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Clay Shirky + Status Quo + Patriarchy

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Clay Shirky needs to drop the status quo and subvert the dominant paradigm

A rant about Clay Shirky…well, not really a rant since I am not much of a ranter…a rebuttal perhaps?

When a member of a dominant group, in this case, a highly educated white guy, writes a “rant” on the reasons why a traditionally marginalized group (women) is not matching the status quo set forth by the dominant group, I take umbrage. Seemingly bereft of a critical awareness of systems of oppression, and the power structures that maintain privilege and patriarchy, Clay Shirky used his virtual pulpit to perpetuate status quo addled thinking.

Shirky argues that women should stop caring, be more arrogant, and act more like men do when it comes to securing career “opportunities.” Women are framed as being less skilled in the art of being jerks than men. Being a jerk, according to Shirky’s bizarro world view, is a good thing. In other words, women should be arrogant jerks in order to succeed. How twisted is that? What about changing systems so that no one has to be a jerk in order to succeed? Why settle for the current state of affairs? Mr. Shirky’s argument only thrives if we believe that things cannot be changed. The system, and the “rules” that currently govern it, need to be rewritten.

Shirky attempts to draw parallels to the movement amongst men to be more like women. According to Shirky, we “encourage men to be better listeners and more sensitive partners, to take more account of others’ feelings and to let out our own feelings more.” So according to Shirky, being an arrogant jerk holds the same value as listening, sensitivity and empathy. I disagree. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Adopting traditional patriarchal values (being aggressive / a “jerk”), from which sexism flows out of, is no where near the same as values (listening, sensitivity, empathy) that are about creating goodwill / creating community.

What if being a better listener, being more sensitive, and being empathetic were grounds for career success / opportunities?

Photo by Duncan

Written by Eric Stoller

May 19th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Furloughs and Privilege

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Furlough days at Oregon State University plus privilege by Robert P Garrett

It was almost two weeks ago when the Oregon State University faculty senate voted for furloughs for all faculty (grant-supported salary is exempt) in 2010. It should be noted that the Oregon State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors “came out in support of furloughs provided that a number of important principles be included in the resolution.” I agree with the OSU AAUP’s suggestions. The top income tiers for furloughs need to be modified so that people who make more than $14,000 per month take more furlough days. If you make $168,000 pre-tax, I think you can handle a bit more of a cut. If you can’t make ends meet, then perhaps you should hire me to manage your finances.

Speaking of privilege…OSU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Robert P. Garrett, decided that the best way to address the furlough situation was to attack Oregon State’s multicultural support programs via a letter in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. According to “Bobby,” OSU’s programs that support underrepresented and/or historically marginalized groups represent a redundant financial burden on our predominantly white campus. In summary, a white male professor on a mostly white campus says that there are just too many campus groups that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks. I wonder how many groups/organizations/offices at OSU are made up of a majority of straight white men. Anecdotally, I would offer that there are a lot…more in fact, than the “redundant” orgs of which Robert writes.

Here are few of the choicest bits from Robert P. Garrett’s letter with a few added thoughts from yours truly:

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Women’s College Basketball & ESPN

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ESPN Womens Basketball Mens Basketball Sexism Gender

If you hover over the “All Sports” link on ESPN and click the “College Basketball” link, you are taken to ESPN’s coverage of Men’s College Basketball.

The link to “Women’s Basketball” takes you to ESPN’s coverage of Women’s College Basketball.

ESPN is placing one gender (Men) over another (Women) by placing Men’s Basketball as the normative or neutral “College Basketball”. It’s a not so subtle difference…

Google engages in this gender-preferential activity too…a search for “Texas basketball“* lists the most recent score for the men’s Texas Longhorns basketball team. You have to search for “Women’s Texas basketball” to get information on the women’s team.

Title IX may have increased funding and the number of teams in women’s collegiate athletics. However, the above examples illustrate that men’s collegiate sports are still quite overtly at the “center” of mainstream media. “Women’s basketball” is seen as outside the norm and “basketball” as the domain of men.

It’s also important to note that gender, a fluid social construct, as Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf write, needs to be discussed at great length in the context of all sports.

*Please note that this is in no way limited to searches for Texas..unfortunately, this seems widespread for Google search queries.

Written by Eric Stoller

November 29th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Neutral Man’s Burden – Colbert on White Privilege

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Stephen Colbert on white privilege.
“In America, white is neutral.” Colbert describes white privilege via scathing satire. Brilliant.

Written by Eric Stoller

July 18th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

More on meritocracy myth

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The meritocracy myth is a lie. It is perpetuated and propagandized. It exists to buttress the status quo and maintain systems of power and privilege.

