Friday, February 18, 2011

The Gender of Research

Pseudo-feminist blogs never cease to amaze. Today I discovered that some people see the division between teaching and research in academia as gendered. Teaching is considered by these weird individuals to be somehow more female, while research is more male. See the following quote from an otherwise interesting blog:
One reason institutionalized sexism still haunts us all is the gendering of teaching as female and research as male.  This may be what’s inhibiting our conversations along the lines TR suggests, either because 1) we may discover that we don’t in fact hold men and women faculty to the same standard when it comes to their teaching, or 2) we may find that we’re all resistant to conversations about how research supports and enhances teaching because that might diminish its prestige. Why as TR writes “after all these years” don’t we talk more about how scholarship and teaching enhance each other and can be used productively to build effective applications for tenure?  Do we perceive research as the most prestigious of our activities because it’s effectively gendered male, and are we all–women and men alike–reluctant to compromise its value by introducing girly values like good teaching into our conversations about research? 
This is the first time in my life I see anybody refer to teaching as "girly." I love teaching and I believe I'm really good at it. However, research has always been and will always be my main priority. Every university where I have worked has encouraged my interest in research very enthusiastically. Nobody ever suggested that I should go easier on research because I'm female. Nobody ever suggested that research is "effectively gendered male," whatever that means. (May I suggest that the blog's author might not be publishing as much as she would like to not because of anybody's sexism but rather because she comes up with this kind of verbal monstrosities that make no sense whatsoever?)

It is only in the eyes of some pseudo-feminists one's active research agenda makes one less "girly", while one's dedication to teaching makes one more so.

P.S. I was just kicked out of that discussion because I was suspected of being male. :-) :-) I guess, my writing isn't "girly" enough to let me "pass" for a woman. Even though I'm a woman.

23 comments:

Patrick said...

I think there may be something here about the field of research. Would you agree that scientific research is more highly thought of than humanities research? If you look at if from that perspective, than you may see a more 'gendered' attitude towards teaching and research, with the 'hard sciences' being predominately male, whereas the 'soft sciences' are much less so.

Clarissa said...

The people who are engaged in the discussion are all historians. i don't think that sciences figured much into this discussion at all.

Pen said...

The whole discussion was completely hilarious. It only goes to show that people don't like to notice the holes in their [nonexistent] arguments.

Clarissa said...

How do people teach, I wonder, if their only response to questions they are asked is "Oh, dear. . ."?

Clarissa said...

My hitcounter is telling me that they have all now migrated to my blog. Probably in search of my penis.

Rimi said...

My instinctive reaction was, "What a bunch of fools!". But then i realised there just might be something here. After all, even in the 'softer' disciplines, the eminent scholars are largely male. And 'eminence', of course, is partly constructed. Several people might have had an idea over time, but usually only one of them is famous for it -- and it's usually not the woman.

I remember the outrage on various economics forums when Elinor Ostrom won the Noble for Economics. Young grad students of economics reviled her, said she'd won the aware because "she has a PC pussy" and so on, except if they'd read Ostrom's work they'd know she doesn't swim with the PC current. So yes, there is some inequity to women to research, just like there is some lack of social prestige/respect for men who teach in highschool.

Clarissa said...

Of course, women do less research, I'm not arguing against the obvious here. However, the reason why they do less research has nothing to do with this weird suggestion at the site I quoted that they are encouraged to invest more energy into teaching than research because teaching "is considered girly."

Nobody encourages anybody to do less research. This just doesn't happen. If women end up doing less research, the reasons for that are different.

Jonathan said...

I felt participants in the discussion were "gendering" themselves as non-researchers in that discussion. In other words, accepting the premise that research was somehow less appropriate for women, and then trying to find a false solution. "Maybe if we explain how our teaching actually makes us better researchers..."

Well, no. Researchers may be good teachers as well, but they do not become researchers by siphoning off a little excess from their teaching, but by making scholarship a priority.

Clarissa said...

I agree. Even if you have a brilliant idea visit you during class, there is an incredibly long distance between that idea and a published piece of research.

profacero said...

Most of those people are actually heavy research producers, many in R1 institutions; they're not dreaming, they have experience.

There were two threads in the discussion, one from TR (at Wesleyan) and one from Historiann (at CO State).

TR was talking about how research and teaching are seen as competitors for time. Which of course they are if you have a large teaching load, but her largest point is the way in which they are seen to drain each other doesn't necessarily lead to good practical advice or to the most helpful ways of evaluating people.

Historiann/Dr. Crazy were talking about how women are evaluated and judged. True facts in many places: 1. say no to lower level service as a woman and yes, very often that gets you encoded as lazy whereas in a man it would get you respect. 2. women have to publish more and in better places than men to be considered good on research.
3. women are expected to be beloved teachers, and yet if we are that, we "must have" spent too much time preparing classes.

These are things men, senior faculty, administrators say, not that women say.

In years past, we also had a man who didn't make tenure for gendered reasons. He was a single father and requested (and got) a teaching schedule that fit his kids' school schedule. This was good for me since that meant he took the early mornings I don't like for teaching, leaving me the late afternoons and early evenings which are not good writing times for me, but are fine for teaching. So, no inconvenience.

However, in the view of some senior faculty he didn't hide his interest in parenting as much as would be appropriate for a man. So, they were more critical of his research than they were of that of other men. That is to say: he was judged as harshly as a woman would have been, and so he was out.

It's too bad really, because he was a great teacher and colleague and as good a researcher as most of the rest of the faculty ... with broader expertise than many.
But, there he went.

profacero said...

"Maybe if we explain how our teaching actually makes us better researchers..."

This actually was the explicit argument made by a couple of men in their tenure cases here.

