Who do you represent when you write and speak? Even talking about yourself cannot be confined to your life, because people draw meaning from your lived experience in ways that are out of your control. This is the trade-off for listening. When you write, you filter reality. When you speak, you become a proxy for your ‘kind.’ It is natural to process the world through learnt cues.
When you are in a position of authority, what you say and do becomes ‘truth.’ Academics are in the business of making truth. There is much hubris involved in dedicating our lives to becoming the voice for the voiceless. During the colonial days, anthropologists were enlisted to unravel the mysteries behind the ‘exotic’ subjects in occupied regions of the world and filter these understandings in ways palatable to the domestic public. Centuries later, mysteries continue to pervade about much of the underprivileged and unattended world.
A well-meaning academic faces numerous obstacles when undertaking this responsibility of representation today. The academic norm is Western, white and masculine. To deviate from this demands an explanation. You may be asked whether your scholarship is an ‘area studies’ endeavour that may pigeonhole your scholarship within the boundaries of that chosen group and region. Will your research globalise the norm and thereby serve as an instrument to scale best practices? Is your work intended to create reflection by challenging popular worldviews, possibly creating a new norm? For the complete article, click here.
‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other,’ argues Pip Jamieson, a female tech founder. But what is being supportive?
My partner and I moved to a new apartment recently. We decided to have our neighbours over for drinks. One of them is a pregnant dentist. Over the course of the night, she confessed that she had gone part time. She immediately said that she was aware that too many Dutch women go part time and that that’s considered a problem, but she was happy. I could feel it was difficult for her to explain her situation.
A week ago I was in New York for a conference. I met up with a good friend who was celebrating her promotion to Research Director with a top multinational architectural firm. She was in her late sixties and was feeling great. She spoke about how some of her clients had propositioned her. She said the flirting was all in good fun though and she would never trade that kind of banter for anything in the world. She knew that was not the politically correct thing to say in today’s #metoo climate, but there it was.
As a woman, you learn to practise diverse forms of self-censorship, especially with other women. It is not easy to say that you love to stay home and cook, that you aren’t ambitious, that motherhood is not your thing, or that you are a workaholic and you love it. Your gender is a default filter. Your personal story becomes a political statement. The so-called ‘sisterhood’ may feel betrayed.