Science – on how individuals from three minority groups – women, black and ethnic minorities (BME), and individuals living with a disability – experienced the process of studying for a PhD. Our aim was to put these groups where they rarely sit: at the forefront.

We used a mixed methods approach, distributing an online survey to 23 politics departments across the UK, as well as a small number of semi-structured interviews. Our results are not to be taken as a generalisation of all minority PhD researchers studying politics in the UK, but rather a representation of challenges experienced by those that took part in the study. Based on the responses, we grouped findings into seven themes: institutional support, finances and funding, confidence and self-esteem, external responsibilities (such as caring), health and well-being, future professional life; and isolation, exclusion, and disadvantage.

Both the minority and non-minority groups shared concerns about finances, health (although those who identified as having a disability reported this to be a bigger concern), worry over finding a job post-PhD, and self-esteem and confidence. What we were particularly interested in is where we found differences between the groups – there were certain challenges that were more pronounced within the three categories of minorities. This is where our results can be useful not only as the basis for future research but also practically when considering concrete changes that could be made within institutions.

The first striking result is that the non-minority group were much more likely to want to pursue an academic career once they had finished their PhD. This finding requires some deeper digging in the form of more research across a larger sample size. Does it mean that the non-minority group feel they are better able to cope with the pressures of academia? Research by Bhopal (2014), for example, discusses institutional racism in higher education and that BME academics are less likely than their white counterparts to have access to powerful ‘insider’ networks, which creates very real challenges of belonging.

Secondly, BME respondents were more likely to report that caring responsibilities were a concern, though worry about this issue increased for all groups when asked to compare concerns before and after studies commenced. Again, further research needs to be conducted to determine whether this is statistically relevant among a larger sample size and to further illuminate the socio-cultural dynamics of this category of researchers. More generally, the time that most people are completing a PhD is also often the period of life when they are thinking of starting a family. Because we know that there is a drop-off for BMEs into postgraduate study (Equality Challenge Unit, 2015) and in progression once in an academic role (Bhopal et al., 2016), the academy as a whole needs to examine much more carefully how early career researchers are supported alongside parallel life circumstances such as caring responsibilities and family life.

Thirdly, those in our minority groups were more likely to say that they had experienced isolation and exclusion. Perceptions of disadvantage varied considerably — no one in the non-minority group indicated that they had experienced disadvantage, a result that speaks for itself. Similarly, no non-minority respondents felt a lack of institutional support during their studies, in comparison with both the women and BME minority groups. Interestingly, disabled respondents did not report such a perception, which could be an indication, we feel, of the disabled student allowance.

What does this mean for the PhD experience? The challenges that were highlighted in our research are heightened by the structural inequalities and marginalisation experienced by minorities (Crenshaw, 1991; Beckwith, 2015; Gill and Donaghue, 2016). As Oman et al. (2015: n.p.) argue, ‘getting “in” and getting “on” in Higher Education (HE) are two issues that are often conflated in ways that ignore what it might mean to “get by” in an institution.’ Our findings indicate that the discrimination and challenges that these groups face are not always overt or in the open, although they can be. Much of it is hidden and indirect.

 We do not want to give the impression that these challenges only exist in the discipline of politics, nor only in the UK. Our research shows that much more work needs to be done to investigate these groups in more detail as well as understand the nuances and differences between them. It also demonstrates the need for better data as well as future work targeting a greater sample size looking at broader conceptualisations of diversity, including factors such as age, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, religion, mode of study, topic of study, as well as an international researcher perspective.

Politics departments to take a look at how people from minority backgrounds – and here we do include women, making up only roughly 30% of the discipline in the UK (Bates, Jenkins, and Pflaeger, 2012) – could be experiencing the types of challenges we have highlighted. Ultimately, we are of the belief that institutionalised support measures should be put in place to help minorities inclusively progress in the discipline. In order to diversify the makeup of the discipline to include difference, attention needs to be paid to the recruitment and progression of postgraduates and thinking in general needs to be more bottom-up approach than top-down. The future viability and relevance of the discipline depends on it.

Please see the full paper associated with this post here [http://link.springer.com/journal/41304/15/4/page/1] in vol. 15, issue 4 of European Political Science.

 

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Call for Papers: Women in Society Conference

Women in Society from Historical Perspective: The Origins and Developments of Women’s Political, Social and Economic Engagement 

Mini Conference prior to Annual Meeting of Council of European Studies

University of Glasgow

July 11, 2017

A one-day conference for scholars with projects focused on women in society from a historical perspective. The conference welcomes submissions from scholars from a range of disciplines conducting research at the cross-section of gender, politics, history, sociology, and economics in Europe. Submissions are encouraged for works that employ quantitative or qualitative methodology.

