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It almost goes without saying

I provide this picture to explain some of the assumptions I have about sexism in society. That’s me in the front row, at a special training camp. I could write an entire story about that experience, which involved the usual humiliations, intrigues, and uphill climbs I experienced in my eight years on active duty.

It was hard to be a woman in a male specialty, and particularly in an uber-male subspecialty. But it did make it easier to deal with sexism, and by “deal” I mean cope with it day to day, like a chronic condition. It made it easier to see sexism, and even risk the ire of men by pointing it out. I just don’t care that much what men think of me–as long as I’m not working for them.

Over at Caveat Lector, Dorothea has some fine huevos to point out the forces at work that keep sexism a dirty secret. I’m not surprised that someone was angry. Dorothea wasn’t playing the game guy-style, where sexism is tolerated and women don’t speak up. She was being frank about what she experienced, and that makes men angry, because sexism is no fun if it’s challenged.

She also talks about why women can’t speak up. In a culture where the dominant gender is male, and your livelihood depends at least in part on ensuring those men aren’t angry with you, it is hard to point out what’s wrong.

About a month ago I pointed out on the Lita blog that women were underrepresented at a program. A man challenged my statement and added that the presenters were selected for their qualifications.

Right. I buy that. As if for most of my life I hadn’t heard decisions reverse-engineered to provide a tidy rationale. Look again at that picture. In the world of sexism, every single man in that picture is more qualified than the short woman in the front row, and the dominant group will always find reasons to support their decisions.

However, I am sure that I don’t have much of a future at wherever pissed-off-guy works (not that it matters). That’s part of the price of speaking up. So women don’t speak up, because too often they can’t. They might piss off someone important, or they’ll be labeled as not being a team player or as whiners or told they don’t believe in a little “fun” (like GW Bush and his patronizing shoulder-rub to his German counterpart last week–the man knows no boundaries).

I might not even have taken the time early this morning before work to write this post, if I hadn’t read one of those you’ll-see-it-everywhere posts that Talis, a company, had a post about a podcast by the “Library 2.0 gang,” which turns out to be nine men and one woman. Did anyone in that group think it was just a little strange to have a library “gang” that underrepresented women? (I went to library school, and all I got was Library 1.0?) Did the men think about speaking up? At all?

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51 Comments

  1. Hello – the one woman on the Library 2.0 gang panel. I spoke up when the word went out asking for volunteers to participate in this panel. Why? Not because I’m a woman, but because I was tired of hearing/reading the same 8 people talk about Library 2.0. Over 20 people were invited to participate in that particular panel, 9 of us actually picked up the phone to do so. There is at least one other woman who is on the list. And if you are a woman and want to talk about Library 2.0 every 2 weeks on the phone, then email Paul Miller at Talis and volunteer!

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  2. kgs wrote:

    Sandra, good for you to participate, for whatever reason (after all, I’m sure the men didn’t justify their participation by saying men needed representation!). My questions would be: where did the call to participation go out, who were the 20 who were invited, what kept women from volunteering, and how were the cuts made? I offer these questions in a friendly manner to suggest we need to understand how we get to better than ten percent representation on the hot/sexy/seemingly important discussions about librarianship.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  3. So the answers are: I don’t know, as I was on the other side of that conversation. The best person to answer those sorts of questions would be folks at Talis. (I have a hunch that he took all comers.) I found out about the podcast call for volunteers from a post made in Library Crunch in December.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    Thanks, Sandra. I didn’t mean necessarily that *you* had to respond, and I’m hoping Talis speaks up.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  5. A little study to document the general existence of sexism under the tech paradigm from
    Popular Science
    .

    Now, as a man, can I plead “Delusional?” Or at all?

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Paul Miller wrote:

    You’re right. The Library 2.0 Gang should include more women. But I’m not going to beg. And I’m not going to include a woman (or a man) solely because of their sex.

    There have been numerous invitations in presentations, on Talis blogs, publications, and elsewhere, as well as in comments posted on the blogs of others. We have been running podcasts of various types since last year, and have actively sought both volunteers and the putting forward of names since soon after I joined Talis last September.

    In the current Library 2.0 Gang round, Sandra (above) has been the only woman to volunteer so far. She’s there, not because she’s a woman, but because she volunteered and she seemed to have something to say.