The Horatio Alger myth, so inspirational during periods of growth, may work against people during contractions. Its message of can-do individualism urges us to beat the odds, but it cuts us no slack when the odds grow terribly long. The impotent struggle to prevail against conditions that won’t yield can prove the unmaking of self-made men, and perhaps turn them into madmen now and then. For true believers in the gospel of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, the notion that bootstraps sometimes snap — and occasionally in great numbers, simultaneously — is destabilizing and bewildering. To accept that this notion is true may suggest that you have been lied to about how the system works, provoking resentment. To deny this truth may convince you that the defect lies in yourself, provoking despair

via Racialicious, via the NY Times

Written by Eric Stoller

May 24th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Jay Smooth: Miss California & opposite marriage

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via ill Doctrine

Jay analyzes the inherent patriarchal oppression present in beauty pageants, Renaissance Fairs, Miss California and “opposite marriage,” heteronormative nomenclature, time machines, teleportation, and flux capacitors. Excellent.

Written by Eric Stoller

May 24th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Girls Doodle & Boys Doodle

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Boys Doodle / Girls Doodle

Recently, while perusing the book shelves at a local bookstore, I noticed the following 2 books: The Boys’ Doodle Book and The Girls’ Doodle Book. The books were featured next to each other in seemingly a made-for-Sociological-Images set up.

The Boys’ Doodle Book features the following images on its cover: triceratops, ogre, tiger, superman, rocket, skull & crossbones, octopus, boy w/slingshot, mouse, train, kite, dragon, knight, shark, excavator, dog and a cowboy.

The Girls’ Doodle Book in comparison has a different cover color and a variety of differing images than the Boys cover including: crown, pony, castle, sun, microphone, ice cream cone, frog/prince, purse/bag, rabbit, cupcake, starfish, unicorn, fish, cat, toothpaste, dragon, ballerina and a mermaid.

I’m surprised that the Girls’ Doodle Book didn’t have a pink colored cover given the overall stereotypical and gendered nature of the doodles on the cover. Boys like fire, machines, spikes and death, while Girls like food, animals typically associated with non-violence, dancing/arts and hygiene. I’m not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with any of the doodles. What I am saying is that gender-based stereotypes are being perpetuated in overt contrast with these two books.

If you switch the doodles on each book over to the other I wonder if they would still sell?

Written by Eric Stoller

May 20th, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Sports Fans and Bigoted Attitudes

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via Inside Higher Education: “Research links identification with college football and basketball teams and higher levels of homophobia and sexism.”

Higher education has an image of being among the more tolerant and progressive parts of American society with regard to gender and sexual orientation. Colleges pledge to combat sexism and homophobia — and take pride in a variety of polices and programs that reflect this commitment.

Big-time athletics may be a little different. Even on campuses with large gay student groups, for example, openly gay male athletes are a rarity — and pretty much unheard of in football and basketball. Fans at universities that take pride in their inclusive campus environments think little of taunting Duke University basketball players with anti-gay slurs. At the University of Virginia, students debate why many of them feel obliged to assert their heterosexuality with a cheer at a key point when the song that follows Cavalier touchdowns makes a reference to “gay” (not in the sexual orientation way).

Research presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests a possible reason: College students who are serious about their identification with their institution’s football and men’s basketball teams are more likely than other students to have homophobic and sexist attitudes.

Here’s the abstract from the AERA Annual Meeting presentation:

College athletics, particularly football and men’s basketball, plays a large role in the experiences of students and the cultures of many institutions. A long line of research and theory suggests that athletics is the domain of hypermasculinity, sexism, and homophobia, and this study examines how those values manifest themselves in fans of college athletics. From a sample of 454 college students, identification with the athletic teams at their institutions predicted higher levels of both sexism and homophobia in the students. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.

Written by Eric Stoller

April 19th, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Space Race Matters

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NASA Astronauts

One of the bitter ironies anti-racists face when working to end white-supremacist thinking and action is that the folks who most perpetuate it are the individuals who are usually the least willing to acknowledge that race matters. (bell hooks, Teaching Community, 2003, p. 28)

You may be wondering what 7 astronauts have to do with a quote about anti-racism work from bell hooks. I too would be curious. Well, let me attempt to fill in several bits of context and hopefully you’re wonder will be satiated.

Last week, while checking out a NASA-related post from one of my favorite blogs, the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture Blog,” I happened to observe that none of the 7 astronauts for NASA’s latest space shuttle mission were people of color.

There were already 15 comments on the post. Most of the comments praised the ingenuity of NASA or extolled the fantastically big pictures on the post/site. I decided to post a seemingly innocent question regarding the racial makeup of the 7 astronauts in picture #23:

The pool of astronauts isn’t the most diverse is it?
7 white people. 6 guys and only 1 woman. Where are the astronauts of color??? ~Eric Stoller

I had no idea that my comment would generate a shower of racist rhetoric and inflammatory comments.

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“Guys” is not gender neutral

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via Professor, What If…?

What if I could overcome my gut-wrenching hatred for the phrase ‘you guys’?

Well, it would certainly make my life a lot easier because I hear this phrase multiple times a day. I wish I could accept being referred to in terms that insinuate the whole population is male or that male terms are ‘neutral,’ but I can’t. When I hear ‘you guys,’ I don’t feel like whoever is saying/writing this is talking to me because I am not an f***ing guy!

Reminds me of my post on how “guys” was used in an email to advertise a web development job. “Guys” is not gender neutral.

Written by Eric Stoller

August 24th, 2008 at 1:09 pm