Sexism in Academic Science

The question is not: does sexism exist in STEM? Science shows institutional barriers are there. Question is: what are we doing about it?

A few days a go, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by two psychology professors who argue that “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist.” On STEM Women, I look at the various methodological problems with the Op-Ed which is based on a review study conducted by the Op-Ed authors and two economists. The biggest issue is that the way they measure gender inequality does not match the data they have available. The researchers fail to account for institutional factors that impact on women’s under-representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Continue reading Sexism in Academic Science

Feminist Challenges in Reclaiming B**ch

Language warning ahead. Postmodernist feminists argue that the words used to demean women might be reclaimed to change their meaning. I’ve previously spoken that some swear words like c**t might be reconfigured, but I note that they are damaging when used to put down other people. The word bitch has more diverse connotations, especially in rap music. Let’s consider how Missy Elliots subverts expectations

Continue reading Feminist Challenges in Reclaiming B**ch

Emotion Work of Women in Film

Sigourney Weaver has returned to play the role of Ripley in a new Aliens video game. Her comments on feeling alienated by Hollywood are especially interesting given her iconic role and the ongoing present-day issues within gaming culture, where women are harassed and abused routinely. What’s intriguing is that Weaver notes that women characters largely exist to do “emotion work” for audiences. That is, to get people to feel sympathy, at the cost of letting women characters have their own diverse and complex narratives, the way men are allowed to be. Continue reading Emotion Work of Women in Film

“A Woman’s Freedom to Choose”

Australia is undergoing yet another paternalistic and xenophobic discussion about Muslim women’s dress. This time, politicians have been arguing that the burqa (which is actually seldom worn by Australian Muslim women) should be banned. They say it poses a security threat. The Niqab (face covering) has been effectively banned from public galleries at the Australian parliament.

Prof Sahar Amer has shown that Western obsession with Muslim women’s veiling goes back to colonial fantasies (erotic fetish for The Other) and has turned into anxiety about difference and assimilation (fear of The Other).

Anthropology student, Pina Sadar, has charted the myriad of reasons why Muslim wear the hijab or headscarf and Islamic dress. Aside from religious reasons, “veiling” can be the outcome of other personal motives, including anti-capitalist rejection of women’s objectification. I found similar in my study of young Australian Muslim women in Melbourne. Regardless, this is a personal choice. Sadar writes: “Democratic discussions about veiling are welcome but ultimately the public needs to acknowledge a woman’s freedom to choose not only her own form of a dress but also to shape its meanings – whatever they may be.”

Renae Barker, law lecturer, argues that impinging on Muslim personal liberties of a woman’s right to choose how she dresses is nothing but racist baiting by vocal politicians: “While some supporters of Islamic State may wear the burqa, it does not necessarily follow that the two issues are linked. The attempts by [minister & politicians] Nile, Bernardi and Lambie to draw a link are little more than a dog whistle to the frightened and intolerant.”

Read my work on Turkish women and the hijab.

Credit image Amer

Why do you have to call it feminism/Black feminism?

I’ve faced this derailment tactic many times on social media! The fact that the general public has a misconception about feminism is a problem we need to collectively tackle. We have to work harder to educate more people about the many ways in which feminism has improved gender equality in different societies. Nevertheless, we also need to own up to and address the ongoing issues within branches of feminism. Mainstream feminism, that is, the brand of feminism that we see in the media and in popular books, and which is watered down for the “Lean In” catch cry, is dictated by White women’s experiences. We need to respect that White women’s femininity is not the universal norm. Like all social movements, feminism grows and changes. Continue reading Why do you have to call it feminism/Black feminism?

Calling Allies on their Sexism

Here’s a great example of how men who consider themselves allies to women can overlook their own sexism. This is the story of an anonymous data scientist who works in an all-woman team in the gaming industry. Their boss is reportedly awesome and outspoken about making gaming more inclusive of women, yet he hung the picture of the woman welder on the left in a prominent place in the office. She’s made in the image of Rosie the Riveter, (complex) posterchild of third wave feminism.

Continue reading Calling Allies on their Sexism

White Feminism Wants Equality. Black Feminism Demands Justice

American gender studies Professor Brittney Cooper has written an exceptional analysis comparing mainstream feminism, which centres on the needs and values of White women, and Black feminism, which embraces the complex realities of Black women. Writing for Salon, Cooper (AKA Professor Crunk) makes the point that many types of feminism exist, but the vision for the future of feminism in the mainstream is still governed by White women’s interests. This vision is still largely oblivious to the true struggles faced by women of colour.

Continue reading White Feminism Wants Equality. Black Feminism Demands Justice

Hyper-sexualisation of Women in Comic Books

You might have seen the outrage of feminists and comic book fans when new images of the Spider Woman were released. She was highly sexualised, with her butt raised high in the air. The Oatmeal released this comical response. The aim is not to sexualise men, of course, but rather to highlight the ridiculous need to hyper-sexualise women comic book characters

“I drew Spider-Man like the new Spider-Woman (NSFW)… With great power comes great SpiderBulge.” – The Oatmeal.

Image source.