The event will be held at the University of Glasgow on the 11th of July, the day before the annual meeting of the Council of European Studies in Glasgow 12-14 July 2017.

An all-day workshop featuring scholars from varied discipline with shared substantive interests will facilitate in-depth feedback for article and book-length projects.

Conference participants will further engage with one-another through casual conversation over lunch and dinner! The conference is graciously supported with a CES Small Events Grant.

To submit a proposal, send a paper title and abstract to Carissa Tudor at ctudor@princeton.edu by March 15, 2017. Decisions will be distributed in April.

Please contact Mona Morgan-Collins (mmcollins@sas.upenn.edu) or Carissa Tudor (ctudor@princeton.edu) with any questions.

 

Posted in Call for Papers, Events | 2 Comments

Demystifying and Navigating Early Career Academia

The PSA Early Career Network is holding a day’s conference in Manchester on Demystifying and Navigating Early Career Academia. It is a day of workshops and panels aimed at lifting the lid on academic processes – including advice on CVs and interviews, REF and TEF, and impact. Central to all sessions will be an attention to issues of equality and diversity and how to make academia more inclusive, including a panel on diversity in early academia. 
 
It is a free event and travel bursaries will be available for those who need them. More details and registration can be found here:
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Dysfunctional democracy and the fall of liberal values

PSA Women and Politics member Manjeet Ramgotra (SOAS) explores why the outcomes of the UK referendum and US elections were so close and the implications of this for democracy and liberal values.

The year 2016 has changed the political landscapes of Europe and the United States of America.  The United Kingdom rejected its longstanding membership in the European Union and Americans elected an inexperienced ruler.  The presidential election was determined by the electoral colleges’ proportional vote; however, the popular vote gave Hillary Clinton a slight majority.  Why did these votes approximate a near 50-50 division?  And what does this mean for democratic procedures?

In short, racial, gender, economic and social inequalities are key reasons for the results of these two votes.  We tend to associate racist and sexist attitudes with uneducated, low-income working class people; yet middle class educated ‘white’ male and female Americans along with some Asians and ethnic minorities voted for Trump and some educated well-off British people of all ethnicities voted to leave Europe.  Many find it difficult to fathom and resolve that these attitudes are not only those of uneducated low-income classes, but that they are prevalent amongst the educated middle classes.

As women and people of colour have become more educated, their positions in society have improved; nevertheless, there has been backlash from those who normally occupy this ground.  Opposition to affirmative action programmes, a sense of entitlement and the view that women and people of colour do not hold as much authority as white men underpin disgruntled attitudes to racial and gender equality.  These changing norms that promote equality were established only after much resistance and struggle.  Yet they have not been fully accepted and remain controversial.

The near equal split in how people voted reflects division and tension not only within classes, but also between low-income working and middle classes.  There has been much frustration amongst the middle classes with growing costs of living and static incomes resulting in a decrease in overall household income, while there has been a significant increase in the incomes of the highest earning segments of British and American populations.  Middle-class positions have not improved, but have moved downwards.  Moreover, their incomes finance public services and deficits. Trump’s promise to cut taxes and the idea that money spent on EU membership would be redirected towards much neglected public services translate into an alleviation of middle-class tax burden. Although lower taxes benefit middle-income classes who can no longer afford to fund public services, these policies disadvantage low-income classes.  Working and low-income classes have borne the burdens of austerity, of massive cuts to benefits systems that used to allow people to live with adequate resources for food, housing and clothing.  These cuts were justified through government and media campaigns that promoted the idea that many people on benefits are undeserving, lazy or cheats.  However, austerity has made the most vulnerable worse off.  For both middle and working classes, low wages coupled with job insecurity have diminished future prospects and stability.  These classes are played off one another whilst those in the top 1% income brackets maintain their standing, privileges and wealth.

In both the US and UK, the political elites are increasingly accountable to the rich few who finance political parties and elections.  Alignment between business and political elites disempowers the ‘people’ and places the voice of the electorate at a lower level of priority, unless needed to legitimate public policy.  Political rulers are perceived as detached from their electorates, removed from everyday lives of ordinary people.  There are some exceptions, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon who talk back to power. Although Trump promises to restore the position of the ordinary guy and Brexit presents an opportunity to regain control over decisions made in distant legislatures and global corporate offices, the situations of middle- and low-income classes will not change significantly.  In all likelihood, they will get worse off.  Frustration as well as potential friction between these social classes will continue, while those at the top prosper and rule and the climate gets precariously warmer, wars rage on, destitute migrants and refugees are denied dignity and compassion.

