So *damn* tired of this

Apr 05 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday I had another frustrating interchange with my chair. This is, indeed, the chair I thought was so much better than the chair from hell. Yet...

He (white male wealthy) accused me of being prejudiced against males. At a department meeting, he had asked everyone to make calls about NIH to our congress critters. I mentioned the statistic about women making more calls to Congress on political issues than men. He said nothing then. But, with me in his office, he started saying, in that subdued tone that white men in power use to belittle others, not a raised tone, but the condescension that would make Lady Catherine de Bourgh proud, that what I said was  prejudicial against the men in dept. And then the magic words:  'if a man had said that about women'. Ah... If a black said that about a white. If a queer person said that about a non-queer person. Shut up and be grateful we let you sit at the table.

He said:  you were insulting to the men, when we need everyone making these calls. And: The men in this department are different from national average.

Are they? Are they really and truly that different?  Because they *think* they are prejudice free? Just like you?

I tried to explain about asymmetry, and let the word "privilege' slip. And there it was. He said: I don't believe in privilege. I would not have been surprised if he had said "all lives matter".

I spoke about this with a gay man whose perspective on things I value. highly. And he reminded me: is this the hill you want to die on? What is to be gained by either talking more with the chair or taking this to the Dean?

I don't know. How much of this sits at the corner of woman and old? How much of this sits at the place where the ethnic, loud voice and big nose cars crash into each other? Right now, all I can think is that whenever I believe the sexism battles are gone, over, I am reminded that sexism, as racism, and genderism and all the rest just gone slightly underground, cloaked in the "but I have friends...".

So to end with a bleg: I want to send him a link to something I read about priviledge, if I could only find it again. it was a WOC piece about what is privilege, explaining her childhood, her children's childhood. I remember it being powerful and moving and maybe could get through to him. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.


14 responses so far

  • Karen says:

    Yes, this is white privilege at its finest. And many people don't believe in climate change either. It doesn't matter "what you believe in" it matters what you do and the effect your actions have.

    I am reading George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant" that addresses how people's brains are wired to their image of themselves, and that ultimately it's their own morality (their view of themselves) that they act on.

    Aging for women means becoming invisible, losing our relevance in many ways that our culture seems to value. Invisibility can also provide freedom from cultural norms, but seldom in the workplace. And it wasn't that long ago our moms and grandmothers could have been institutionalized simply by a male relative's signature.

    Sometimes, people are just assholes and you have to evaluate whether this person is even open to another point of view. (However, if you're plotting a caper, you know I'm your wingman.)

  • Former Technician says:

    I don't think it is just your age that makes you want to push this issue. I will agree that I am more likely to do so as I get older but I think it is more of a frustration reaction. The more the old rich white dudes do to further old rich white dudes and ignore everyone else the more I see red. I am rapidly reaching the I don't give a damn phase. I am already at uppity woman phase and have been for years.

    I have been told that it doesn't further my career to be an agitator after which I remind people of others who succeeded doing just that.

    I have to admit that some of my frustration is with those who should be thinking the same way as I am who say sure push the limits but within reason. Or, but you don't have is so bad. My salary is 100% paid on an NIH contract that is severable. My Uni will not pick up my salary if the contract disappears. Nor will they pick up all of the other people who are part of the 30 FTE that are covered by the contract. Many of these folks are trainees or junior folks for whom our funding is essential.

    40% of the wealth in this country is in the hands of 2% of the people. The income inequality will cause long lasting effects that will be hard to reverse. Unfortunately, folks who erroneously think that old white rich dudes will let them have a piece of the pie are going to keep us in this state for the foreseeable future.

    If you haven't read it yet read the Spirit Level. Non-fiction, but seriously worth it. Updated and interactive charts can be found here:

  • Former Technician says:

    Sorry, the link I gave is for the authors of the Spirit Level and the UK. Here is the one for the US:

  • chall says:

    Oh, so much recognition in this piece.

    "Are they? Are they really and truly that different?" [initial thought - no, they're not. but i think the question is quite rhetorical. I just couldn't resist :)]
    "is this the hill you want to die on?"

    I agree with Former Technician that I don't think it's an age thing (although I might say that women over say 35 have more likelihood in my experience to have their eyes opened and being quite bored with this systematic negligence). It might be an "I'm just over this now and rather say my mind as everyone else seem to do" attitude.