    Another female member of the Gang is Jenny Levine, who couldn’t make the last call. She responded positively to an email invitation from myself. A number of other potential Gang members, also female, never replied to my original invitation, or to my follow-up.

    I freely admit that I invited more men. I did so because I found more men when I started looking. I also had a (far) higher success in obtaining positive responses from men, giving the current split in representation.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Anyone who feels they have something to contribute is hereby invited to email me at paul.miller@talis.com. If, for whatever reason, I feel that you are unlikely to add to the value of the current mix, I’ll explain my reasons to you, and give full permission for you to quote those reasons anywhere you like, if you feel the need.

    I’ve also asked, before, for nominations. So even if you don’t want to do it yourself, why not put forward the name of a woman (or man) with something to contribute? With the same proviso as in the previous paragraph, I’ll contact them and ask them to take part.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  7. kgs wrote:

    Thanks for commenting, Paul. As I’ve posted earlier, it’s more complicated than just who does or does not get invited (even though that is not to be ignored). Women often do not see themselves as qualified for these discussions. I am reminded again of the librarian mentee who began a cover letter for a job by explaining why she wasn’t qualified for the position… Just as I can look back at that training camp and find three or four crucial moments where my own internal sexism stood in my way.

    You say “But I’m not going to beg.” Can I ask why you don’t make more of an issue that participation by women is so weak? What would be wrong with begging, or at least pointing out that you’d like a more representative slate?

    You also say, “And I’m not going to include a woman (or a man) solely because of their sex.” You probably meant gender… though if sex is a criterion, hey, that just makes it more fun!

    Finally, I know *you* think you disseminated your message as thoroughly as possible, and that could be the case. But it would still have been interesting to see the Talis post re-broadcast on a variety of blogs that are read by women. (In fact, an interesting gender question is whether women bloggers read different blogs than male bloggers.)

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  8. A good place to gather and deliberate on these issues:

    ALA’s SRRT Feminist Task Force (FTF) was founded in 1970 by women determined to address sexism in libraries and librarianship. FTF was the first ALA group to focus on women’s issues. Other ALA women’s groups fostered by FTF include the standing ALA Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL), the Committee on Pay Equity, the RASD Discussion Group on Women’s Materials and Women Library Users, the ACRL Women’s Studies Section, and the LAMA Women Administrators Discussion.
    Group. The Feminist Task Force continues to be one of SRRT’s largest and most active groups, concerned with a broad, evolving set of feminist issues.
    http://libr.org/ftf/

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  9. Paul Miller wrote:

    Karen

    OK. I think I took sufficient steps to reach out to a community made up of men and of women, and I think I made a reasonable attempt to attract and encourage those with useful contributions to make. I fully accept that my efforts were guided and influenced by my perspectives, both on life and on the community with which I was engaging.

    The Gang is an evolving animal, and I believe(d) that any under-represented groups would hear about it, listen to it if interested, and hopefully come forward (as Sandra did), believing (rightly) that they had something to say. I also had every intention to continue adding to the pool of contributors with various targetted invitations to rebalance the group in various ways over time.

    I’d welcome your help in reaching out to places I’ve missed, where you think any call might usefully go.

    And why not join the Gang yourself, too, to ensure that your views are heard along with those of the other members? The next call is on Wednesday night (UK time – 11am Pacific, I think) this week, and the one after that (most likely) two weeks later.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  10. kgs wrote:

    Sure, I can be there!

    But on the question of sufficiency… in an equal world, the typical broadcast would be sufficient. I’m a great believer in (and a beneficiary of) affirmative action. I believe the extra steps required to improve diversity benefits everyone, and I’ve seen many examples of good people excelling at a job *once they got in the door–or were pushed in by others.*

    I’m not saying you didn’t do a good job of broadcasting the request, and yes, I will do that as well. (I admit, I have only been reading about Talis third-hand.) But as you can see from what happened by the usual methods, if you are committed to diversifying the discussion, you’ll have to try harder. We may simply have different philosophies about how important diversity is to 21st century librarianship, or even to our culture at large (and we haven’t gotten into class or race, let alone the fact that some “men or women” are neither, but transgender).

