Gender & Human Rights

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The Human Right That Keeps on Giving


NEW DELHI – In Côte d’Ivoire, I once met a boy working on a cocoa farm whose only dream was someday to taste the rich brown chocolate he helped produce. And in Pakistan, I once rescued a boy who sewed footballs and wished only to play with the product of his work.

In the course of more than three decades of defending children’s rights – including rescuing tens of thousands of children from bonded labor and slavery, among them little girls who were trafficked from their homeland for sexual exploitation – I have met young people from many backgrounds. But, whether they are child laborers or victims of war who have lost everything, all have something in common: an indomitable urge to study. They want nothing more than to pick up a book, go to school, and improve their lives through education.

According to UNESCO, every additional year of schooling a young person receives increases their average future earnings by 10%, and can boost countries’ average annual GDP growth by 0.37%. Education doesn’t only break the shackles of human slavery; it can also fuel social, economic, and political change.

Recognition of education’s importance is enshrined in many United Nations treaties and international declarations, and in the constitutions of its member countries. Education is not just a fundamental human right, but also an enabling right – essential for the exercise of all others. With such a powerful tool available to us, we should be doing whatever we can to use it.

To that end, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malawian President Peter Mutharika, and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova have convened the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

Chaired by United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Education Commission (as it is more widely known) brings together a committed and diverse group of experienced individuals who share a belief in the importance of accessible schools for all. I am both proud and humbled to be a member of the Commission, which has developed a bold agenda to turn today’s global youth into a “learning generation.”

Currently, millions of children are being denied quality education, and 263 million children are out of school worldwide – including 63 million in conflict zones and another 30 million who have disabilities. Millions cannot go to school because they are trapped in child labor and slavery, fueling a lifelong cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Poor children who are forced to perform unskilled repetitive tasks fail to learn anything else, which erodes their future employability and puts them on a path toward continued hardship in adulthood. Only education can stop this cycle and give children the means to secure a future free from exploitation.

Meanwhile, 600 million children who are in school are missing out on the full benefits of education because they are not learning basic skills. Young people who haven’t learned the skills they need to participate in the global economy are becoming disillusioned, which makes them more likely to find outlets in extremism or crime.

These numbers tell a story of education in crisis. But it’s worth mentioning that in 2000 the total number of out-of-school children was almost one-quarter higher, at 374 million, than it is today. This improvement proves that we can still build a better, more equitable, and sustainable world through education.

Fortunately, many countries are now implementing sound policies to do just that, including abolishing school fees, starting school meal programs, and using cash transfers to provide educational opportunities in poor communities. Moreover, at the international level, the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal encapsulates a new commitment by member countries to ensure inclusive, quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all people by 2030.

SDG 4 is ambitious, but achieving it is imperative if the world is to meet the other 16 SDGs. The Education Commission’s new report, “The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World,” recommends a targeted approach and greater investment aimed at the hardest-to-reach children – those who are in child labor, suffering from disabilities, affected by conflicts, or excluded from education simply because they are girls.

The Education Commission proposes a strategy that fosters empathetic, compassionate, and respectful youth leaders who can show their peers that peace and innovation are worthy alternatives to fundamentalism and extremism. And, because education is ultimately a public good furnished by states, we advise governments to increase their investment in schools, either with domestic resources, international support, or private-sector partnerships.

The Education Commission’s report was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at this month’s UN General Assembly summit, and we hope that world leaders will take notice and begin to translate its recommendations into action.

A childhood without education isn’t a childhood at all, and every youth who is out of school is one too many. We must act urgently to provide universal primary education by 2030. Creating a “learning generation” is a moral responsibility we all share – and a legacy all subsequent generations will carry on if we can just take the first, crucial steps.


Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is Honorary President of the Global March Against Child Labour and the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.


By           :               Kailash Satyarthi

Date       :               September 21, 2016

Source    :               Project Syndicate

Posted in Education, Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment

Gender pay gap to remain until 2069, report says


The gender pay gap in the UK will not close until 2069 based on current salary progression, research suggests.

Accountancy firm Deloitte said the hourly pay gap between men and women of 9.4%, or about £1.30, was narrowing by just two-and-a-half pence a year.

It also found men were paid more than women at the start of their careers.

It said more women should be encouraged into science and technology jobs, where salaries are more balanced but women make up just 14.4% of the workforce.

The Deloitte analysis, based on data from the Office for National Statistics, found women earn an average of 8% less in graduate starting salaries than their male counterparts across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects combined.

This compares with 9% less across all other industries.

Career paths

Among those professions with the most pronounced difference was health care, where women earned £24,000 on average in graduate starting salaries, compared with £28,000 for men – a difference of 14%, the report said.

But the Deloitte report showed there was no pay gap in starting salaries across medicine, dentistry, engineering and technology.

It added it was “too simplistic to explain the gender pay gap in terms of pay inequality”, and that it was party due to differences in career paths, which are affected by academic choices and the subjects that each gender studies.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, said it was known that jobs demanding a “blend of cognitive, social and technical skills” were typically among the most highly paid, with pay inequality less in STEM-related roles.

“Therefore, if more women study STEM subjects and pursue related careers, they will increase their earnings potential in the early years of their working lives and, should they remain in their careers, the later ones,” she said.

“This in turn should serve to reduce the gender pay gap. A great deal of progress has been made in the past half century, but we should not wait another 53 years for full parity.”

Role models

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Helen Byrne, a mathematical biologist at the University of Oxford, said it was important for women to have role models in the STEM professions.

She added: “I think often children in schools don’t really understand what it’s like to be a maths professor.

“How can you use your maths, physics, chemistry, different disciplines, what does that look like?

“What I do isn’t what I imagined a mathematician did when I was at school. It’s much more fun.”

A government spokeswoman said: “The gender pay gap is the lowest on record but we are committed to eliminating it completely in a generation.

“We’re taking action to require businesses to publish their gender pay gaps for the first time ever from April next year and we agree that getting more girls into STEM subjects can play a part.

“We are continuing to encourage more girls to study these subjects and last year, 12,500 more girls sat A-Levels in STEM subjects compared to 2010.”


Date         :               September 24, 2016

Source     :               BBC

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Somali elections: much at stake for gender representation


“The clan-based formula will be used in the October elections, and is a real risk that the constitutional 30% gender threshold might be undermined.”

In May this year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud issued a decree legalising the presidential elections set to take place on 30 October, after the elections for the lower and upper houses of Parliament, which take place on 24 and 25 September.

The electoral process is based on the provisional constitution, which was adopted in 2012, and aims to ensure that the terms of the current president and Parliament are not extended. Although the current presidential term expired on 10 September, it seems an extension has been agreed upon up to the time of elections.

Universal suffrage – based on one vote for every voting-eligible man and woman – will not be used in the upcoming election. Rather, the so-called 4.5 clan-based formula will be used to determine the delegates who will vote for the lower House, while the regional states will select the members to the upper House. The collegiate system, which combines the traditional clan-based system and geographical voting, means that the process can be more accurately described as a selection, rather than an election process.

The constitution currently stipulates that women need to make up at least 30% of the seats in Parliament. There are no policies or laws in place to protect this quota, however, and the upcoming elections therefore place women’s representation at risk.

A number of National Leadership Forums (NLF) of Somali national and regional leaders took place earlier this year to determine modalities for the elections. The latest one was held in August in Mogadishu. Some of the issues discussed included the need to finalise the constitutional review process, and to establish political parties as a future alternative to the clan-based formula. Integrating women in elections and public affairs was also part of the agenda, with traditional leaders and electoral colleges being urged to ensure that women comprise 30% of the delegates to elect the lower and upper houses.Each of the four main clans – the Hawiye, Darood, Dir and Rahanwein – were urged to ensure that they each had 18 female representatives, while the fifth clan – made up of a coalition of minority clans – should have nine. It was also proposed that clans’ nominations to the Upper House comprise 50% women. In addition, a 50% reduction of candidates’ fees for women was also recommended as an affirmative action initiative meant to break barriers for women and to encourage female candidates.

If these propositions were to be implemented, Somalia would have a commendable gender representation of about 81 women in Parliament. However, these are mere proposals, and their validity and authority remain doubtful given that real power continues to be held by traditional clan and religious leaders.

Although the provisional constitution allows for universal suffrage, implementing it has been hindered by failure to reach agreement on the election formula. Elites in Mogadishu favour the clan-based formula, which is advantageous to the current president – while the regional authorities support a district-based election formula, which favours the Darood clan in particular.

There are looming fears that even with a set date, the possibility of polls being delayed cannot be ruled out. To date, the 30% gender quota stipulated in the provisional constitution has not been realised. Women currently hold 39 out of the 275 parliamentary seats; a meagre 14%. This has largely been attributed to the lack of a mechanism to implement the quota system, combined with male-dominated traditional cultural norms.

This has been made worse by the excessive powers vested in the traditional leaders and religious scholars under the framework of the 4.5 clan formula – in which a group of elders elect members of the bicameral legislature at the National Constituent Assembly.

To be successful, candidates need to lobby for endorsement from not only the four main clans, but also the clan elders and religious scholars who wield immense traditional and cultural powers. It is during this process of lobbying that voter manipulation is bound to arise; including the side-lining of women.

The system has been criticised for its vulnerability, lack of transparency and lack of consideration for women and minority clans. Coupled with the need for viable institutions and a persistent failure to reach agreement on the rules of the game, it is easy to see how many factors work against the 30% gender quota.

Regardless of these challenges, Somali women remain optimistic and resilient. There is even a female presidential candidate, Fatumo Dayib, who has vowed to soldier on in the face of death threats and other challenges.

Fatumo even said she would enter into dialogue with al-Shabaab if elected. She is an example of how Somali women have played a significant role throughout their country’s history – even if in the background. Somali women have taken part in the various peace processes; from Arte in Djibouti to Mbagathi in Kenya, yet they continue to be victims of certain damaging cultural practices.

Women have particularly borne the brunt of the protracted conflict in the country, but continue to play a strong role as mothers, caregivers and protectors in their families.

Their resilience in the face of adversity makes them critical actors. Somali society should acknowledge this, and not allow women to be subjugated to the whims of clan and religious leaders.

Despite criticism, the election model to be used offers more diversity and inclusivity. The number of clan leaders who participate in the selection process has increased; along with greater inclusion of women, diaspora members and minority clans. This has created a sense of optimism about the upcoming elections, given the country’s long history of conflict and the general lack of democratic governance institutions and structures.

Achieving gender equity and equality remains a primary goal. The adoption of the national gender policy albeit with criticism from religious scholars, is a positive initiative. Public debate and awareness campaigns should be conducted to challenge negative traditional cultural narratives, and misinterpretation of Islamic teachings that lock women out of elective public and political leadership roles.

Given that the clan-based formula will be used in the October elections, there is a real risk that the constitutional 30% gender threshold might be undermined. Consolidating the constitutional gains for women in Somalia requires bold resolve to adopt enabling policies. President Mohamud ought to decree these in order to leave a legacy for the empowerment of Somali women. – ISS


Hawa Noor, Research Consultant and Peter Aling’o, Office Director and Senior Researcher, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Nairobi


Date         :               September 25, 2016

Source     :               Mail & Guardian Africa

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New Book: Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace


Clearing the Shrapnel

Gender-based discrimination in the academic workplace isn’t always overt, but the “shrapnel” of small indignities stays with you. That’s the premise of a new book on this kind of bias, and how to alleviate it.

Ellen Mayock, Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish and professor of women’s and gender studies at Washington and Lee University, wasn’t always a feminist. But a career in academe — including a frustrating stint as the token female administrative “voice” — led to a consciousness about how gender issues play out in the academic workplace. That transition is a major thread in her new book, Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace (Palgrave Macmillan), which is a combination of theory, personal and gathered anecdotes, and recommendations for change.

Shrapnel takes its name from its central concept: that female professors and administrators aren’t necessarily overtly discriminated against as much as they are subject to regular insults and slights — all of which build up over time to inflict real damage. The cumulative damage idea will be familiar to anyone following recent dialogues about race — in that context this idea has frequently been described as microaggressions. Mayock’s gender-specific term is arguably more illustrative: gender shrapnel.

Put another way, digs such as “How does your husband deal with this?” (“this” being long hours at work that have amounted to a productive research agenda), lodge in one’s skin, like bits of shrapnel from an explosion meters off. One isn’t fatal but many over time pose risk to the woman — or at the very least to her longevity in academe.

Yet the book is not all descriptive. It presents possible solutions, such as awareness training and a detailed instructor’s appendix to help better contain the blasts. As Mayock puts it, “When more women and men workers can capably evaluate their work environments, find the strength to speak out consistently against injustice, become CEOs and presidents who vociferously do not tolerate workplace injustice, and find support in other like-minded individuals, then we will have cleared much of the gender and intersectional shrapnel that continues to cause too many ‘Ow, it got me’ moments and to capture too much of our attention that could be placed more productively on the work itself.”

