Presumed Incompetent! It can be tiring being a Woman in Academia!

Presumed Incompetent womenThis is one of the latest books I have been reading: Presumed Incompetent. The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, Angela P. Harris).
Highly interesting work, especially for my case as a university professor having to deal with sexism while living in the Middle East – Lebanon -, with racism too when I was living in Montreal – Canada… And that is the case of so many other women in the Academic world in particular, an ivory tower where it is hard to get promotions if recruited, and to achieve that holy grail of the academic ladder – tenure.
Institutionalized racism and sexism, even among the liberal crowd of tenured radicals, do exist! Often, it’s the liberals who can have the least self-consciousness about the pain they inflict. “I can’t be racist! I love Obama!” or “I can’t be sexist! I love women”!
In this book, women of color in the United States aren’t taken seriously because there exists a bias that is extremely destructive: the perception that they are tokens, that they are penny-ante players in the high stakes intellectual poker match. In the case of Middle Eastern Academic Institutions, many women are perceived the same – racism is often not the issue here, but sexism is.
Universities are losing a lot when they dump most women before they can become permanent. Administrations think that they are winning: It’s like leasing a new car if you don’t grant tenure; you’ll get a new one, only it will cost you less”. Men are also perceived as better potential givers to the institution.
Can we openly talk about those issues? Rarely… It’s taboo! To do so is tantamount to grousing!
Though Presumed Incompetent itself focuses on women of color – and men -, i couldn’t but compare to the situation of many women scholars in most Middle Eastern societies who find themselves not only having to perform the rigorous work of making it in academia but, also, having to deal with the battle fatigue of challenging the bias that dogs their every action.
It can be a tiring, thankless job being a woman in academia — one feels sometimes like an island in a vast, uncharted ocean.
This article isn’t only about voicing discontent in the name of so many women who have to remain silent. It opens the way to begin a useful dialogue…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *