All the Bookish Ladies (#postac)

Denver has its own Lilly Ledbetter! Introducing Sturm College of Law professor Lucy Marsh.

Marsh has sued the University of Denver for system-wide wage discrimination.

About which I say: ten years in academia taught me that the ivory tower may as well be Rapunzel’s home, for all the gender equity you’d find there.

As some smarties at The New Inquiry point out, intellectual life can be a refuge for brosephs who don’t want their sense of subordinate womanhood challenged.

If the Man-Child could use his ironic sexism to build a new world, would you want to live in it? Would anyone?

Katie J.M. Baker at my newest guilty pleasure site of surfcrastination, Jezebel, sent me to the original with some zingers of her own:

But these Man-Children are much more highbrow than your run-of-the-mill bro or tortured MRA, which is why they get away with sexist bullshit by sneaking it in during a monologue on Kant’s Golden Rule or what have you. (OK, maybe you should suspect it then.)

So true, Baker. So true.

But one foundation of this phenomenon–from the hazards of heterodating while being both a woman and a humanities graduate student to the system-wide pay discrimination (and discrimination in leave and promotion policies, and discrimination from students, and and and)–is that academia still privileges what I think is safe to call a “masculine” or even “masculinist” attitude.

That is, the more you talk like a cocky-ass dude, the more successful you’ll be. It also helps if you are a cocky-ass dude. Studying cocky-ass dudes.

Slow thoughts, ambiguity, uncertainty, intellectual cooperation, doubt, self-doubt: these non-masculine modes of intellectual life have no place in a graduate seminar. And what of confident, brash assertions of sexism in this or that piece of writing?! HAH!

I may be exaggerating. But not really. I was treated with respect, mostly, by people. Academic individuals aren’t sexist. Necessarily. (Though some students—grad and undergrad—certainly are).

But the system? And its mores? And the intellectual modes that it privileges? And the policies that persist, despite rapidfire transformation of HR policy in the corporate world? Yes. Sexist.

By which I mean favoring a narrow style of intellectual labor and manner that is a legacy from the old fashioned days of yore when universities were for men only. And requiring a style of labor that is incompatible with family life. Or of personal life. And punishing exceptions to this narrowly defined norm.

What do my post-ac readers think? Most of my post-ac contacts are women, and I’m curious to know if I’m alone in this experience.

Closing out with something a bit less cynical yet still pressingly post-academic, here are some provocative thoughts on why the Barnes and Noble leadership change does not, in fact, imply book-pocalypse for the printed word.

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2 thoughts on “All the Bookish Ladies (#postac)

  1. A.M.B. says:

    I had considered pursuing a PhD in history rather than my law degree, and I’m very glad I didn’t do it. It’s very difficult to address sex-based discrimination when courts give universities so much deference (with tenure decisions, for example, it’s very hard to find a male candidate who received tenure who is very similar to the female candidate who didn’t receive tenure). So, they get away with a lot.

    • Elizabeth says:

      There’s so much cultural hostility toward academia, toward teachers in general at all levels, and toward the tenure system. On one hand, it’s a relief that at least courts have our back. On the other hand, widespread (false) beliefs in the radical liberalism of academia (and the humanities in particular) protect them from any widespread pressure to enact really basic HR rules. Like how to handle sexual harassment. Like how to manage a team of subordinates. Like how to function in an intimate workplace environment while everyone is cognizant of tremendous power differentials.

      If we’re all required to read Judith Butler, how could the department be sexist? If we’re all required to read Marx, how can the institution exploit so much labor for so many years and get away with it? (One answer: the people in charge aren’t reading Butler and Marx. Except some of them are.)

      Furthermore, my articulation above of a “masculinist style” that gets one ahead in academia and a “feminine” style that puts one behind: what court would possibly rate that as equivalent to an atmosphere of sexual harassment in which colleagues routinely comment on women’s bodies?

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