Tag Archives: women

Women Shouldn’t Need Different Guidelines for Achieving Tenure (And Other Observations on Gendered Academe)

*while Foreign Policy editors expressed initial interest in this post, a long-delayed response time to its actual draft suggests to me that such interest has faded, though I cannot imagine why. I’ve decided to self-publish it here on RI. 

Recently, Foreign Policy contributor Stephen Walt published an article on how to get tenure in political science, and Erica Chenoweth, Page Fortna, Sara Mitchell, Burcu Savun, Jessica Weeks, and Kathleen Cunningham responded with an article on the different experiences women have when they go through the process of seeking tenure. Both pieces are, in some ways, spot-on. As Chenoweth et al note, Walt’s points are reasonable, but “the likely effect of his recommended strategies would be drastically different” for men and for women.

Chenoweth et al correctly identify the source of that difference – that “processes may be biased against women, often due to implicit bias rather than conscious discrimination.” They then make a very strong case that implicit bias affects almost every facet of the tenure process, from letters of recommendations to research expectations, from hiring committees to the probability of citation, from publication opportunities to syllabus assignments, from teaching evaluations to service expectations. They also correctly point out that there are different behavioral expectations of women in the field than there are for men.

The authors then go on to give women junior faculty a number of survival tips for the tenure process: get what you need at work, get what you need at home, create time, set boundaries with others, filter commentary and criticism, network, and get your work out there. All of these (if they are realistic) are excellent pieces of advice for navigating the gendered nature of the tenure process. And Chenoweth et al do not leave it entirely to women to navigate the process: the last two paragraphs of the piece talk about advice for allies to make sure that they are aware of, and not complicit in, the gendered dynamics of the discipline.

One the one hand, this advice is solid – after all, to an extent  we all navigate the existing system individually. On the other hand, from a feminist perspective, I have two serious concerns about the advice provided. First, I am concerned that providing advice for navigating the gendered system of achieving tenure without strategizing to change the system as a whole puts the primary responsibility for overcoming bias on the victims of the bias. Second, I am concerned that a significant number of the strategies provided are only available to a small percentage of those who might seek professional success as political science faculty, narrowing the spectrum of those to whom tenure might be available.

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Sex and Death … revisited?

I won’t tell you how old I was when Carol Cohn published “Sex and Death in the World of Rational Defense Intellectuals” – but I will tell you that I’ve read it dozens of times over my years as an IR scholar, and that it has been foundational to my thinking about security issues in the international political arena, as well as the links between gender, violence, and security. So I was surprised, and interested, to see an article in the FirstView of International Organization which plays off of the title of Cohn’s original Signs article – Rose McDermott‘s “Sex and Death: Gender Differences in Aggression and Motivations for Violence.” Then I read it.

Almost thirty years ago, Cohn described that  “it was hard not to notice the ubiquitous weight of gender, both in social relations and in the language itself” of “white men in ties discussing missile size” (p.688, 692). This discussion about sexualized imagery does not serve to compare (favorably or unfavorably) men and women – in fact, Cohn notes the ease of getting drawn into it even with an explicitly feminist predisposition. Instead, Cohn’s discussion serves to show that militarism itself relies on gendered significations – of men and women, of states, and of strategies and tactics. The lasting richness of Cohn’s work is about voice, signification, reification, and hybridity in gender/security matrices. And that’s what’s lost in McDermott’s reuse of Cohn’s title.

McDermott naturalizes sex and gender, throwing Butler’s caution about the performative co-constitution of sex and gender to the wind. The consequences are a step backwards, rather than a step forward, for analyzing gender and international security.

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Commodify Women Much? Care.org and Tapping Women


Care.org poster

Before 6am this morning, I was wandering (read: running) through Orlando Airport to catch my flight to WIIS-Canada when I stopped (read: slowed down a little, I mean, I was really late) to read a billboard ad that called women “the world’s largest untapped resource.” I didn’t get a picture, or figure out who made the billboard at the time (read: real late), but I’ve been stewing about it all day, so I figured I would stew a little on RelationsInternational.

It was about six hours before I was able to research this and see where if came from: CARE.org. More on that soon. While I assumed it was well-intended, it still made me very angry: was I a keg in need of tapping? Or perhaps an oil reserve? Who has the right to decide to ‘tap’ me? Where is my agency? Isn’t there a contradiction between declaring oneself ‘powerful’ and calling, in passive voice, the same person an ‘untapped resource?’ This picture isn’t the poster that I saw, but it is similar – and, though I knew it was probably well-intended, I walked around most of the day feeling like, in addition to being an on-face ridiculous characterization, there is something violating about this ad campaign.  Things just got more complicated when I saw where it came from. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization with an impressive record overall, little negative press, and some decent gender analysis on their website. So, here’s the summary: the characterization is inaccurate; I feel guilty for being mad; and I’m (still) fighting mad. I’ll explain all three …

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The Gender Imbalance of Concern about Gender Imbalance in IR

This morning, the Committee on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Status of Representation and Diversity co-hosted a panel on the gender gap in IR citation practices. The panel was organized in response to the collection and publication of data about the underrepresentation of women in citation practices even compared to their publication rates, both to discuss that data and discuss strategies to address the problem. Members of the editorial teams of International Studies Review, International Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of Peace Research were in the room to talk about it. Dan Nexon, lead editor of the flagship journal in the field, talked about strategies for increasing representation of women in the journal and in citations.

As they had that conversation, five people listened. All five of them were women.

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