Their point was that the university had asked very specific things of them and all were about teaching, and they had been told in no uncertain terms that for their particular positions, teaching came first.

At SLACs, and TR teaches at one, teaching and its importance are foregrounded in ways that don't apply in public schools or Ivies. Reality may be one thing (research #1) but the rhetorical requirements are very different. This is where you get a lot of contortions.

Then there's another factor: a lot of SLACs and also primarily science schools like mine had humanities courses staffed largely by wives of administrators and science professors. This puts research faculty in direct competition for student evaluations and general approval from the old guys with people who don't have a research assignment, do a lot of baking and maternal things, and generally help ease the transition to college with a lot of this kind of nurturing, that takes a lot of time away from other kinds of work and so on. If you're research faculty and a man, you're at a certain disadvantage in the face of that, but you may be pardoned; if you're research faculty and a woman, it's harder.

Clarissa said...

". say no to lower level service as a woman and yes, very often that gets you encoded as lazy whereas in a man it would get you respect. "

-Or, get a ton published, and you won't care what anybody thinks of you or how anybody "encodes" you.

If anybody needs any advice on how to avoid boring service as much as possible, I'm always here to offer it. However, I have never seen a single person (except me) avoid service. People go in search of it, seek it out, and make it multiply. I see it every day, so nobody's complaints about how they only take on so much service because somebody will encode them as something are likely to convince me of anything.

"women have to publish more and in better places than men to be considered good on research."

-Once again, I will repeat my question that Historiann failed to answer. In my operational papers there is a specific number of articles I need to publish to be considered "excellent" in research. If I fulfill that number (which I do every year), how can anybody fail to rate me as "excellent"? I'd really like a direct, practical answer to this. Everything is very strictly codified in our operational papers. Is it not like this at other institutions? Or how else is it possible to "expect" more research from people based on gender? I honestly don't get that.

" So, they were more critical of his research than they were of that of other men. That is to say: he was judged as harshly as a woman would have been, and so he was out."

-I'm failing to understand this at all. Did he or did he not publish the number of articles per year specified in the operational papers? If he did, then how could anybody refuse to rate him as excellent?

Clarissa said...

"This puts research faculty in direct competition for student evaluations and general approval from the old guys with people who don't have a research assignment, do a lot of baking and maternal things"

-I was told by my Chair last week that I need to tout my own horn a lot more. So I will do so now. :-) I'm routinely told by my senior colleagues that they haven't seen such fantastic student evals as those I get ever in their careers. I'm anti-nurturing, not maternal, very demanding, and fail many students regularly. Baking cookies is not a way towards getting good student evals. It's the way for students to consider you pathetic. I do not fear any competition from spousal hires in terms of teaching. Nobody should.

Jonathan said...

I've seen both men and women seek out and perform extra service. They have to be told not to, because that extra service starts to look bad when the publications are weak.

Not too many places spell out a number of articles that are good, excellent, fair, etc... for a given year. We also weigh the prestige of journals when looking at that, so one PMLA article would be worth more than 5 bird-dropping articles published in on-line journals with no standing in the field.

Clarissa said...

Jonathan: is there a possibility that a person publishes twice or three times a year in PMLA or equivalent and gets rated poorly in research because of their gender?

Jonathan said...

No. Absolutely not. Anyone who averages 2-3 articles in very good journals is way above the minimum of any university and will be a star researcher. Anyone who is ranked low in research after that is in lawsuit territory. Even in a previous department where some senior colleagues didn't like me, they still had to rate me highly in research because I was kicking their asses with PMLA, Hispanic Review, and MLN.

Now of course anything's possible I suppose. A department could decide not to play by the accepted rules at all and get sued. Even a lot of horror stories, though, involve people who were smart but just hadn't published as much as expected.

I could name you subfields dominated by women (19th century Spanish novel; Latin American colonial) so you'd have to make a weird argument to say that research in those fields is gendered masc.

Clarissa said...

This is really great to know. This is how I initially thought things were, and then this entire discussion at the other blog almost got me to think that I'm completely deluded.

I know women who are eminently respectable researchers in our field. I'm sure you know them too. There are many such leading female scholars. I have no doubt that they encountered a lot of sexism in their lives, but their research is very valued.

Jonathan said...

You are also protected by having a written legal document with expectations laid out. A lot of private institutions don't have that. Expectations can be vaguer and more subjective.

Clarissa said...

I thought it was like that everywhere.

One more reason to love my university. :-)

Pagan Topologist said...

I avoid service whenever possible, Clarissa. The only exception is when I have the opportunity to make a significant difference concerning an issue that I have strong convictions about. This does happen, but not terribly often.

Clarissa said...

I knew we had a lot in common. :-) I just hate wasting my time on rewriting paperwork to create more paperwork.

Anonymous said...

I love how you just label any sort of feminism you disagree with as "pseudo-feminism." Who fucking died and made you the arbiter of what is and isn't feminism? You do realize that there are numerous schools of thought under that umbrella, right?

I don't have any academic background beyond a B.A., yet I can figure out what "gendered" means, as in "gendered female." Because, you know, I read up on things.

Then again, you sound like one of those Special Females™ who think you've avoided sexism simply by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and so you enjoy sneering at more "politically correct" women who use all those annoying terms from sociology you hate, like "privilege."

Clarissa said...

I had no idea that anybody needed to fucking die in order to enable me to express my opinions on my blog. I also didn't know that anybody needed to fucking die in order to enable me to have opinions.

Instead of spouting inanities about privilege, you would be a lot better served by learning to read a text you respond to. I never said I "pulled myself up by my bootstraps." I would never use such a ridiculous cliche. Please don't project your horrible writing style onto me.

And yes, these are also my opinions that I just expressed on my blog. And nobody fucking died.