    (There’s a whole ‘nother post brewing in me about women gatekeepers–the ones who slam the doors behind them, and of course I am *not* referring to Sandra or Jenny or probably anyone reading this!)

    Kathleen… o.k., o.k., I’ll join the FTF. :-) I believe in feminism and I believe the battle ain’t over. I don’t know when I’ll find time for all this, but now that my thesis is almost done, I’m not quite as full to the brim as I was before… except for this minor cross-country household-move thingy.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  11. kgs wrote:

    Also, Paul, I’m curious: did no one notice that the group was 90% male?

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  12. Paul Miller wrote:

    Karen

    I’ll IM the call details over once I’ve got them.

    As for the make-up of the Gang, *I* was certainly aware that it only included two women, and looking at a variety of ways to redress that. I’ve mentioned some of those in earlier comments.

    The make-up of individual calls is self-determining from within the pool of participants, on the basis of their availability on a given day.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  13. David Fiander wrote:

    Karen, “feminist” is a difficult word. A year or so ago, Bust Magazine profiled the musicians Enya and Tori Amos. While both women recognized the importance of the feminist movement in opening professional doors to them, neither identified themselves as feminists while simultaneously avowing the equality of the sexes.

    Last week’s Sunday Doonesbury presents an interesting perspective on the decline of the “feminist”.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  14. Brenda Chawner wrote:

    Karen, one of the things I’ve noticed over and over is that in general men are much more willing to put themselves forward for things than women, even if they don’t meet the necessary requirements (but of course I don’t mean to imply that any of the male participants in the LITA TTT panel or the Talis one aren’t good value). Women are more likely to say things like “I’m not ready yet for that type of position – I need more experience”.

    There are probably many complex reasons for this, but it does suggest that to have more women represented on a panel (particularly for technology topics where women tend to be a minority), there needs to be more active encouragement and even direct invitations to be involved, as you have suggested.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  15. kgs wrote:

    Brenda, I concur with everything you say, and would add that putting oneself forward into what will be a minority position is doubly hard. I remember in the Air Force thinking, “If I screw this up, I screw it up for all women.” That’s a lot of pressure.

    Monday, July 24, 2006 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  16. Jane wrote:

    In response to Paul’s comment on “feminism.” I will agree that word has connotations that do not put women in the best light. However, I had an Anthropology professor who explained that feminism, despite its baggage, simply means that you believe men and women should be equal with the same opportunities, regardless of gender. I think there are very few of us that would disagree with the word given that definition.

    After that particular lecture, I have never apologized for being a feminist.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  17. kgs wrote:

    I won’t let myself be manipulated by men into abandoning the word feminism. What is that “best light” we aren’t putting ourselves in–women who define themselves by a yardstick approved by men? Oy.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  18. David Fiander wrote:

    Oh, I don’t want to abandon the term either. I agree entirely with Jane that men and women should be equal with the same opportunities, and I also feel that a certain amount of affirmative action is appropriate to deal with historical imbalances and with some of the issues that have come up in this discussion.

    I certainly wouldn’t take Trudeau’s comic strip as a statement of the “one true explanation” for the decline of the term “feminist”, but I thought that it made sense of the protestations of more than a few younger women that they weren’t “feminists” while firmly believing in equality of the sexes and the availability of a full range of choices for both men and women.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  19. kgs wrote:

    David, I fully agree that the term has come under fire from young women, so rest assured I wasn’t pointing at you. I feel dismayed when I hear women criticize the term “feminist.” It’s not really like retiring the word suffragist; that’s a word technically related to the action of these activists (procuring the vote).

    I wish every young woman who feels uncomfortable using the word “feminist” would read Djuna Barnes’ newspaper article/essay, “How it feels to be forcibly fed.” She was on a hunger strike for the right to vote.

    Oh, and Sandra, I think you did yourself a huge disservice when you blogged, “I’m not talking much, leaving that to the guys who know what they’re talking about when it comes to Mashups.” I wouldn’t assume anyone on that list has a PhD in mashups; you’re as qualified as the rest of them to dig up a few good examples and swan into a discussion like you invented the term. That’s what I plan to do (hey, Paul, you can IM me at liichief or freerangelib).