Trump and Brexit are the results of a dysfunctional system in which the choice between either maintaining structures or radical change does not present any real solution.  These outcomes represent our ambivalence and uncertainty about how to reform political and economic structures to create an economy not based on material gain and exploitation (of people and the environment), but one that might promote equality and a decent life.

The very close vote in the UK and the differing outcomes of the majority and proportional votes in the presidential elections strike the heart of democratic methods.  Democracy is a procedure for making decisions and determining who should rule.  In order for decisions to be considered legitimate, we require consensus on these ground rules. Frequently, majority voting is considered a fair way to decide.  However the problem with majority voting is that the decision can be unsound and it binds those who voted against it.  The voice of the minority gets neglected, even suppressed by the tyranny of the majority. Proportional voting is meant to overcome these defects, to produce fair outcomes that do not ignore minority wishes.  In the US, however, the proportional vote opposed the majority vote.  In the UK and US, many do not readily accept these close results, which they contest and resist.

Even though in Britain the people have decided and have expressed their will, the referendum did not obtain a sufficient majority to fully legitimate such fundamental change.  There is a substantial minority who do not agree that leaving Europe is in Britain’s best interests.  These people are worried and frustrated that their voice does not count for much.  There is a deep rift between the two halves of the electorate.  The British have little idea on what exactly leaving the EU means and even less on how to reconstruct the British state especially as parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law are put into question.  The High Court decision that the referendum was advisory, not binding and requires an act of parliament to legitimise it has resulted in a debate as to who has sovereignty, the bare majority of the people or parliament.  The very concept and unity of the United Kingdom has been called into question.  Scotland may secede and the UK-Irish border may again become contentious.

In the US, the proportional vote through electoral colleges has carried the day, but there remains much discontent amongst the majority population who did not vote for a leader who flaunted his authoritarian understanding of power during the electoral campaign.  The two voting procedures do not reinforce each other but clash.  Americans risk losing the values of equal respect, freedom and toleration that they fought to obtain and on which their liberalism is constructed.  Gender, racial, economic and social inequalities are exacerbated and potentially volatile, especially under a new ruler whose public statements inflame these.

The dysfunction of our democratic structures has come to the fore in these awkward referendum and election results.  We no longer agree on the foundations on which democracy is built.  We are debating the ground rules, the procedures according to which we as a people make decisions and elect rulers.  Our consensus on these rules that legitimate our political structures and institutions is crumbling.  Many are afraid for we risk losing our democratic system and liberal values.

Manjeet Ramgotra is Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS.

Posted in Gender and Politics in the media | 1 Comment

Who’s Afraid of Identity Politics?

PSA Women and Politics member Jonathan Dean (University of Leeds) assesses the problematic messages behind – and alarming consequences of – recent debates over ‘identity politics’[i]

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Amidst the recriminations and collective shock in the face of Trump’s victory (and the myriad other reverses suffered by progressives in 2016), a consensus is emerging: the weakness of the left is attributable to its embrace of “identity politics”. Rather than focussing on the interests and priorities of the majority, the story goes, the left has for too long embraced a simplistic and sectional politics in which the interests of racial and sexual minorities have taken centre stage, at the expense popularity and electability.

A recent outburst from the perhaps unlikely figure of Stephen Kinnock typifies this narrative. “What we need to see in the progressive Left”, argued Kinnock, “is an end to this identity politics”. In its place “we need to be talking far more about commonality rather than what differentiates from each other – let’s talk about what unites us.” Similar pronouncements have recently been made by Bernie Sanders, as well as a number of left-liberal commentators on both sides of the Atlantic. However, this unease about so-called “identity politics” has been a longstanding feature of left commentary and scholarship. In 1996 the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm lamented the corrosive effects of identity politics within the left,[ii] while more recently, a number of prominent radical left theorists – Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou and Jodi Dean, among others – cheered the resurgence of discussion of the idea of communism in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, in part because, for them, it marked the end of a divisive, deradicalised left in thrall to identity politics. This disdain for identity politics is not isolated to a few individuals: it is a widespread sensibility expressed by Marxists and left-liberals alike (indeed, there is probably not much else that Kinnock and Žižek would agree on).

But what, precisely, is this “identity politics” that inspires such animosity? At a basic level, “identity politics” refers to any politics that seeks to represent and/or advance the claims of a particular social group. But in the narratives outlined above, it has a more specific meaning: in left circles, “identity politics” is, as Nancy Fraser pointed out back in 1998, used largely as a derogatory term for feminism, anti-racism and anti-heterosexism. The implication was – and very often still is – that gender, race and sexuality are identity-based in the sense that they are seen as flimsy, superficial and, to use Judith Butler’s memorable phrase, ‘merely cultural’. This, of course, is to be contrasted with its constitutive outside, class. Class relations, in the eyes of the identity politics critic, exhibit a depth, profundity and materiality that ‘mere identity’ lacks. Furthermore, the alleged universalism of class is contrasted with the narrow, sectional concerns characteristic of so-called identity politics.

