Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Security Studies is Like Casablanca

There is gambling at Rick's?  Shocking.  There is sexism in security studies equally not so shocking.  I have been in this business for more than twenty years and you can add grad school to that.  Ever since I have been in it, I have heard stories and also witnessed a significant degree of sexism in this area (I am not as attuned to the sexism in other parts of IR or other parts of poli sci).

So, I found it particularly frustrating last night to be involved in one thread at PSR and another on twitter addressing the issue of women in poli sci and IR in very different ways.  At PSR, there are a bunch of folks repeating the same myths that women get heaps of jobs because of affirmative action.  On twitter, folks got riled up because there was not a single woman listed on the program of the next Aspen Security Forum.  A nice juxtaposition of myth and reality.

The reality is that both men and women are getting jobs and both men and women are not being placed and are frustrated about the academic job market.  In all of the searches I have been involved in at universities in the US and Canada, I have seen it happen one time that a women was offered a job because of her gender ... maybe.  That it was a situation where two candidates were quite good and the tie went to the woman.  Otherwise, my anecdata goes the other way--that I have seen colleagues say things like: "well, her husband has a job, so she doesn't need this one."

In security studies, there has always been a perception that there was an old boys network that favored men and the misogynists.  Perhaps feeling free to express nostalgia for the old boys network is some evidence of this.

I posted a list of books written by women about 18 months ago, mostly in the security area, as a list of my favorite books both to prove a point and because it was largely true. I was responding to a post somewhere (I forget) that listed the best books and omitted female authors.  It didn't take more than five minutes of thinking to come up with a list of ten (or more) books written by women that are among my very favorites.  I didn't label it as a list of ten great books written by women, just my ten favorite books.

As Aspen Security Forum proved, perhaps inadvertently, sexism is quite alive and well in the field of security despite the fact that women are doing excellent work in academic and making a difference in policy positions.  Getting the best speaker or the best person for the job should mean that women are among those chosen--not because they are women but because they are among the best.

Need a conference on private military contracting?  You better invite Deborah Avant.  Working on non-violence?  You better read and cite Erica Chenoweth.  Terrorism?  Chenoweth again, Mia Bloom, etc.  Pakistan?  Christine Fair.  Identity and violence?  Stacie Goddard, Erin Jenne, Monica Toft.  Alliances?  Invite Sarah Kreps and Stefanie Von Hlatky and read Patricia Weitsman. The US national security apparatus?  Amy Zegart. Civil-military relations?  Avant again.  Crime and international security?  Louise Shelley.  Nuclear taboo?  Nina Tannenwald.  Canadian defence?  Elinor Sloan and the aforementioned Von Hlatky.  Quantitative work on war?  Sara Mitchell.

I could go on and on.  It really is not that hard.  Indeed, as others have noted, leaving women out might actually require some work. 

I do think there has been a hell of a lot of progress made, but dammit, it is clear that there is still so much room for improvement.  Thanks to the Aspen Security Forum for reminding us not to take for granted that we need to more and better.

No comments: