Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cover Reveal: SEXISM ED, by Kelly J. Baker

Sexism Isn't New

Guest Post by Kelly J. Baker

Editor's Note: I am honored to host the cover reveal for Sexism Ed, coming out this April from Raven Books. Check here for pre-order status. I met Baker through Facebook when she was looking for older academic women to interview about sexism in the academy, and put her in touch with my mother. Here, Baker situates her new book in that history of sexism.


I started writing the column, Sexism Ed, for Chronicle Vitae in 2014. I pitched the series at the end of 2013, after realizing that the barriers I faced in academia were very similar to the barriers other women academics encountered. My story was not unique, but one of the many stories about gender inequality in the ivory tower. I listened to so many women recount the bias, misogyny, and harassment they faced, but collecting stories wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to see the shape of the narrative on a large scale. I wanted to find what data we had on sexism in academia and wade through the studies that had already tackled the problem in one way or another. I wanted to figure out whether sexism was a systemic problem, like I imagined it to be, or whether I was putting too much emphasis on the harrowing stories that women scholars shared with me over coffee, in emails, and in rushed whispers at annual conferences. (I wasn’t.)

Image description: The cover of Sexism Ed, showing
a classroom with the book title on a blackboard
in pink letters.
When the column launched, I momentarily believed that I would run out of topics to cover. That sexism in academia was a topic that had limits. That there was only so much I could say. That my interest, or maybe the reader’s interest, would wane.

What I found instead was that I would write about sexism, and later contingent labor, in the academy for the rest of my life. The limits that I thought I would encounter were not there. The academy has a gender problem. And it’s not new. This shouldn’t have surprised me. We live in a patriarchy, but I had hoped that academia was somehow better than the culture surrounding it. I had hoped that academia lived up to the progressive talk of academics. It also shouldn’t have surprised me because I’m a trained historian. The historian’s standard response, or maybe lament, is “This is not new.” Historians show us again and again that the social problems that we encounter have longer lives that we expect and contexts that we’ve forgotten about.

When I interviewed David’s mother, Elisabeth I. Perry, about the two-body problem for a column, I realized that while certain facets of academic sexism might be new to me that they were not new to previous generations of women scholars. I realized how many women lived with the same problem that I had been facing, but more than that, I could finally see how intractable these assumptions about women and careers are in higher ed.

As I pulled together the collection of essays that make up Sexism Ed: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia, I looked over the dates that each essay was originally published. And I got angry. These essays, some written almost four years ago, could still be published today. The conversations on gender and higher ed haven’t progressed as much as I would have hoped. Writing this book made me feel like I had been shouting into the void for the last few years. So, what I hope for is that Sexism Ed forces some conversations that academics have been overlooking or avoiding about equality and exploitation. I hope that we can recognize how structural sexism is in the academy and work toward dismantling it. I hope that we can stop history from repeating itself for women scholars now and for future generations of women who are pursuing the life of the mind.

Sexism in academia isn’t new, but it’s not inevitable either.

Image Description: A smiling white woman
in a grey shirt wearing glasses. She's leaning
on a brick wall and wearing a necklace.
Kelly J. Baker is the author of the award-winning Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 (University Press of Kansas, 2011); The Zombies Are Coming!: The Realities of the Zombie Apocalypse in American Culture (Bondfire Books, 2013); Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces (Raven Books, 2017); and Sexism Ed: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia (Raven Books, 2018). She's also the editor of Women in Higher Education.

Monday, January 22, 2018

ADAPT: Effective Activism takes Practice

I interviewed Anita Cameron for Pacific Standard about the WORK that goes into ADAPT actions.


So you stage mock actions to practice? What are those like?
It can be anything! It's usually taking over something: An office, a bathroom, whatever, to simulate, as close as possible, what you do [in a real protest]—the adrenaline, the chaos, to give people a feel what to expect.
On Sundays [before actions] we have our legal meeting; it goes into into the history of ADAPT, civil disobedience, and why we use that. And we have published an activist guide. I wrote the part about intersectionality. I'm black. I'm disabled. I'm a lesbian. And I worked in the LGBT community before I joined ADAPT. Once I joined ADAPT, I spoke out pretty much about disability discrimination for 25 years. But when Michael Brown got killed, I really decided that, look, I can't separate my identities and my intersections of oppression from disability.
Also, we [must] pay attention to our walking folks who may be helping to open doors. The police sometimes will grab the folks who are walking. Just because you're walking doesn't mean you're non-disabled, but they'll assume the walking folks are non-disabled. They assume that if they grab the walking people, the folks in wheelchairs or mobility devices will somehow run away.
That has never happened.
No! Not in the 35 years of ADAPT has that ever happened.
We know what we're getting into. Especially us veterans who've been around a few years, a few decades.

Friday, January 19, 2018

School to Prison: Disability

The Center for American Progress has put out an analysis of the role disability plays in suspensions. It confirms what we broadly know, but makes the data case strongly and usefully:
Too many young children with disabilities and social or behavioral difficulties are currently living a version of Isaiah’s harrowing early learning experience. According to new data, children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities and or emotional and social challenges, while comprising just 12 percent of early childhood program populations, represent 75 percent of suspensions and expulsions. The odds of being suspended or expelled are more than 14.5 times higher for children with disabilities and emotional challenges than for their typically developing peers. (see Appendix)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Western Civilization and Immigration

A Pakistani man who renounced his Muslim faith and became a humanist has had his application for asylum in the UK rejected after failing to correctly answer questions about ancient Greek philosophers.
The Home Office said Hamza bin Walayat’s failure to identify Plato and Aristotle as humanist philosophers indicated his knowledge of humanism was “rudimentary at best”.

The Home Office also said Walayat did not face persecution for his beliefs. In a letter rejecting his asylum claim, seen by the Guardian, it said his assertion that he would be at risk in Pakistan, and could be killed by his family because of his beliefs and his renunciation of Islam, was unfounded.
Apostates are subject to discrimination, persecution and violence in Pakistan. In March last year, a student who had stated he was a humanist on his Facebook page was murdered at his university.
Rudimentary at best.

Rudimentary at best.

I keep coming back to those lines as they condemn this man to persecution (in the best case scenario). 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When Red States Attack: Medicaid in Iowa

This is a brilliantly executed feature on how hard it is to actually get services from Medicaid in Iowa even if everyone agrees you are owed those services.
A Des Moines Register investigation into those 200 cases found an appeal process that presents a thicket of administrative and legal roadblocks to patients and their families, who must clear hurdle after hurdle to secure care.
Specifically, the Register investigation found:
• Due process violations: In at least four cases, administrative law judges concluded or the Medicaid recipient alleges in ongoing district court appeals that the companies failed to properly notify recipients about health care reductions and their appeal rights.
• Denials of in-home care: Medicaid expenses for in-home care that had been routinely approved when the state ran the program are now being rejected by managed-care providers as unnecessary and outside the scope of what the program authorizes. Families say they are left struggling to care for their loved ones, who are losing their independence and autonomy.
• Endless appeals: Even when Medicaid patients win their cases in administrative hearings, the managed-care companies routinely "re-evaluate" their health needs, again denying their care in as little as 60 days. That forces patients to embark on yet another round of appeals.
What's more, as I reported in November, the situation in Iowa is going to get worse.

I'm struck by the way that disability systems are built, funded, and run on the assumption that people mostly won't get full access to the services they are due.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Medievalism and Racism: The Pendragons

A bunch of London racists tried to arrest the Mayor of London. The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is Muslim. The racists brought a noose and accused him of treachery under the "Magna Carta." Here's the story from WaPo:
But the Pendragons didn’t want to wait outside.
A small, mostly curious crowd formed around the men as they lingered by the auditorium wall, accusing Khan of subverting British law, without ever explaining how. When a reporter asked under what authority they planned to arrest the mayor, one of the Pendragons cited the Magna Carta.
Police had still not arrived after 10 minutes or so. One of the Pendragons walked up to Khan’s table and showed him an American flag, which he was holding backward.

“Mr. Khan,” the man said, “there’s millions of British people supporting Donald Trump.”
Two interesting points:

1) The idea that the Magna Carta as the sole great document of liberty empowering the people to overthrow tyrants is an American idea, not typically a British one (see the work of Peter Linebaugh).

2)  Note, of course, that the whole dispute is framed around Trump's welcome/status in the UK. He's a force for global fracture.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Disability and Immigration Rights

NEW PIECE at Pacific Standard 
"As ICE has intensified operations under the regime of President Donald Trump, disability-related cases and causes have routinely gotten public attention. In part, this has to do with the way that disability commands sympathy and can sometimes generate generous media coverage. It's easier for immigrant rights groups to command national attention when there's a disabled six-year-old at risk. But it's also because ICE has turned rapacious, sweeping aside long traditions protecting medical facilities such as hospitals from enforcement actions."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Against Banning Laptops: Take good notes, trust students

Ruth Colker in the Cardozo Law Review argues that evidence for banning laptops, at most, suggests limited internet access during classroom times requiring content acquisition. Colker writes:
Those studies [promoting bans] represent a careful presentation of three artificial experiments where students are assigned their note-taking style— longhand or computer—and in which students have little incentive to learn the material from the lecture. They are paid to participate irrespective of how well they do on the exercise. The material is not assigned in any course at a university. And the material is conveyed entirely through a brief TED Talk or lecture.
And then Colker talks about her law school students in which laptops were a choice:
My students were not listening to a thirty-minute TED Talk and then being asked to apply limited, discrete information. My students were trying to absorb information over a fourteen-week period for a final, summative, twenty-eight hour take-home examination. For the purpose of taking the final examination, some of my students wanted to have typed notes that they could cut and paste to create an outline. Some students told me that there was inefficiency to handwriting notes because they then needed to type them into an outline. The kinds of benefits that may transpire from taking handwritten notes on short lectures may not correspond to note-taking in a class that consists of considerable discussion and dialogue in preparation for a twenty-eight hour take-home exam. On the other hand, other students told me that they found it beneficial to transfer the handwritten notes to typed notes. The additional step of typing notes was a learning experience for them. They therefore made an informed decision not to bring a computer into the classroom because they preferred to handwrite notes. But, interestingly, all students reported to me that they eventually created typed notes—unlike the students in the experiments.
One conclusion - Trust students:
I have been especially interested in comments from students who have self-identified to me that they have a disability. When laptops are allowed without restriction, these students report that students often do surf the Internet during class in a way that is very distracting to those sitting around them. But these students also report that the Internet surfing ends when the professor has a clear policy banning such conduct in the classroom. For example, during the year of this study, my first-year students had the same classmates during the fall and spring semesters. I taught them in the spring. They reported to me that their classmates who surfed the Internet during the fall were not Internet surfing in the spring in my class because of my clear Internet policy.
In the end, it's about note-taking:
The research for both typical students and students with disabilities strongly suggests that students do not necessarily take effective notes, irrespective of whether they use a laptop. A simplistic statement that laptop users should not take verbatim notes appears to be an insufficient way to help students take more effective notes. Some students may take effective notes using handwriting. Other students may take effective notes with computers. The technology itself does not dictate the outcome. The student’s note-taking effectiveness affects the outcome.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

My Son's Birth

It's my son's 11th birthday. Read this!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bad Historical Metaphors - #MeToo and Witch Hunts

New piece in Pacific Standard on historical language and victimization claims:
As a historian and journalist, the use of these loose metaphors to protect the powerful has concerned me for years. This latest push against serial sexual harassment in media and entertainment, as noted by BuzzFeed journalist (and Pacific Standard contributor) Anne Helen Petersen, has driven the bad historical metaphors to new heights (or depths). In a recent New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear about Hollywood following the Weinstein revelations, various industry sources compared the practice of re-shooting scenes that featured sexual predators to "Soviet Union-style erasure," as if losing screen time were equivalent to being consigned to a gulag. It's not "blacklisting" when someone chooses not to hire an accused sexual predator. It's certainly not a sign of incipient Holocaust or gender-based despotism. Nevertheless, a male comedy producer calls Hollywood a "reverse Handmaid's Talesociety." One industry insider told Goodyear, "Men are living as Jews in Germany."