Mayock responded to email questions about the book. Here is some of the conversation, edited for clarity and length. (Shrapnel also has a blog for further reading.)

Q: What is gender shrapnel, and how is it similar to microaggressions that have been cited in recent campus protests about race?

A: Gender shrapnel is a series of small workplace explosions that occur when no one person or organization is purposefully discriminating against women (or men, less frequently) based on sex, but when the gender norms of our homes and of our public interactions that consistently follow a patriarchal flow are replicated in the workplace, entrenched in the workplace, and then become the fabric of a pattern of sexual discrimination. This pattern is normally not consonant with the organization’s professed values and is often in direct opposition to Title VII and Title IX law. Gender shrapnel also encompasses the scattered bits of metal at the intersections of gender with race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, parental status, national origin and religion.

The excellent term “microaggressions,” originally coined by Chester Pierce in 1970 and made more commonplace recently through Derald Wing Sue’s 2010 Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation, is certainly linked to the concept of gender shrapnel. In Gender Shrapnel, I say that Pierce’s term is a useful way to understand the daily, frustrating, energy-sucking experience of dealing with discrimination. The metaphor of gender shrapnel obviously focuses on gender (and its connections with others of the so-called protected categories), and it implies that oftentimes the experience of discrimination, harassment and retaliation requires an understanding of uneven dynamics over time and a nuanced approach about when and how to confront the workplace injustice.

 Q: What are “bad gender days,” and can you describe one of your own?

 A: Each one of us can probably offer a highly unique take on the “bad gender day.” [Cisgender] men who feel limited by the emotional palette available to them, cis women who work so hard just to be heard and to be credited for their good ideas and work, and trans women and trans men who are even more boxed in by gender norms and scripts. These issues are so hard to navigate, and I wonder how we can move deliberately towards kindness and very firmly away from violence in these realms. I think most of us can generate a narrative of gender shrapnel, if we think analytically about our own experiences.

A bad gender day for me might include being interrupted at a meeting, hearing another credited with my idea or work, having someone speak for me, rather than listen to me, and/or being seen in a group of women and being asked what we are “plotting.” There are many worse gender days out there, so these are just a few lighter examples. Of course, we see in the news every day much more acute examples of the sexual violence so present on our college and university campuses.

Q: You cite Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, from which you’ve developed the notion of the professional mystique. What is the professional mystique, and how — if at all — has life for women working in academe and without improved since the early 1960s?

A: I talk about the professional mystique as a dissatisfaction with roles and cultures that women and underrepresented groups experience in the workplace. I relate this issue to women’s depiction in the popular press, the “role crisis” (i.e., which role[s] are we supposed to play at any given moment?), the “is this all?” phenomenon (Friedan), privilege envy (Friedan) and the structure of the workplace.

In many ways, life for women in the college and university workplace seems better now.

There are more and more women, including women of color, graduating from undergraduate and graduate programs, so the pipeline is open. At the same time, a look at the statistics in Kristine De Welde and Andi Stepnick’s excellent volume, Disrupting the Culture of Silence, shows us that women and, in particular women of color (categorized by the authors as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native women), occupy primarily the part-time and/or temporary (adjunct) ranks and, on the tenure track, primarily the assistant professor level. This means that women in the academic workplace are definitely experiencing a glass ceiling and a significant wage gap.

Another important issue to consider is women students’ and employees’ access to equality in the education workplace. If sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation are an issue for educational institutions, then it’s more than likely that these institutions are not managing well the more acute problems of sexual assault and violence. We know that this goes against [federal antidiscrimination laws] and creates significant obstacles for girls and women in educational settings.

The U.S. government over the past several years has required educational institutions to inspect and revise their policies and practices. This increased vigilance sends the right message that illegal behaviors won’t be tolerated, although enforcement methods and goodwill about transparency still vary widely from institution to institution.

Q: The book has personal, academic and practical purposes. Who is its intended audience?

A: The book is structured to offer narratives of gender shrapnel, theorize about the problems of gender and intersectional dynamics, and offer solutions and training principles. In this sense, the first part of the book states clearly that stories matter, that we have to understand the nuance and the details to make more transparent the experiences of discrimination, harassment and violence. The second part of the book is perhaps the most dense, as it dives into legal theory and history, sociology, organizational management, and media analysis in order to name common denominators in different types of workplace injustice. I don’t leave my cultural studies/Hispanic studies roots behind, but rather enhance them through the incorporation of other disciplines’ scholarship. The third section, titled “Solutions,” has an extremely practical bent. This was of utmost importance to me, because I didn’t want to just lay out the stories and problems without offering clear, firm solutions.

Many people and groups, therefore, fit into the audience for the book. Some readers might want to get a sense of the minutia, or the textured details, of gender shrapnel; some readers, especially sociologists, women’s, gender and sexuality experts, lawyers, and journalists, might delve into the more data-heavy second part of the book; still other readers might go right to the nitty-gritty of training principles and solutions for creating an improved workplace environment. I laughed when several people told me they read Gender Shrapnel on the beach this summer. I love that! It is somewhat dense beach reading, but I do think many of the messages will speak to a wide audience, both in and beyond educational settings.

Q: What is tempered radicalism? How do you see it helping women in the academic workplace?

A: Tempered radicalism is a term coined by Debra Meyerson and Maureen Scully, who say that tempered radicalism is a process enacted by “the people who work within mainstream organizations and professions and want also to transform them.” I particularly like this concept, because it doesn’t ignore that we workers are human beings who have beliefs and platforms that we don’t just leave at the door when we enter the workplace. Meyerson and Scully believe that recognizing and understanding the broad array of views of different individuals in the workplace can help managers to effect fair change. This is good for men and women in the workplace. The one drawback they note is that the “radicals” can end up forming a part of an out-group, and organizational dynamics can stagnate with fixed in- and out-groups.

Q: How do we “clear the shrapnel”? What kind of awareness training should be required, for whom?

A: I believe that clearing the shrapnel requires a multipronged approach, which includes providing education about gender and intersectional dynamics and pitfalls to every member of the organization (students and employees in the academic setting), following up on that education in small and large groups, sending consistent institutional messages, considering and rectifying inequities in levels of visibility and invisibility, advertising new opportunities to all, and figuring out individual students’ and employees’ strengths that can contribute to organizational change.Gender Shrapnel provides instructions for training sessions, a glossary and recommendations for creating a more equitable work environment. We must make sure that we train the trainers well, or else the whole process can run off the rails.

The leaders of the institution or organization must make the training and follow-up absolute priorities for themselves and all students and employees.


By            :               Colleen Flaherty

Date         :               September 22, 2016

Source     :               Inside Higher Ed

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The Burqa and French Values


PARIS – Many Western media outlets were highly critical of France’s 2010 law banning face coverings, such as burqas that cover a woman’s face and entire body, and local decrees adopted this year banning full-body “burkini” swimsuits on public beaches have drawn further negative attention. French-bashing in the press is nothing new, but those who criticize these measures ignore the historical and sociopolitical reasons for why most French people support them.

For starters, secularism – or laïcité – is a defining principle of French society. Under the French Constitution – which upholds freedom of conscience as well as freedom of speech – all citizens may choose any religion, or none at all; alternatively, they may criticize and mock religious beliefs and customs.

In 2004, the French Constitutional Council deemed the French Constitution to be compliant with the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. In order “to reconcile the principle of freedom of religion and that of secularism,” the Council ruled, “the Constitution forbids “persons to profess religious beliefs for the purpose of noncompliance with the common rules governing relations between public communities and private individuals.”

In France, recent events seem to pose a direct challenge this principle. In 1765, the agnostic French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists who were murdered by two Islamist radicals in January 2015 were carrying on the Enlightenment tradition Voltaire helped start, and that attack had a chilling effect on a distinctly French form of free speech. The death threats against Charlie Hebdo are still rolling in, most recently following its publication of cartoons depicting the burkini debate.

Alongside French secularism is feminism, a principle also enshrined in the Constitution. Since 1999, Article 1 has established a gender balance in all French decision-making bodies, from the National Assembly to local government bodies, boards of directors, and so forth. While the proverbial glass ceiling hasn’t been shattered entirely, there are now more women in high-level leadership positions in France than ever before.

Like secularism, this institutionalized gender parity is at odds with conservative interpretations of Islam, which often call for modest dress and gender segregation in hospitals, swimming pools, and driving schools. And, in many French Muslim communities, conservative imams have more influence in shaping the status of women than do school teachers or other local leaders.

With France’s strong culture of feminism, many French citizens consider gender segregation and face covering to be repressive, even when they are said to be a woman’s choice. France has a history of welcoming immigrants, especially between the two World Wars; but it has never before been confronted with attitudes and behavior that not only violate its constitutional principles, but openly defy them.

French law forbids data-collection based on ethnicity or religion, but it is estimated that 8-9% of France’s 66 million citizens are Muslim – alongside Germany, the largest Muslim population in Europe – and half are believed to be younger than 24 years old. Most French Muslims are not new arrivals, but came during the Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian independence movements in the 1960s, meaning that young Muslims today belong to the third generation of that immigration wave. Many have been very successful, especially the young women, who are excelling in an increasingly competitive labor market.

However, many young Muslims feel frustrated with their living conditions and betrayed by the French promise of equality, leading them to question and challenge French principles. As a demographic group, they feel the weight of endemic unemployment, which averages 25% among young people and 40% in the banlieues, the housing estates surrounding many of France’s major cities, where many Muslim families live.

Under these conditions, it is common for young people to blame society, which they believe has given them short shrift, for their poor school performance and other adverse outcomes. For some, alienation finds an outlet in hatred of France, violent anti-Semitism, and rejection of French values, to the point that they come to define their identity more through an extreme interpretation of Islam than through French citizenship.

For decades, French governments have tried to paint over the problem by pouring billions of euros into so-called “urban-policy” programs to fix up dilapidated housing projects. But there can be no painting over the heinous crimes perpetrated in France over the past two years by disenchanted young Muslims who had embraced radical Islam.

The list is alarming. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in January 2015, there was the mass murder committed at the Bataclan theater and other Paris sites in November 2015; the truck attack on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais this summer; the subsequent murder at a Catholic church in Normandy of a beloved priest, whose throat was cut during mass; the attack on a private home outside Paris, where a married couple of police officers were murdered in front of their child; and the stabbing of a Jewish man in Strasbourg this month.

These incidents are reinforcing populist movements in France and throughout Europe. In France itself, such attacks are being used to justify more anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians such as Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, who could make it to the second round of next year’s presidential election.

Against this backdrop of collective trauma, many French citizens believe that the survival of the Republic itself is at stake. And they see no reason why France’s characteristic pluralism and tolerance should become the means of its destruction.


Noëlle Lenoir, a former French Minister of European Affairs, is currently President of the European Institute at the Hautes Etudes de Commerce in Paris, and is the Founder and President of Cercle des Européens, a think tank.


By           :              Noelle Lenoir

Date       :               August 25, 2016

Source    :    


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Yes, Muslim women face discrimination – but they’re pushing for change


A British parliamentary committee recently discovered what many people in Muslim communities have known for ages – that Muslim women face discrimination on account of their gender, their ethnicity and their religion.

As the most disadvantaged members of the most socially and economically deprived communities in Britain, Muslim women suffer astronomical levels of unemployment and economic inactivity. In 2015 ONS figures showed only 35% of Muslim women aged 16 to 64 were employed. That compares with 69% of all British women in the same age range. We also learnt that 58% are economically inactive (not looking for work). That compares with 27% of working age women across the British population.

The committee also concluded that while Muslim women suffered a “triple penalty” on account of their gender, ethnicity and religion, it was the latter that poses the most barriers. Muslims face discrimination in many areas of public life but women are held back further because they are seen as passive, uninformed and uninterested in the world beyond their doorstep.

Muslim women, especially those wearing Islamic dress, represent what is considered a backward faith which disrupts western ways of life. Islam is also regarded as a barrier to their advancement outside the home because it stresses women’s role as care givers and homemakers. It apparently compels them to cover their hair and face and excludes them from Islamic thought and governance.

Large numbers of Muslim women in Britain argue that it is the intersecting effects of Islamophobia, including public stereotyping and male-dominated interpretations of Islam from within Muslim communities or assumptions made by non-Muslims, which constrain them.

For some time, they have been seeking to fight back – particularly in the years following 9/11. Muslim communities have come under heavy surveillance and women have had to play different family roles. Wives, mothers, sisters of men charged with or imprisoned for “terrorist” activity have undertaken traditional male responsibilities. Others have been subjected to surveillance themselves.

They have become rapidly politicised and active in public arenas. They are involved in campaigns to counter Islamophobia and also patriarchal attitudes in their ethnic and religious communities.

The British government also courts Muslim women to act as “bridge-builders” between Muslim communities and majority British society.

The Preventing Violent Extremism programme, which ran between 2007 and 2010, for instance, encouraged Muslim women to play a greater role in civic life. The idea was to prevent extremism and promote Muslim integration.

