Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pondering Sexism in Syllabi

After a duck of minerva piece (and associated published article) that documents some sexist patterns in what appears on IR syllabi, there has been some pushback, suggesting that choosing women's work over men's might be sexist as well.  Damn. What to do?

Well, I had several reactions:
  • um, guilty?  I tend to promote women's stuff here, as their stuff tends to get omitted from favorite book lists (which might just shape and be shaped by syllabi), and given the quality of this stuff, their work is not being omitted due to being inferior.  I tend to assume sexism is in play in ways that work against women because I have seen a heap of sexism in the field.  It is not like men are not being cited and not being listed on syllabi, so I don't fear that they (we) face discrimination. 
  • Any view that women's work might be cited less/used less on syllabi because it is inferior needs to have a theory of inferiority.  What would make women, on average, do worse work than men?  I have no idea.  
  • I do have a theory of male inferiority: that some men have been able to succeed due to privilege and even have reinforced existing patterns of discrimination that they can publish inferior work in top outlets and appear on heaps of syllabi.  I call such folks IR trolls.  That I might discriminate against using the work of big name males because I am not sure their work is as good whereas women's work had to be better to get published/cited/become canonical.  
  • Seriously, women and men, on average, do equally good work, so if I find a syllabus having many more work by males than by women, I swap out some of the male work and replace with work written by women.  It does no harm since the work is basically equivalent, yet helps to remind students that there are sharp women doing work in this area.  

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