    When you get right down to it, the difference between an expert and a non-expert is the size of her huevos. ;-)

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  20. Gretchen wrote:

    As a twenty-something feminist I am always disappointed/irritated/infuriated/perplexed by the kickass/intelligent/independent women who insist on repeating the dreaded phrase: “I’m not a feminist, but…” I think that’s a terrible cop-out, and it’s incredibly disrespectful to the generations of women who have put their lives on the line to make life better for those of us who came after.

    FRL, I agree with your assertion that more work must be done to fix the inequality that is present in our profession.

    I think people are far too worried about whether or not blame is being assigned to individual men about the sexism that is prevalent in all aspects of our society. As has been mentioned, it is more complicated than that. At this point what we’re dealing with is the fallout from a tradition of patriarchal and sexist structures, attitudes, and actions. The fact is, whether men are or are not actively misogynist, they are operating in a system that privileges everything they do over what women do. Therefore, even if men are well-meaning, kind people who don’t “mean” to harm women, women are harmed by simply existing in a society that devalues them and values men.

    Are individual men to blame for this? When they do not take responsibility for the fact of their own privilege, and when they do not actively work to create equality, I would say yes they are.

    Believing in equality is not enough to make it reality.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  21. Ruth Ellen wrote:

    “As a twenty-something feminist I am always disappointed/irritated/infuriated/perplexed by the kickass/intelligent/independent women who insist on repeating the dreaded phrase: “I’m not a feminist, but…” ”

    This is NOT something new to young women today. 30 years ago young women were saying “I’m not a feminist, but…” It was just as infuriating and perpelxing, then.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  22. kgs wrote:

    Maybe the cafepress.com teeshirt we need is “I’m a feminist, get over it!”

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
  23. Not that I’d recommend Enya or Tori Amos as the source for who or what people should call themselves, but why do people care that some women choose to call themselves “feminist” while others do not?

    I always took “feminist” to suggest the group of theorists who argue [essentially] that gender is the only real lens through which one could see human history/art/science etc. The job of the feminist, therefore, is to highlight the male-female struggle in everyday/night life. Equal rights among the sexes is not necessarily purported by all feminists. Total equality was certainly not purported by the so-called “first wave” of feminism — since they argued things like “it is a man’s duty to buy a clotheswasher for the house” (so to make their “women’s” work easier). I am not sure whether the suffragettes actually called themselves feminists, but the feminists certainly did, which gives the name “first wave feminist” an even more authentic flavor.

    Anyway — point, oh yeah — point. I think women not wanting to call themselves “feminist” is no more insulting to the work of our foremothers than me refusing to call myself “manly” or “progressive” (with any modicum of sincerity) is insulting to Wilfred Grenfell. Some people don’t want to put gender at the top of the life taxonomy (all the time?) — that’s a fair call for any person who still believes in equal rights.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
  24. Gretchen wrote:

    It’s not that they don’t want to be called feminists, it’s why they don’t want to be called feminists. What’s insulting is that people act like feminists are some kind of rare breed of monster under the bed, set on destroying civilization as we know it, or clueless hate-filled harpies whose ideas are so out of date as to be laughable.

    I really don’t think “feminist” is such a rarified category as what you’re suggesting, Ryan. Feminism is a lot of things, including theory and grassroots action. I don’t know any feminist who considers herself purely a theoretician. I’m a librarian, not a women’s studies scholar. I practice feminism every day, and so do a lot of people.

    As far as being irritated by the “I’m not a feminist, but…” folks, I mentioned my age because upthread FRL said something about younger women not wanting to be called feminists. I didn’t mean to imply that only younger women say that. I just wanted to put my two cents in that I am one, and that attitude annoys me too. :)

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 5:59 am | Permalink
  25. Hillary wrote:

    Many people do not believe that a profession that has a female majority can still have an organizational culture that embodies gender inequality. I did a paper on it recently, and I remember reading Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession in library school and the class almost coming to blows. Technology is simply the most obvious place to see it, but administration/management is a longstanding one, as well as gender splits in academic librarianship (college and university vs. K-12 school). Men are fast tracked with regularity in our profession for a whole variety of reasons. Writing the paper was fascinating, but rereading it now just makes me angry all over again, and I’m one of Karen’s shameless hussies who has no problem putting myself out there for assignments and challenges.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  26. Gretchen,

    Thanks for clarifying your position on the “I’m a feminist but. . .” question. I think that you could be reading alot more into Tori Amos and Enya’s motivations than is really fair.