Institutional representation

In 2010, three women identifying as Muslim were elected to the House of Commons. They were joined by another five in 2015. The number of Muslim women in local councils has also increased in the 9/11 era.

These elections marked the culmination of Muslim women’s involvement in party politics in the 2000s. And while most of these women would stress that they represent all constituents regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or faith, many feel they bear responsibility for changing the way in which Muslim women are perceived. They also want to show that that they make a valuable contribution to British society. Some have also challenged the clan-based system within Muslim communities which promotes men as community and political leaders while excluding women.

Far larger numbers of Muslim women also participate in women’s community organisations and NGOs today than 15 years ago. These organisations work not just on issues concerning Muslim women – empowering them to deal with oppressive cultural and religious practices – but also to build capacity among Muslim women. They provide women with the knowledge and skills needed to enter public life and the labour market.

Muslim women have also become active in street politics. In the 2000s, girls and young women were foremost participants in the Stop the War movement and more recently they’ve been involved in support for Syrian refugees.

They are countering male domination within their communities by challenging the way in which mosques are dominated and run in Britain by all-male committees. Some women’s organisations are planning women-only mosques, while others have called for transparency in mosque governance structures. They are pushing for more women to be involved in making decisions.

So Muslim women are working hard to increase their presence in public arenas and break down stereotypes. That said, it is recognised that too many Muslim women still remain on the margins of society and the economy. State support is crucial in bringing them centre stage.

However, it is important to show that Muslim women are not passive or isolated in the way that media representations suggest. They are subjects in their own right.


Khursheed Wadia is a principal Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Safety and Well-Being in the University of Warwick. 


By           :               Khursheed Wadia

Date       :               August 17, 2016

Source    :     

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Scholarly input to a once festering wound


A litany of esteemed scholars hailing from across the world joined some of the brightest Sri Lankan researchers at the International Conference on Human Rights, Citizenship, and Democratization at the Sri Lanka Foundation to discuss how the nation can continue its progress on protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens.

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) convened the conference, which ran from August 26 to 28 to celebrate its 25th anniversary and bring attention to ongoing human rights issues.

Established in 1991 with the help of USAID, the Centre has provided policy advice to the government, helped victims of human rights abuses gain justice, and participated in many other projects to fulfill its mission: “To create a nation with a rights consciousness in which the dignity and rights of all people are respected.”

Director of CSHR Senior Professor Ravindra Fernando opened the conference by welcoming the guests: Justice and Buddhist Affairs Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Director General Political Affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Andre Haspels, University of Colomobo Dean of the Faculty of Law Indira Nanayakkara, Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo Lakshman Dissanayake, Professor Danielle Celermajer of the University of Sydney, and Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka director Dr. Deepika Udagama.

While noting that the convention would interrogate the status of human rights both in Sri Lanka and internationally, touch on peace building efforts and democratisation and provide a forum to discuss how to ensure the rights of children, women, indigenous groups and LGBT people, Fernando also shared a more expansive vision for the symposium.

“This conference aims to enhance human rights protection and promotion towards entrenching human rights values by providing a platform for academics, civil society, students and participants to share their knowledge, research and related experiences towards creating a human rights culture for all,” he said.

Fernando voiced his optimism about the political direction of the country while also warning that improvements in human rights protections must continue.

“Today, we have a unity government of two major political parties. Post-2015 has seen progress in the field of human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance. But we have a long way to go. We should take the initiative, as citizens of this country, to ensure that our rights are protected and democracy, as well as the rule of law is upheld,” he added.

Minister Rajapakshe, for his part, spent a good amount of his speech analysing the global history of conceptions and protections of human rights. Invoking Hammurabi’s code of law, analysing several of Aristotle’s proclamations and selections from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the minister’s erudition was certainly on display as he deftly scrutinised the progression of notions of fundamental rights.

Throughout his speech, moreover, he tied the importance of a properly functioning legal system to the upholding of human rights safeguards.

“We know that protection of human rights is intrinsically interwoven with the principles of rule of law. Unless there is a system of upholding the rule of law in a country, you cannot have any legitimate expectation that your human rights or fundamental rights will be protected,” he said.

He similarly touched on Sri Lanka’s past constitutions, documents that evidently did not defend the law as evidenced by the 26-year conflict. Rajapakshe lamented that, during the creation of the 1972 and 1978 constitutions, the government did not take the public opinion and desire into account.

“When writing the 1972 constitution there was no public dialogue. They didn’t listen to the people of the country. They merely acted on the mandate given. In 1978, the same procedure was adopted and there was no public hearing,” he said.

The minister did say, however, that the new constitution will certainly take into account the populace’s whims and desires.

“That is why, when we are making a constitution presently, we have already established a constitutional assembly. There was a special committee appointed that went to each district. Now we are concerned about public opinion when we are making our constitution,” he said, while adding that the new document, unlike the two older versions, will provide specific protective measures for all people, as well as protocols for complaining about rights violations.

While Fernando and Rajapakshe focused their remarks on the necessity of maintaining a robust and functional legal system, Celermajer, the keynote speaker, presented a convincing argument that improving legal systems and rights protections, though crucial steps, are by no means sufficient to eradicate the environments and cultures that lead to abuses.

“Legal reform is necessary, but certainly not sufficient to transform institutions and relationships that have been saturated by years of injustice and hostility,” she said.

According to her, it is a comprehensive re-imagining of a society’s relation to historically abused groups that allows it to begin a new chapter. “As I will be arguing, altering the basic structure of a society, especially what we might think of as the soft dimensions of culture and relationships between groups, this requires the participation of a great many more people than those in political power,” she added.

It is a multifaceted approach that will allow Sri Lanka and other countries with a history of human rights abuses, to do away with the structural inequalities that have led to the torture and other cruelties suffered by minority groups. “To affect deep and sustainable transformation, we need to be intervening on multiple dimensions at the same time and in a coordinated manner,” she said.

Both institutions and cultures of oppression will have to be overhauled for Sri Lanka to move forward. Countries cannot progress by focusing on one and neglecting the other. To further illustrate this point, Celermajer drew on several examples from her native Australia concerning the treatment of Indigenous people.

Though just 32 percent of the total population of the Northern Territory, Indigenous people constitute 97 percent of young people in detention. She went on to explain that, although protected by Australian law, there is a pattern of human rights abuses against these incarcerated youth.

Beatings, solitary confinement and the forced detention of one suicidal young man in a chair with a hood over his head were just a few examples she gave.

Though the Australian public was outraged by these occurrences, it was soon revealed that many ministers knew of the conditions these young men faced after learning the results of three inquiries made over the past two years.

