Thus Spake Zuska

Gender Equity and the Poor Disadvantaged Men

Young Female Scientist asks her readers to rank their undergraduate and graduate institutions on a scale of 1 to 10, “10 being the most egalitarian and synergistic even with conflicting opinions from strong personality types (probably doesn’t exist), 1 being the most sexist, demeaning, lawsuit-deserving place in the world”. She wants people to name names – not their own, but that of their institutions.

In the four comments she got, nobody named names.

Apparently people – women? – do not feel safe enough to call out their departments and institutions on their sexism. What if someone figures out who they are? What would be the consequences of saying out loud, “I perceive my institutional environment to be sexist”? In theory one ought to be able to make such an observation without negative impact to the self. In practice we know that’s not true. It will be held against you, you will be considered a trouble-maker, you will have self-identified as a WOMAN.

What if your department is high in the rankings? Is that a universal good?

One commenter, who ranked his/her institution as an 8, felt compelled to explain how “all the focus on parity in hiring and special seminars/events, both social and professional, for women faculty and women students can leave the men feeling disadvantaged, actively marginalized, and without access to critical information”.

I am so sure.

Sigh. Everytime the focus of attention shifts in even the slightest manner towards women’s issues, women’s needs, alarmist cries go up about the poor neglected men. The men feel actively marginalized! Oh dear, what shall we do? Because of course, we cannot tolerate for one instant an environment where anyone [meaning a man] feels actively marginalized! Now, when women feel actively marginalized, or claim to feel that way, it’s important to remember that their opinion is biased and they see gender everywhere and that science is a competitive sport. A man who claims to feel actively marginalized should, however, be taken at his word. Surely it’s not the case that he is imagining his sense of exclusion merely because for thirty seconds attention was diverted from Man As Center Of The Known Universe to Something To Do With Women. It must be the case that having one seminar specially designed for women faculty, for example, has cut men out of the information loop altogether.

You see what gender equity means, then. It means hordes of suffering men, bravely keeping a stiff upper lip while the women run roughshod all over them. It’s enough to make one weep.

Comments

  1. #1 Karl
    September 11, 2007

    Geez, where have I heard those cries before. Christians complain that they are being marginalized if we don’t allow them to force everyone to say Christian prayers in school or Municipal buildings or display sectarian Christmas displays on courthouse lawns. Whites complain everytime we pass a law against racial discrimination. Straights complain if we try to give equal rights, not special but equal, to gays. Those poor straight white Christian males are so picked on, it makes me cry.

  2. #2 mrswhatsit
    September 11, 2007

    I saw that post at YFS and thought about it briefly, but couldn’t figure out how I would rank my current and undergrad institutions. Sadly, I’m not sure I know enough about them to give them a well-reasoned ranking. I know I have never felt marginalized as a woman or discriminated against based on my gender by the department or division as a whole. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen (though I have yet to hear about it). Which leaves the actions of individuals and that’s so hard to quantify. Yes, there are sexist remarks. Yes, there are men you couldn’t pay me to interact with. Fortunately, I don’t have to interact with them, but I’m sure other people do. So, how do you translate that into a ranking? And there are so many other things to consider.

    The truth is, I haven’t thought much about gender issues until the last 5 or 6 months.

    At any rate, being an annonymous blogger (which I’m sure you could figure out since I am not likely to really be a fictional character from a book), I wouldn’t feel comfortable naming names.

  3. #3 Grackle
    September 11, 2007

    Two words: data mining.

    Anything to and from your computer over the Internet, or to or from your digital phone or other portable electronic device, is available for data mining — by law.

    Anyone daring to bare her thoughts to the public, even if from behind a posting pseudonym, may later be dropped as a job candidate, have funding withdrawn, or have a promotion denied — all because she let it be known that she thought male supremacy was wrongheaded.

    Or some such equally innocent and lawful act.

    Total Information Awareness will never catch a terrorist because the operatives know better than to use communications that can be monitored: they stick with those which are impossible to monitor.

