Thus Spake Zuska
A Blog for All and No One




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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts

I also want to call your attention to the last two paragraphs of Jane's post.   

But when you combine this with the other daily 'no big deals' -- the student who disagrees with you but goes to your colleague about it rather than confronting you (because obviously you have no idea what you're talking about), being ignored in technical conversations and meetings, colleagues who don't give you credit for your ideas, feeling like you have to get up every day and re-prove your credentials to your students -- and suddenly, all those little 'no big deals' don't look so little anymore.  Death by a thousand paper cuts. 

I'm here.  I'm not planning on going anywhere.  But I wish knowing that didn't feel so darned lonely.

This is what it's like for women in science and engineering.  Jane, unfortunately, is not unique in these experiences.  Death by a thousand paper cuts is a common enough descriptor to have made it into a  Policy Perspectives issue in 2001, Gender Intelligence

The occurrence of devaluation is a pervasive element in a woman's daily experience on a university or college faculty.  It is death by a thousand paper cuts - an accumulation of small, incidental behaviors, few very remarkable in themselves, which collectively denote that women in the profession are considered to be less than their male counterparts. 

Here's something else that pisses Zuska off.  I already know about this stuff, and so does Jane, and many others like us - it's our life experience.  So we can read things like the Policy Perspectives issue on Gender Intelligence and nod our heads in recognition.  But when, for example, I tried to pass on the Gender Intelligence issue to a dean I once reported to, what response did I get?  "Why don't you summarize the main points for me and send them to me in an email?"  What this translates to for me is:  "Although I often say that gender issues and diversity are very important to me and for our college, it's really only lip service to make things sound good.  I can't be bothered to take the time to read a short article that would help me better understand what it is women are really dealing with.  If I ask you to summarize it and send me an email, then it looks like I am interested but the issue vanishes for the time being.  Now if you will excuse me, I have to go deal with something that is actually important."  

Ouch, dammit!.  Another paper cut.  

For all the Janes out there, I wish I knew the secret of how to make surviving less lonely.  I wish I could help each and every one of you move past surviving and on to thriving. 

Zuska endorses the judicious use of prescription pharmaceuticals to combat depression and anxiety, along with talk therapy as an excellent way to expel the poisons that build up inside one from daily contact with the inflictors of paper cuts.  Partners can't always carry all the load for you.  Plus, the meds and the therapist can help you get angry.  Which, Zuska highly recommends.      

11:59:22 AM    comment [] trackback []

Bitches, Faggots, and Real Men

I've been reading See Jane Compute and you should too, because it's interesting and very informative. 

But I'm really seriously upset by one of her posts.  This one.  Female science/engineering professors should not be receiving harassing late-night phone calls from drunken male students.  Male students should not EVER be phoning up a female professor and calling her a bitch.  

Zuska is seriously pissed about UNEARNED male privilege.  You know, the kind that accrues to men just for having a penis.  The kind that lets snotty twenty-something boys think they have the right to phone a PhD professor of computing late at night and call her a bitch. 

You may note that in one of the comments to Jane's post, an anonymous male prof mentions that he has also been harassed.  Is this equal opportunity harassment?  Look at the nature of the harassment Anonymous describes:  'People screaming homophobic slurs from cars, writing on my door'.  No matter how you read this, this is not a case of a man being harassed just like a woman and therefore gender is unimportant.  Gender is writ large all over Anonymous's harassment, just as in Jane's case.  There are two possibilities:

  1. Anonymous is a homosexual who is being harassed for his sexual orientation.  His sexual orientation is threatening to the concept of masculinity held by harassing students, which is why they harass in the form of homophobic slurs. 
  2. Anonymous is a straight man who does not behave in ways that conform to societal norms of masculinity, i.e. what it means to be a 'real man'.  Therefore he must be punished/harassed by being labelled as homosexual.

In both cases, the harassment is intended to let Anonymous know that he needs to shape up and conform or else the harassment will continue.  Thus do men police their own ranks and maintain the norms of masculinity and heterosexuality.

This policing of the bounds of masculinity relates back to why Jane is being harassed.  Jane's presence in a domain - computing - seen as masculine is also threatening to masculine identity.  Homophobia, gender norms, and sexual harassment are all interwoven and supportive of each other.  It is no coincidence that women in engineering are often accused by their male classmates or co-workers of being lesbians - which, translated, means 'you are not a Real Woman because you are trying to do a man's job'.  So the harassment of women is two-pronged - general violence (bitch) and accusations of missing femininity (lesbian).  Science and engineering are so strongly identified with the masculine that young men who come to study and practice in these fields build part of their identity as men, as masculine, through their identification with the type of work they do.    'I engineer, therefore I am Real Man.' 

So what does it mean for the Real Men, if women are now doing a man's work?  If we See Jane Compute - then how do we know Dick still has a dick? 

Why, he just waves it around in our face, that's how.  Bitch.  Faggot.  I'll show you who's a Real Man. 


11:32:50 AM    comment [] trackback []

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