But what, precisely, is wrong with this framing of the problem? For one, the implied distinction between “identity” (read: narrow, shallow, self-interested) and “class” politics (read: broad, deep, universal, authentic) misconstrues the character of these different strands of progressive politics, in at least three ways. First, all forms of politics arguably involve some kind of appeal an identity, insofar as, to use the language of political theorist Michael Saward, they entail claims to speak for a politically salient constituency (and thus an “identity” of sorts). This applies as much to “class” as any other dimension of power and identity. Indeed, as Gurminder Bhambra has argued in a recent piece for The Sociological Review, these appeals to “class” are quintessential identity politics: they appeal to an identity category – the (presumed white) working class – whose interests have been shamefully neglected by elitist, out of touch leftists and liberals. The question is not, therefore, universalism or identitarianism, but whether or not we acknowledge the “identitarian” character of our political claims. Something akin to this is eloquently described by James Clifford in a 1999 essay entitled ‘Taking Identity Politics Seriously’, where he argues that ‘opposition to the special claims of racial or ethnic minorities often masks another, unmarked ‘identity politics’, an actively sustained historical positioning and possessive investment in Whiteness’.[iv]

Second, few contemporary feminists or anti-racists would adopt the “identitarian” view that one’s identity necessarily gives rise to specific forms of politics. Indeed, the recent history of feminism, queer politics and anti-racism is precisely one of problematising identity by analysing and challenging the various ways in which heteronormativity, capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy shape identity-formation (recent work by Jasbir Puar, Sam Chambers, Imogen Tyler, Patricia Hill Collins and Alison Phipps spring to mind as exemplars). Ironically, Marxism arguably comes closer to the popular stereotype of reductive identity politics, insofar as it holds that one’s position within capitalist relations of production – and the forms of consciousness and identity this gives rise to – conditions one’s political interests.

Third, a frankly bewildering inference made by Kinnock, Žižek et al is that the left in its various guises has spent its time of late doggedly pursuing the interests of women, sexual minorities and racial minorities. The reality, however, is that left-wing movements and political parties in the UK and US have an at best patchy track records on race, gender and sexuality, as recent scholarship by the likes of Janet Conway, Julia Downes, Lara Coleman and Abigail Bakan make clear. All the way from the moderate liberal left to the radical Marxist left, race, gender and sexuality continue to be cast as minority concerns at best, and “bourgeois distractions” at worst, while sexism and misogyny (including, but not limited to, the sexual abuse of women comrades) remain depressingly prevalent across a variety of left spaces.[v]

Consequently, left-wing denunciations of identity politics yield a number of alarming consequences: they naturalise gendered and racialised hierarchies by casting white, male class politics as universal. Such a narrative is therefore not only powerless to challenge, but actively complicit in, the re-energised white supremacism which, as Akwugo Emejulu has recently outlined,[vi] has been fundamental to the context of Trump’s victory. What is more, to pit class politics against identity politics casts women, racial minorities and sexual minorities as outside the boundaries of true, authentic “working classness”. As such, the political claims of working class ethnic minorities, queers and women increasingly go unheard. This is exacerbated by the continued use of “left behind” as euphemism for “white working class”, with its inference that white poverty is unnatural, exceptional, worthy of our attention, while black poverty is either invisible or simply part of the natural order of things. Who is seen to “count” as authentically working class has thus become a key terrain of struggle in the era of Trump and Brexit.

Let us, therefore, not be under any illusions about how these dismissals of “identity politics” function: they are, in effect, a kind of dog whistle to those on the left who might, for instance, agree that black lives matter, but ultimately believe that when push comes to shove it is the (white male) working class that matters more. As others have pointed out,[vii] this is tantamount to being called upon to sacrifice a range of constituencies – women, racial minorities, queers, immigrants (and at times perhaps also trans people, non-binary and gender non-conforming folk, sex workers) – on the altar of political expediency. Putting aside any doubts as to whether this would actually work in terms of galvanising electoral support, this is clearly a morally bankrupt form of politics.

On a (slightly) more positive note, I am clearly not the only one to find class for a “return to class” alarming: indeed, since I started writing this piece a number of comment pieces have appeared online advancing a similar argument[viii] I would also concede that the challenges facing those committed to a progressive politics are deep and complicated, and I do not for a second claim to have solution. But any solution that insists we forget, minimise or ignore the disadvantage of those who are not white and male is not one I want to sign up to.