    My declared definition of “feminism” was not to suggest that there was only one definition, but to highlight that there could be more than one definition (besides the gender equality proposed by Jane’s anthro prof) and *that* might be the issue here.

    You may choose to declare a broad definition of feminism, but Tori Amos and Enya may not. Given that people could see feminism in a narrow light, I think it is fair for them not to identify with it if that is how they feel about it. It’s their identity, they should get to choose what words they use (or do not use) to describe themselves.

    This all smacks of a Wittgensteinian language game, where identity, perception, and “otherness” are all confused by language choice and context. If you think it works to promote equality, by no means use “feminism” all you want. I just don’t think its fair to assume ignorance or irresponsibility on those who don’t see it the same way.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  27. I just read the Tori Amos article in Bust. Here a quote:

    “If we’re going to be lighthouses for the next generation, women should be able to feel like they’re not betraying feminism if they’re good moms. That’s why a lot of women have exited stage left. They feel like the “movement” became too much like the patriarchy-controlling them, dissing them in a way.”

    A little misleading on David’s part to suggest that Tori was “not identifying as feminist.” Sounds to me that Tori is saying some people feel “pushed out” of feminism because they do not see certain aspects of their desires (ie. motherhood) as being part of patriarchal domination.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  28. kgs wrote:

    Sweeping statements about women “exiting” feminism are exactly what some of us are talking about. Tori doesn’t speak for me.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  29. Stephen wrote:

    What is the racial composition of this “gang”, or are we only judging it by gender representation?

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  30. kgs wrote:

    (Note: as an aside, I’m noticing we’re losing gender balance in this discussion, a common phenom, in my experience… and part of the reason why I went to a women’s college.)

    I’m sure the group was overwhelmingly Caucasian, and that needs addressing as well. My partner talks about how one committee in her denomination worked extra hard to diversify its ethnic composition (with terrific results). We can all work harder in that area.

    However, that doesn’t undermine anything I’ve pointed out about gender representation (or the lack of it, more precisely), particularly for a profession that is overwhelmingly female. We are certainly entitled to “judge” based on this benchmark.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  31. Come on, Karen — we all “sweep.” For example:

    ‘I remember in the Air Force thinking, “If I screw this up, I screw it up for all women.”‘ I have a well-decorated, honored and retired RSM for an aunt who could challenge you on that one.

    My take on this is that Tori is calling for a more universal version of feminism — That women do not necessarily have to seek out the margins and pioneer new territory to be feminist.

    Isn’t this an affirmation of “feminist” identity rather than a betrayal?

    Predictably, I have no real position on this view. I would like to understand the objection better, though.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  32. kgs wrote:

    I said I *thought* it; it’s part of the pressure of being a token to think that way. It’s toxic, because every slip, every moment the guard is down, every challenge gets squeezed through that lens. I bet your aunt, one on one with other women, would acknowledge that kind of thinking.

    It’s not analagous to Tori’s disclaimer (which loosely translates to “if only they weren’t so uppity, I’d call myself a feminist”).

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  33. Stephen, that’s an excellent question — MPOW has a number of librarians of color and non-het librarians (seriously, I can name five without thinking! oops, no, six), but my memory of the last few conferences I’ve been to runs awfully, awfully white-and-het (insofar as the latter is determinable).

    As with women, I think the competent librarians are there, but the larger community-of-practice has a serious representation problem.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  34. kgs wrote:

    Dorothea, I can name hundreds of non-heterosexual librarians. That’s an entirely different post I’ve been mulling over. Quite often they’re sitting right there in committees, task forces, elected positions… but not publicly out. They are out, but not out. The only reason I have ever entertained the idea of running for division president (don’t even ask what division, I don’t know) is to waltz with Sandy at the inaugural ball. (That’s not quite good enough a reason to suffer three years of ALA high-level governance.) To my knowledge, and do correct me if I’m wrong, we haven’t had a very highly visible, clearly out, absolutely no wink-wink-nudge-nudge about it, division president yet.

