In a previous post, I cited an article about how women tend to underestimate their ability to use the Internet, while men consistently think they are better than women in this regard. On average, they have equal skills.
Now there is a buzz about sexism in the techno-librarian world. Karen Schneider recalls how she called “sexism” regarding a conference and ended up ticking people off. Dorothea from Caveat Lector recalls how a community of practice asked her to pipe down on an issue with a co-worker.
The early response is to think of this in terms of action. “So do something about it if it bugs you so much.” Well, actually, Karen and Dorothea are doing something. They are addressing that a problem exists.
Another response is the “not my problem” response. Why should Dorothea and Karen expect men not to behave as men? Can men be at fault if they are blind to feminist issues? Feminist issues are “women” issues afterall.
Well, that’s not true either. Inequality impact men as much as it does women. I think it’s fair for Karen to say “Did the men think about speaking up?” Or at least to take responsibility for a problem when it is extremely obvious.
So, there is a glass ceiling in the library world. In a female-dominated workforce, men are more easily able to make it to management positions. There are external issues that cause parts of this. Here are some possibles:
- Sexism generally means that an organization is taken more seriously if it has men at the helm. Thus, women managers seek men managers to give them some external pull, ensuring that they are not perceived as doing the dreaded “women’s work” which will ultimately mean less pay, less power and continuously precarious job security.
- For some reason I cannot fathom, a good number of women I know defer to me for anything remotely technical. I have experience this even when it was obvious that the person deferring was more cabable than I was. I don’t know if this is cultural or biological, but it is a pattern in my life that is so consistent that I cannot fathom it being only my perception.
- Men like the spotlight and will take it, even when it means they are there with their pants down.
- The Doctor Doom myth. Men always imagine themselves being able to design gadgets that make them invulnerable to everything, with a lot of cool beams and stuff hanging out of their fingers. Women may think the same way, but the role models (in the comic world at least) aren’t there for them. The closest I can remember is Vindicator, and she died off rather embarrasingly with the rest of Alpha Flight in New Avengers #16.
But if men are deluded about their abilities, everyone suffers in the end. It means we have the blind leading the blind in some cases, while the sighted are sitting there waiting for someone to see how messed up the situation is.
Well, if you are blind, you best make sure you open your ears. What something can men do to catalyse change in the library 2.0 world.
- Inquire rather than present.
- Go to library 2.0 conferences with questions rather than a presentation.
- Recommend and encourage female colleagues to present at library tech conferences.
- Insist that women take the lead on important somethings.
- Shut the hell up for a second!
- Feminist does not mean “bitch.” It means “I’m willing to label myself as something most people think is synonymous with “bitch,” so you will listen for a change!”
That said, women also have to change. But women already know this, and I’m not about to give suggestions on how they should. Not yet. I’d rather hear what the women have to say.
I also think there has to be a connection between the voice and the path to solution. Airing a commentary about sexism in libraries is fair. Airing “dirty laundry” is not a fair path to take on the sexism train. I don’t need to know that someone is sexist or hard to work with (actually gender doesn’t really matter) — the sexist someone needs to know first and then the employer. And then you work it out — doctor doom to doctor doom.