Jonathan Dean is Lecturer in Politics in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds.

[i] See http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/labour-must-stop-being-obsessed-with-diversity-says-stephen-kinnock_uk_58342344e4b09025ba335e02. Accessed 25/11/06.

[ii] Hobsbawm, E. (1996) ‘Identity politics and the Left’. New Left Review 217: 38–47.

[iii] See https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/blog/class-analysis-in-the-age-of-trump-and-brexit-the-pernicious-new-politics-of-identity.html. Accessed 25/11/16.

[iv] See Clifford, J. (1999) ‘Taking Identity Politics Seriously: The Contradictory, Stony Ground’. In: P. Gilroy, L. Grossberg and A. McRobbie (eds.) Without Guarantees: Essays in Honour of Stuart Hall. London: Verso.

[v] See, for example, this piece by Julia Downes on sexual violence in activist communities: https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/julia-downes/salvaging-listening-to-sexual-violence-survivors-in-uk-activist-communit. Accessed 25/11/16.

[vi] See, for example, http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2934-the-centre-of-a-whirlwind-watching-whiteness-work and http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2733-on-the-hideous-whiteness-of-brexit-let-us-be-honest-about-our-past-and-our-present-if-we-truly-seek-to-dismantle-white-supremacy. Accessed 25/11/16.

[vii] See, for example, this twitter thread from @BreeNewsome: https://twitter.com/BreeNewsome/status/800725481775661056, or this article by Paul Mason: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/globalisation-dead-white-supremacy-trump-neoliberal. Both accessed 25/11/16.

[viii] Maya Goodfellow’s recent piece for The Staggers blog is particularly worth a read. See http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/11/white-working-class-another-form-identity-politics. Accessed 28/11/16.

[i] A number of the arguments contained here are articulated in more depth in Dean, J. (2015). ‘Radicalism Restored? Communism and the end of Left Melancholia’. Contemporary Political Theory 14(3): 234-255.

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Posted in Blogs & Commentary, Gender and Politics in the media | 1 Comment

Won’t Someone Think of the Men? A Reply to Jack Grove and the Times Higher Education

Dear Jack (can we call you Jack?),

Thanks so much for your unsupported musings article on the ridiculously wittily phrased ‘anti-bloke bias’ in academia. It is always rage-inducing refreshing to see a bloke mansplain explain privilege to wimmin.

Let’s start with the opening, Jack (can we call you Jack?)

To even ask the question risks raising the hackles of many who still see sexism as a huge problem faced by women in the academy…

Problematic canine metaphors aside (bitches, anyone?), consider our hackles raised, Jack.

Other, less woke, wimmin than ourselves might dismiss this opening claim, but once we saw the quality of your data, it gave us ‘paws’ for thought. We’d never thought about the silencing of men’s voices in academia. Consider, for example, the one (that’s right – one) ‘bloke’ that makes up your article’s empirical foundation, pulled with little contextual explanation from a wider study that’s actually looking at support for BME academics.

“Departments have some kind of fear of some men – that’s why I have been held back,” said the academic, quoted anonymously in the study.

This is groundbreaking investigative journalism, Jack (can we call you Jack?) – a much-needed and welcome corrective to the overwhelming evidence of established bias against women in academia (like, we don’t know, maybe all the stuff on women’s continuing under-representation in academic posts – especially women of colour, or journal citation bias, or gender bias in teaching evaluations – well-established patterns that you’ve actually written about).

As political scientists, we’re always interested in new and exciting methodologies – so we’ve replicated your approach of acquiring a single data point by engaging one woman in a ‘hushed conversation’ in a corridor (we can’t reveal any further information for ethical reasons, bound as we are to the standards of our field).

Turns out, we’ve all worked with that guy (or someone like him). We’ve seen with our own eyes former male colleagues fighting back against their own marginalization through brave acts of resistance – drawing penis pics on staff meeting agendas, groping or propositioning younger female colleagues (shout out to the woke dude who sent one of us a text from the audience at the PSA Conference last year while we were on a panel asking us for sex), or publicly expressing that women taking maternity leave were ‘entitled’ and unproductive. For those men that don’t have the political capital to take a direct stand, more indirect forms of resistance are available to you – through who you cite, who you hire, who you promote, and who you give administrative responsibilities to.

Fight the power, dudes, fight the power.

Yours in privilege,

Meryl Kenny & Elizabeth Evans

Posted in Blogs & Commentary, Gender and Politics in the media | 5 Comments