The outrage deepens when one takes into account a series of laws passed 25 years ago that tried to remedy the causes of similar racial discrimination.

“Those recommendations sought to address the root causes of the problem, including the various factors that led to the radical over-representation of indigenous people in custody in the first place: Police bias, pervasive racial discrimination, bail conditions and sentencing guidelines that have a disproportionate impact on members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups,” she said.

Despite these protections, Indigenous Australians still suffered abuses and did not have the platform or voice to publicise their troubles. Though many local papers picked up on the rights violations, it was only after the large media companies ran stories on the incidents that the country as a whole paid attention.

Celermajer’s point, after all, is that no number of regulations, laws, and procedures can change the social structures that contribute to oppression. It takes an entire society to alter the way it thinks about and acts towards people of different religions, ethnicities, genders, abilities and sexual orientations.

“Discriminatory attitudes are themselves embedded in asymmetrical power relationships and nourished by institutions and practices that fail to accord equal respect to different groups of people,” she said.

An important step in destroying prejudices and intolerance is to include minorities in decision-making processes. “People whose identities are degraded are barred from shaping a society’s cultural values and the types of knowledge and experience that get to count as legitimate and authoritative,” she said.

The tone of Celermajer’s speech was decidedly supportive of Sri Lanka’s continuing efforts. There is no doubt that the country is on the right path, as the creation of the Office of Missing Persons and the Secretariat for Coordination Reconciliation Mechanisms prove. These two bodies will hopefully succeed in righting the wrongs of the war.

Part of her speech, moreover, dealt with the importance of acknowledging the past while looking to the future. “Walking forward through that opening into a different future demands turning back and authentically facing the past. Establishing the foundations for a just and egalitarian future requires bringing those virtues of justice and recognition to the wrongs committed and to their victims,” she said, while adding that Sri Lanka is succeeding in doing this.

As Sri Lanka marches toward enacting more comprehensive rights protections, Celermajer encouraged the government to start thinking about engineering social changes to complement its judicial overhaul.


By           :               Sam Bresnick

Date       :               August 29, 2016

Source    :     

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In male-dominated subjects, hiring favors women—for teachers in France


Few will dispute the enduring reality that women are underrepresented in many fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Gender discrimination in hiring at various academic levels is often put forward as a major reason, but recent studies have sparked controversy by suggesting that gender bias in male-dominated fields, in fact, favors women. Among the latest evidence going in that direction is a new study published in Science this week showing that, in France, the fewer female academics there are in a given field, the better chance women have of being hired as teachers in that subject. The hiring bias also seems to work in the other direction, though to a lesser extent, with aspiring male teachers being favored in fields traditionally dominated by women. However, the relevance of these results to academia and their generalizability to hiring processes in other countries are subject to some debate.

The hiring of teachers in France offers a unique, real-life setting to investigate the role of gender in skill evaluation. Every year, national subject-specific competitions are held at two levels—for teacher candidates to work at a middle or high school, or to gain the highest-level agrégation qualification to work in a high school, college, or university—to determine who will be offered a teaching position. Candidates are evaluated first by written exams, then oral ones. The identities of the candidates, and thus their genders, are only disclosed during the oral phase. Therefore, by measuring how candidates rise or fall in the rankings between the written and oral exams, the researchers could assess how knowing candidates’ genders affected their scores.

One of the main conclusions of the paper, co-authored by Thomas Breda and Mélina Hillionof the Paris School of Economics, is that in fields as diverse as mathematics, physics, economics, and literature, there is no evidence of discrimination against the underrepresented gender. “We rather find that the gender in minority is increasingly favored” during teacher hiring as the level of underrepresentation in academic faculty positions increases, the authors write in a joint email to Science Careers.

In male-dominated fields such as math, physics, and philosophy, the bias worked in favor of women: The hiring advantage gained by female candidates between the written and oral exams was equivalent to an average of 10% of female candidates overtaking all the men. Meanwhile, there was a subtler yet opposite bias at play in female-dominated fields such as literature and foreign languages, equivalent to 2 to 6% of the male candidates overtaking all the women between the written and oral phases. In most fields close to gender equity, including history and literature, no bias against either gender was found. The highest-level biology exam is however an exception, as female candidates faced a ranking loss of 4% compared to males, even though women represent around 46% of academic faculty in this field in France.

The findings are most directly relevant to aspiring middle and high school teachers, but they are also applicable to those pursuing academic research careers, the authors argue. In France, about a quarter of the candidates who pass the highest-level agrégation exam join colleges and universities, where they are hired primarily to teach but are also allowed to conduct research or prepare Ph.D. theses, the authors explain in their email. This is not the traditional entry route for French assistant professors, but a significant number of Ph.D.-holders take the exam to secure full-time teaching positions at universities while waiting to win assistant professorships. Having an agrégation can also improve aspiring academics’ career prospects in some fields, which makes the results more broadly relevant to academia, the authors argue in their paper. “The main message for female students is that they can enroll in the academic tracks traditionally dominated by men without strong fear of discrimination,” they write in their email.

Some however feel that the results aren’t as clearly applicable to academia as the authors are making them out to be. “[T]he authors did a lot of serious number-crunching and came up with some intriguing findings,” says psychologist Virginia Valian of Hunter College in New York City. But the hiring processes and prestige of high school teachers and university faculty members in France are not the same, and a stronger distinction should have been made throughout the article, Valian adds. The fact that only a minority of agrégation-holders go on to an academic career is “a serious limitation to the study.”

Social scientist Kim Weeden, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University, sees another limitation: generalizability to other countries. “In the United States, for example, hiring into professorial positions is based on very local and non-standardized evaluations of candidates’ publications and scholarly potential, teaching record and teaching potential, ‘fit’ with the department, and so forth. Patterns of test scores on standardized exams in France just can’t tell us much about hiring in these systems,” she writes in an email to Science Careers. Even so, Weeden praises the study’s “very rigorous, creative analysis of a unique and high-quality data set.”

The findings are nonetheless in line with recent controversial studies based in the United States. Among them was a 2015 study that found, based on faculty member evaluations of fictitious job candidates, that women are favored 2 to 1 for tenure-track positions in engineering, biology, and psychology. One of the authors of that paper, developmental psychologist Stephen Ceci of Cornell University, thinks the new findings are encouraging for women pursuing STEM. “Young people, particularly young women, should be heartened by these findings because it goes against the common narrative that says the deck is stacked against them from being hired as entry-level professors,” he writes in an email to Science Careers. (Ceci gave Breda and Hillion feedback on their manuscript before submission but otherwise does not collaborate with them.) “If anything, the data reveal that the fields in which they are most underrepresented are the very ones that desire them most. If bias is at work, it is bias in their favor, not against them.”