    Returning to the question of underrepresentation of women, but tying in this point, one of the subtexts of rejecting the “feminist” label is a careful distancing from the L-word. Ever since lesbians were painted the “lavender menace,” one of the tensions in modern feminism has been related to the (male?) feminist/lesbian/man-hater trifecta. I resent the rejection of the f-word in part because it feels on some level like a betrayal of gay sisterhood.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  35. Laura Smart wrote:

    I would love to see a women’s library tech mentoring group. I need one. For my entire career I’ve been inclined towards things technical and for various reasons have had to struggle to position myself into somewhat techy job. I could use support dealing with the imposter syndrome while self-training on things xml/xslt, server administration, java etc.

    Something along the lines of webgrrls (but less profit/corporate driven) or, even better, something like the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology (http://www.anitaborg.org) or the Computing Research Association on the Status of Women in Computing aka CRA-W (http://www.cra.org/Activities/craw/index.php).

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  36. Cathy wrote:

    What about Tom Wilding? He was president of LAMA in 98-99 and didn’t seem to be keeping it a big secret by that point.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  37. kgs wrote:

    Laura, one thing we could do is create a virtual subgroup in one of the existing women’s advocacy groups in ALA, such as an IT Interest Group in COSWL. I was thinking about COSWL and thinking about IT… having a blog/virtual presence might be very interesting, a place where we could meet and discuss/post about issues related to women in technology, share interesting jobs and tips…?

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  38. kgs wrote:

    Cathy, that’s a good example. One of the problems with this issue is deciding what’s matter-of-factly understood versus what’s somewhat closeted. It’s a question I want to expand on in my post on this topic… maybe this weekend, after some heavy revisions.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  39. Cathy wrote:

    The only reason I knew about Tom was the fact that I knew his partner Stephen. He said that when he moved to Texas after Tom got the directorship at UT Arlington he decided he wasn’t going to start life in a new place without people knowing about Tom. I don’t know how this was handled from Tom’s side, however.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  40. I think a women-only tech group is a great idea.

    I would like to advocate for mentoring to the ears of men as well (not that the intention is to mentor to women only, but that this is the habit of some advocacy groups) or maybe exclusively(?).

    I can see how a mostly male teleconference (in a mostly female profession) smacks of a gathering of “wise old men” to provide instruction to “naive women.” Especially since Web 2.0 is quite a simple concept (despite all the confusing terminology).

    It might be nice to turn the tables on this. When wise women mentor women, it is like using the glass ceiling as a bomb shelter. When women mentor and the target is men, it assumes a superior position which (to me) would be refreshing and immensely helpful (also to me).

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  41. Keith wrote:

    I have just one nit to pick. In your third paragraph, you state:

    “She was being frank about what she experienced, and that makes men angry, because sexism is no fun if it’s challenged.”

    Did you mean that, or did you mean to say:

    “…and that makes sexists angry…”

    It’s a small distinction, but it’s significant. I’m a man and I’m certainly not angered by frank discussion of it. Uncomfortable? Sure. I’m not a sexist, but that doesn’t stop me from having a moment where I reevaluate my behaviors. But angry? No. My discomfort is a small price to pay for open conversation. But that’s just it… how open is the conversation?

    Statements like that that make me feel like I’m being lumped in with the ones who are causing the trouble. So, I tend to feel like my voice would be particularly welcome, and that makes me that much more hesitant about speaking up.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  42. Stephen wrote:

    My question regarding racial composition of the “gang” was not meant entirely seriously — although there is a serious issue of the digital divide which to some extent has a racial/economic component here in the USA. But in reading the dialogue here I believe in this particular case of the “Library 2.0 gang” there was no intention of gender discrimination. That is not to take away from the larger picture of what Karen discusses in this entry, and I admire her military service under the difficult circumstances she describes.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  43. GeekChic wrote:

    Karen – Your comment about lesbianism and the purple menace certainly resonates with me. I’m a female systems librarian at a public library. I have never felt any sexism in my tech. posting (and I do work with mostly male colleagues and two male bosses) – though I definitely did in my last job as an assistant director (the guys didn’t like taking order – or being fired – by a woman).