    TIA is there for no other reason than to purge the government, all its contractors, and everything else it controls of people with the wrong politics.

    “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart it will …” — ah, you know the words.

  4. #4 Gerard Harbison
    September 11, 2007

    Actually, when you’re actively discriminating against men, you’re not making men feel neglected, you’re making them feel discriminated against. Sensible men don’t complain about it, they take legal action. Given the tenuous legal basis for single-sex programs, most universities will back away from them instantly if challenged.

    Women-only events tend to marginalize women, not men, anyway. As Justice Roberts said, if you want to end discrimination, stop discriminating.

  5. #5 Zuska
    September 11, 2007

    I feel mildly ill. Justice Roberts was quoted on my blog…bleah.

    I know this won’t be able to get through to your brain, Gerald, but no one is talking about discriminating against men. Gender equity means taking action to mitigate discrimination against women that is built into the system. It means men have to give up the unfair advantages they’ve come to know and love and think of as their normal birthright, “the way things are”. Not surprisingly, men like you view the giving up of unearned privilege as discrimination. But if you are a fan of Roberts, I’d expect no less.

  6. #6 Zuska
    September 11, 2007

    By the way, Gerald, you may want to read my post on Mosquito Men. There may be something in there that rings a bell.

  7. #7 Lab Cat
    September 11, 2007

    Can you have a whole department full of Professor Trolls?

  8. #8 Lab Cat
    September 11, 2007

    Ok so while my previous comment was meant for a different post – it is still relevant to this post.

    sigh

  9. #9 Gerard Harbison
    September 11, 2007

    No, not really Zuska, But when ad hominems are all you have….

  10. #10 Gerard Harbison
    September 11, 2007

    Oh, by the way, my name is Gerard. I have no idea why you continually mis-spell it.

    The programs I’m referring to are, for example, when faculty candidates are selected on the basis of their sex, and hired without an open search. Or where a search is carried out for a woman faculty member. These practices are common in academia.

  11. #11 Zuska
    September 11, 2007

    Sorry about the name, Gerard. It is annoying when people don’t get your name right. My bad.

    I think you are confusing ad hominem with description of real life experience to which women scientists are frequently subjected. If the description fits…

  12. #12 Bill
    September 12, 2007

    These practices are common in academia.

    In sixteen years in research, and across two universities, two hospitals and two research institutions in two different countries, I’ve never encountered any of the practices you describe. If they were common, I’d have expected to have run across them by now.

  13. #13 Becca
    September 12, 2007

    Well uhmm… my institution would maybe deserve an ok score (somewhere in the neighborhood of slightly above average), for at least trying. They instituted actual rules of how much womens pay needed to be raised, after a study uncovered true disparity.

    This led to a male in our lab feeling “actively marginalized”, me sticking my foot in a horrific political mess by posting an article on gender disparities in pay (I was not aware of the enforced correction in salaries, nor how that affected the individuals in my lab), and a whole big mess. The backlash was sufficient that my own experience in the institution was easily a 1 or 2 at best.

    The whole thing has made me wonder if there is any good way to handle sexism. “Sensitivity training” and other soft measures don’t do any good for the asshats that need it (Mr. “Marginalized” Male bragged about being the only fellow to ever be ordered to *repeat* sensitivity training at his previous institution), and lawsuits have a backlash so strong it’s a political minefield.

  14. #14 Trinifar
    September 13, 2007

    There are more comments now at the post you link to with people naming names.

  15. #15 sex shop
    December 22, 2007

    Anyone daring to bare her thoughts to the public, even if from behind a posting pseudonym, may later be dropped as a job candidate, have funding withdrawn, or have a promotion denied — all because she let it be known that she thought male supremacy was wrongheaded.

    Or some such equally innocent and lawful act.

    Total Information Awareness will never catch a terrorist because the operatives know better than to use communications that can be monitored: they stick with those which are impossible to monitor.

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