    That said, I'm not over 40 (yet but ask me again next year) and I've lately come to the conclusion that I really don't know if it's possible to change a lot of these men's mind. I don't know if it helps to reach out and give them the link, to hope that they will understand and change their ways... alas, that might sound like giving up, it's more about "is it worth your time and effort"? Then again, it's the Chair - and it's hopefully coming more women to your department so ??

    I've found that the only way I seemed to have swayed some people just a little (hello Southern white men I interact with every single day) has been the whole "let's be friends and then slowly incorporate views that they might not know they had, or call them out on some of their worst behaviour/prejudice when it rears its head". I have doubts though, quite often, that it really doesn't amount to much but for now, this is the small (cowardly?) way I'm choosing to do to not rock the boat too much yet feeling that I'm not too complicit to the ways of "privilege and blindness".

    I've also talked to older women at my institution, who have come out quite often stating "this is so much an guys' place" and therefore have formed a little underground network where they (we?) lift and promote at times when we can. Also, needling the men in power when possible in single one-on-one situations (to save their face.... *deep sigh*) to see if it brings some sort of understanding ...

    not sure if the hill is worth it as in "this person changing their mind about this", but if not this issue, when? It is indeed tiresome .

  • potnia theron says:

    I think as I've gotten older I've got less inflammatory, less willing to die on the hill, and more conciliatory. But I've also got more power. I may also just be more tired of fighting these battles.

    As for not doing enough. Everything you do is important. And there are costs and benefits. And women who are *too* angry just don't get listened to. They are dismissed. And as I say in the next two posts: do you want this job? And what are you willing to compromise to get it/keep it.

    What are the changes you do want to make?

    • chall says:

      I think you're right on the "too angry women don't get listened too". This is partly why I've chosen a few points to make a stand on, but mostly in private and mostly with ppl that I feel have a small interest in learning and maybe even change...

      The changes I would like to make most of all in my field - is that the men who are around get automatic help and support that aren't around for women. it's a protective thing that might not seem as much at the time but it adds upp, like thousand cuts add up negatively...

  • Zuska says:

    Michael Kimmel is a sociologist who has written extensively about gender equality and male privilege. He has written many books but may have some shorter pieces that would be helpful. He also has a TED talk (have not watched, just found it by googling - I'm stuck in a plane at terminal waiting for "navigation fix")
    Maybe a TED talk on privilege and gender from a dude would be helpful? Had him come speak when I worked at a uni - he was well received by the dudes.
    Sometimes privilege can only hear when the message comes from someone occupying similar position of privilege.
    Which is why we all should, when we can, speak out about issues where we hold some privilege (with respect given to groups whose issue we are speaking on/about/for).

    • Zuska says:

      In light of comment I left on your other post about making the chair your could forward him a link to the TED talk & suggest he review it as it may be handy if he ever needs an easily accessible resource to share w/faculty on this topic, like at a retreat (does your uni have faculty retreats? Do you have to deal w/gender issues, school policy etc at them?)

      In other news, I may be on this plane for the rest of my life.
      STILL "resetting navigation".
      At this point, do I even want to go up in the air in this plane...?
      Wish me luck!

    • potnia theron says:

      I'm thinking not. I sent him the link to the piece by the woman of color about her experiences. He said that he read it and "it is likely you and I will continue to disagree on this topic". He calls himself a feminist, and has a strong professional wife, and has successfully mentored women (who are now tenured, etc). I think for some men, its just way to threatening. I have spent time asking, and talking to friends, "Why is being GLBT so damn threatening?". The biblical injunctions are an excuse, or a justification (as there are far more important things that get left by the wayside... don't start me on Kosher and Christians). Part of me believes that many of the people who are so adamantly anti- are because in fact, they are and just cannot look at it in themselves. Given their background, their upbringing, their personal history, they cannot accept that part of them. Ah... there's another post.

      • Zuska says:

        A good friend of mine says often this unwillingness to reconsider entrenched views really is because it is literally threatening to the person's self-conception, understanding of self, worldview. They would have to rethink major parts of what they believe to be essential truths about themselves in order to take in the new information.

  • […] I went to talk to a very wise someone about the problems with my department chair that I outlined here. […]

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