    I have, however, definitely experienced homophobia in both positions. In my current job, there have been several female librarians who have “accused” me of being a lesbian – I guess because I’m in a mostly male field and don’t seem bothered by it. My response of “And if I were…. ?” just discomfits them.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  44. I appreciate the correction, Karen, and I look forward to your post on the subject.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  45. kgs wrote:

    I don’t think of it so much as a correction, Dorothea, as just one more facet to mull over… it’s so complex.

    GeekChic, I know what you mean. It can be very complex (there’s that word again!) to be “out” when it just confirms everyone’s stereotypes. (I’m so glad I am bad at sports, particularly golf and softball.)

    Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  46. David Fiander wrote:

    Ellen Spertus wrote about this a while ago. Fortunately the academic environment has changed (a little) since then, for women, at least.

    Friday, July 28, 2006 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  47. kgs wrote:

    Ryan, I appreciate your point about mentoring, but I also cannot tell you how many times in my career I have been expected, subtly or otherwise, to mentor a man up and over me. Sandy experienced this as well, first on Wall Street, but later, too. I also cannot tell you how many times I have seen slack cut for men when the bar was set very high for women.

    I understand what you’re saying about turning the tables, but it needs to be done carefully–and with awareness that women have been mentoring men for thousands of years.

    Saturday, July 29, 2006 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  48. Shinjoung Yeo wrote:

    To sum up the discussion so far, the issue of gender and technology. Technology is part of culture in which male domination has been the norm. This issue has not been limited to the library field. In order to challenge this,

    I think we need to come up with better critiques of gender and technology within the library context. There has been much literature on this topic in academia such as Haraway, Zimmerman, etc and we should be able to articulate with our own terms and produce our own literature.

    Second, I personally believe technology is not value neutral. It’s ideological. Thus, the simple fact of more representation is not the solution. We have to be able to participate economically, socially and politically in technological changes and be part of creating/designing technologies.

    Third, we should be able to produce more competent technology users who will be able to shape/reshape techhnology practice.

    One of the strengths of COSWL and FTF was to produce literature/critiques on gender inequality based on sophisticated evidence and theories. I think this brought change in library practices. Maybe it’s time again for us to work collaboratively and find various ways to shed light on this issue.

    In solidarity.

    Shinjoung Yeo
    Chair of COSWL

    Monday, July 31, 2006 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  49. jenny wrote:

    I will confess to knowing little to nothing about the library 2.0 panel and whatever. And I will agree with you that library technology, in my experience, seems like a more sexist field than even just technology in general (perhaps some sort of library backlash?). But perhaps some of us women in the field are too busy trying to kick ass at our jobs to “prove” that women are good at this field to be involved in such things. Does it suck that I have to be better at my job than a guy would (IMO) to get the same amount of recognition? Yes. But instead of complaining, which would not get me anywhere with the sexists, I am just trying to kick ass as much as possible, to the point where it can’t be ignored.

    And FWIW, I am one of those 20-something “I don’t consider myself a feminist”s. Since the word feminist has been used to do a lot of sexist things I don’t agree with, I would never ever use that word to describe myself.

    Monday, July 31, 2006 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  50. Theresa A Tobin wrote:

    Thank you Kathleen and Shinjoung for your remarks about the Feminist Task Force. This annual, COSWL, FTF and ACRL Women’s Studies Section members agreed to collaborate on a research project that will analyze the gender balance/imbalance at ALA programs and see what actions are dictated by this analysis.

    Theresa (Coordinator, SRRT FTF)

    Friday, August 4, 2006 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  51. kgs wrote:

    Jenny, I waited a while to respond to your comment until I felt my response had mellowed.

    First, can you be more specific about the “sexist things” feminists do?

    Second, I put myself forward as someone willing to complain AND to work hard. I think that describes just about everyone participating in this discussion. It doesn’t help to sweep sexism under the rug. It’s still there, and when you least expect it, you’ll trip over it.

    This conversation began because of observations that women were not participating in key leadership discussions proportional to their representation in the profession. I feel it’s rationalizing away sexism to simply chalk up that phenom to those hardworking women too busy to grandstand.

    Tuesday, August 8, 2006 at 9:42 am | Permalink

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