Valian sees it somewhat differently. “Do their findings suggest that women are going to benefit by being badly represented in a field? Hardly. The authors have to wonder why women continue not to be well represented in math, physics, and philosophy, in universities and research institutes. If the exams are picking those women out at higher levels, why don’t we see them succeeding more?”

The new data don’t provide much insight into the underlying factors behind the skewed hiring. It could be, for example, that rather than reacting to gender underrepresentation across different fields in academia—which, the authors argue, reflects societal stereotypes—examiners were simply trying to redress gender imbalances they saw in the applicant pool, or even in past exam winners. This is unlikely to be the case, however, the authors argue in their paper, because many of the exams were close to parity both among candidates and past winners. The most plausible explanation, they continue, is that examiners were trying to counteract gender stereotypes.

Weeden however thinks that the authors “are a bit too hasty” in concluding an evaluator bias, as “the various checks that they offer against other interpretations aren’t as convincing as the general pattern of results,” she says. In particular, the oral exams seem to be designed to test pedagogical skills as well as subject knowledge, she notes, so one alternative explanation could be that “the very select group of women who pass the written tests in math are better than the very select group of men who pass those tests at explaining complex math concepts, [a scenario in which] they [would] also rank higher on the oral exams in math.”

To help address the continued underrepresentation of women in many fields in academia, in their paper Breda and Hillion call for implementing policies to counteract stereotypes and discrimination at early stages before educational choices are made, and spreading the message to female students that they have equal or even better chances to succeed as teachers and academics in fields where women are the minority—which is an approach that Ceci agrees is the right one. “By forcing the argument back to earlier in development, Breda and Hillion’s results demonstrating that women are not discriminated against in exam scoring and, in fact[,] are advantaged … suggest that hiring-point policies—such as mandating gender sensitivity training for members of hiring committees, or a certain portion of members must be women—are missing the point,” he writes.

But Weeden is only partially convinced. She agrees with the recommendation to counteract stereotypes at early ages, which is consistent with a substantial body of sociology research, including some of her own work, “show[ing] that by early high school, significantly more young men than young women plan to enter engineering, math, and other male-dominated STEM occupations,” she says. But “even among students who show an early commitment to science-related careers, who score well on standardized math exams, and who take high-level math and science courses, young women are much more likely than men to drop out—or be pushed out—of educational pathways that would lead to high-level science careers,” she continues. “Understanding the educational decisions that kids make early in their lives is important, but it’s certainly not the only life stage at which social processes can lead to women’s underrepresentation in science-related occupations.”

Curt Rice, president of Oslo and Akershus University College and head of Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research, takes a harder line. On the one hand, he welcomes this large-scale study from France, noting that it is “important to counter the US-dominance of subject pools in this kind of research,” he writes in an email to Science Careers. Also, “[s]tudies which look at significant quantities of ‘real data’ instead of simulations are important and interesting, even though they necessarily will have more variables that have not been controlled for.” But the authors’ recommendation “to bright young women … to study fields in which women are underrepresented … [is] vapid,” he continues. “The test results they discuss tell us nothing about the experience women have in the classroom or workplace when they are severely underrepresented. Of course, I want bright young women to choose STEM subjects, too, but the nuances of the French exam grading system seem to get overplayed in this advice.”


By          :               Elisabeth Pain

Date       :               July 29, 2016

Source    :               Science Magazine

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment

Earning Less Money Isn’t A Choice That Women Just Make


The pay gap is a complicated cultural stew.

Women don’t choose to make less money than men. But that’s often the criticism leveled when we talk about the gender pay gap, or the fact that women, on average, make only 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The argument typically is: Women look for work in lower-paying professions, so of course they make less than men.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, has heard that claim a lot since she published research showing that women earn $4 an hour less than men right out of college. Gould and EPI researcher Jessica Schieder published a paper on Wednesday explaining why the pay gap has little to do with real choice.

“People were not understanding the full picture,” Gould told The Huffington Post.

It’s true that many women do not pursue higher-paying jobs in engineering or science ― fields that are dominated by men. But that’s not the main reason the pay gap exists. In fact, 68 percent of the gap can be explained by the fact that women make less than men within the same occupations, as Gould and Schieder note.

“Leaving aside the fact that women’s career choices are shaped by gender norms and expectations, the fact is that most of the gender wage gap can be explained by the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men in the same occupation,” Gould said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Female doctors, for example, earn $51,000 less than male doctors on average, a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

A few enlightened companies are looking at their payrolls to determine if there’s a problem. Recently, the software company Salesforce found a pay gap among its employees and spent $3 million to rectify it. A few other firms have published the results of internal audits. Amazon recently said that it pays women and men equally, though it didn’t explain how it arrived at that conclusion.

Other industries aren’t so forthcoming. The union that represents reporters at The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that women at the paper make 87 cents for every dollar a man earns there. Though the company has pledged to address the problem, there’s been no action announced yet on this front.

“A company can look at their policies, but the vast majority are not,” Gould told HuffPost. “That’s an easy solution but it’s not happening.”

Of course, there’s more to the gap. Women and men do tend to get steered toward certain educational and professional paths. More men than women become engineers, for example, and more women than men choose social work. Those decisions, Gould and Schieder write, are influenced by cultural forces that cry out for further examination.

For example, at a very young age girls are often steered away or discouraged from pursuing math and science. It happens at toy stores where science kits are stocked in the boys’ aisle, and in classrooms where girls receive less attention than boys and teachers underestimate their female students.

Even if women do make it into the higher-paying tech industry later on, they often feel alienated from a male-dominated culture.

One 2008 study found that 63 percent of women who work in science, tech and engineering experience sexual harassment. Women leave these industries at higher rates than men.

“Decisions women make about their occupation and career do not happen in a vacuum,” Gould and Schieder write. “They are also shaped by society.”

The authors also point to a recent study showing that once women do enter a field, wages in that profession actually tend to fall.

When women come onto the scene, “it just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University, told The New York Times earlier this year. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

But wait ― there are yet more layers baked into this cake. Because domestic responsibilities are still overwhelmingly coded as female, women often have to work the equivalent of two jobs ― acting as caregivers of children or elderly relatives while also working for an actual salary. That puts them in a bind when it comes to taking on work that demands long hours.

This, in part, helps to explain why there are so few female partners at prestigious law firms and in demanding fields like investment banking. And even at the highest levels of business, women’s salaries tend to suffer more than men’s when times are tough.


