Last night, I posted this about sexism in political science. It has gotten a pretty strong response getting 10x as many hits (so far) as my usual post, lots of retweets by female political scientists, and some sharing on facebook. The sharing on facebook came with props as my female political science friends were happy to see a senior male political scientist talk bluntly about this.
These props/kudos made me feel squishy because it is not that hard to blog and notice on occasion that there is sexism in the poli sci business (as it is everywhere as one FB friend noted). My female friends and former students (who I also consider to be friends) have put up with all kinds of crap over the years. Indeed, the conversations sparked by last night’s post as revealed a bit more of that stuff.
So, besides from regularly posting about this stuff, which is pretty much the definition of the least one can do (unless one is doing nothing at all), what can a male political scientist do?
There is a discussion on PSR about sexism in political science, with most folks concurring that it is still an issue with some deniers pointing out that support groups for women are exclusive, too. Um, yeah. How to address such discussions? I go to my standard operating procedure: what have I seen over the years? The answer: a heap of sexism which has not gone away.
The last two years saw some major stories in my corner of the blogsphere concerning sexual harassment. Colin McGinn’s resignation from the University of Miami saw widespread discussion across the academic interwebs, even if we didn’t say much about it. McGinn’s case seems not terribly unique in philosophy, as the What’s it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy blog has been chronicling for years. Sexual harassment at science-fiction conventions is also an ongoing problem. Genevieve Valentine’s treatment at Readercon produced an online firestorm last year.
Some of the discomfort with Brian’s recent post [which Brian has now pulled] derives from a generic rejection of its sexualization of conference dynamics. But some of it comes from the realities of sexual discrimination and harassment–not just in our field, but at conferences in particular.
I don’t need to rely on hearsay to conclude that sexual discrimination is a major problem in international studies and political science. My partner now refers to “practicing political science with ovaries” as a shorthand for acknowledged and unacknowledged sexism in the field.
On the other hand, most of what I know about sexual harassment at conferences comes from oblique, semi-whispered, or ‘you didn’t hear this from me, but’ style conversations. The problem seems both widespread and largely unacknowledged in the general community. Indeed, searching for “sexual harassment at APSA“, “sexual harassment at the ‘American Political Science Association’“, and cognate searches for the ISA turns up little more than documents describing official policies, a long list of conference papers, and reports on the meetings of caucuses within the organizations. Either the problem is not widespread–which I doubt–or we haven’t even reached the point where we have a safe environment for an open discussion of it. Continue reading