By          :               Emily Pleck

Date       :               July 21, 2016

Source    :               Huffington Post

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment

Gender Policing in Academe


I have graduate school to thank for the years of tension between my queer gender identity and the norms and expectations of academe, writes Eric Anthony Grollman.

Now 31 years old, I am still struggling to figure out my gender identity. I knew by age 5 that I was unlike other boys, even declaring to my mother that I should have been born a girl. I came out as bisexual as a senior in high school, then gay in my freshman year of college. With exposure to feminist and queer theories and activism in college, I found a more fitting identity — queer — to reflect my own sense of gender and attraction to masculinity broadly defined (no matter others’ bodies or sex).

But I have graduate school to thank for my stepping back into the closet, at least in terms of my gender identity and expression — and for nine years of wrestling with the tension between my queer gender identity and the masculinist norms and expectations of academe.

Sociology became a woman-dominated discipline — at least in terms of degrees awarded — before I ever became a sociology major in college. In 2012, women were close to half or more of the faculty in two-thirds of sociology graduate programs in America, representing huge growth over the previous decade. (I imagine this number is much lower for women sociologists at the associate and full professor levels. And gender equity may have stalled, or even reversed, with the over representation of women among adjunct professors.) But in 2012, only 22 percent of graduate departments had more than one-quarter of their faculty specializing in the sociology of gender — and the same number making a genuine commitment to women scholars and the sociological study of gender.

In my own graduate training, I found even some of the faculty members who specialized in gender did not encourage research in this area. The discouragement seemed strongest for those planning to use qualitative methods (too “touchy-feely”), feminist and queer lenses (too “activisty”), and feminist or gender studies approaches (too interdisciplinary). Despite commendable representation of (cis)women in my department and the discipline more generally, I learned that many (men) sociologists appear to hate women and see masculinity as central to good scholarship.

In reading A. W. Strouse’s essay criticizing the inherent heterosexism and queerphobia of American graduate education, I finally realized that I am not alone in struggling with the white heteromasculinist under- and overtones of my graduate training. As Strouse aptly points out, professional (re)socialization of graduate school is centrally a task of eliminating passion, love, creativity and originality from would-be scholars’ lives — or at least presenting ourselves as detached, subdued, conforming — that is, “professional.”

In our writing, we were discouraged from “flowery,” verbose and creative prose, instead getting to the point concisely and speaking with unwavering authority. In fact, it is best to avoid writing in the first person at all costs so as to present arguments as taken-for-granted truths, rather than offered by an individual scholar. There is a reason why the feminist scholarly practice of being transparent about one’s social location never caught on in mainstream sociology; seemingly objective research is the highest form of inquiry, and everything else is suspect.

Masculinist authority was equally valued in how one presents one’s research in workshops, talks and conferences. As one grad school professor warned me, “none of this ‘shy guy’ stuff” — scholarly presentations were not actually spaces to present incomplete projects or uncertainty. (And don’t even think about attempting to shirk male privilege by rejecting an authoritative tone and presence!) Whatever it means to be a “shy guy” was seen as distracting at best, or antithetical to my scholarship at worse. I could not help but assume that this professor’s comment was a more polite way of telling me to “man up.” And, upon comparing notes with a cis gay man in the program, I learned that the professor had, indeed, a reputation for telling queer men students to “man up.” Perhaps I had been pegged as too sensitive for the harsher, more offensive version of this advice.

I have wrestled, more generally, with the demand to strip away all emotion. Well-meaning friends and colleagues have criticized me for becoming increasingly more angry as I present at conferences, that my own rage about oppression and the detriment it has on the health of oppressed individuals is inappropriate for an academic setting. I learned to stop pounding my fist on the podium, but I have not quite mastered the stiff upper lip. Showing emotion is weak; a true scholar would never be so personally invested in the plight of marginalized communities.

To my surprise, the devaluation of femininity is not limited to the erasure of feminine expressions in academics who were assigned male at birth. I have witnessed the policing of femininity in cisgender women academics, even those who are femme presenting.

For example, two weeks in a row in my Preparing Future Faculty course, the cis woman professor chastised cis women students for their “feminine” and “girly” behavior. I agree that beginning a presentation or conversation by apologizing in advance for subpar quality or ideas only serves to undermine what one has to say. But I found it quite troubling that a woman professor so openly, publicly and forcefully berated these women students for their feminine presentation of self, especially in a mixed-gender class. Perhaps a private conversation, wherein the professor could talk more at length about her concerns about the sexist ways in which women scholars are received in the academy, would have been better and less offensive. But, then again, this is the same professor who interrupted my own presentation to ask, “Oh, we haven’t beaten the activist out of you yet?” Clearly, academic training is about beating graduate students into submission and conformity.

I have heard women friends and colleagues note the related practice of rewarding masculinity in women in academe. Short hairstyles and masculine attire appeared to be much more common among my grad department’s most successful women faculty. The more assertive you could be, the better. The more you could do to reject your femaleness and femininity, the more successful you could be in the academy. Women who insisted on having children should calculate pregnancy just right so that they could “pop one out” during a break in the school year. I am often shocked by how openly academics and academic institutions attempt to regulate women scholars’ reproductive choices and sex lives. Some women academics are complicit, unapologetically giving advice to “keep your legs closed,” delay motherhood as long as possible or forgo it all together.

It has taken me three years post-Ph.D. to recognize the role my graduate education has played in stalling my gender journey. I entered the program beginning to embrace a genderqueer identity and reject the restrictive category of “man.” In a different life, I might be well on my way to rocking stylish, colorful outfits, being as fab as I want to be, or at least much more comfortable in my unique skin. But, in this life, I have to first recover from the damage of my graduate training to my sense of self.

I have only recently reclaimed a genderqueer identity, now finding “nonbinary” to better describe who I am as a gendered being. I have slowly dropped the suit and tie as a protective shield and begun to slowly come out publicly as kind of, sort of trans. Another path to my own liberation sadly entails rejecting the femmephobia, queerphobia and transphobia of the academy. Embracing an authentic gender identity and expression entails reconceptualizing what it means to be a scholar. (Why are the two intertwined in the first place!)

No advice to offer to others just yet — my apologies for that. But I hope that more of us will acknowledge, critique and resist the ways in which academe polices the gender presentation of scholars.

Eric Anthony Grollman is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Richmond and the editor of “Conditionally Accepted.” Their research investigates the impact that prejudice and discrimination have on the health, well-being and worldviews of oppressed communities, particularly those who hold multiple marginalized identities (e.g., LGBTQ people of color).


By          :               Eric Anthony Grollman

Date       :               July 29, 2016

Source   :     

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment
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