Category Archives: B*tch Magazine

“Seeing Like a Feminist” Book Should Be Required College Reading

Lady in the Ivory Tower post by Lakshmi Sarah on May 6, 2013 – 11:43am; tagged academiaacademicsbooksIndia.


Some books are easy to read, yet stay with you long after you’ve finished the last chapter. Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist(Penguin/Zubaan, 2012) is a timely work that explains a complicated subject without over-simplifying it.


When one “sees” the world like a feminist, Menon writes in her introduction, it is like “activating the ‘reveal formatting’ function in Microsoft Word. It reveals the strenuous, complex formatting that goes on below the surface of what looked smooth and complete.”

Reading Seeing Like a Feminist made me think: what if we all, especially in academia, thought like feminists? What would the world look like then? To be a feminist is to understand the position of the powerless, as Menon writes, “to imagine occupying the marginal, relatively powerless position with reference to every dominant framework that swallows up the space at the centre.”

Menon is a professor of political thought at Jewaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. whose previous books include Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law (2004). She divides Seeing Like a Feminist into six main chapters: Family, Body, Desire, Sexual Violence, Feminists and Women, and Victims or Agents. Menon relates each of this big issues to a simple dynamic: choice.

The book is definitely aided by Menon’s position as a woman who has lived with India’s legal and cultural systems. As she points out, the Indian penal code criminalizes sexual activity that is “against the order of nature” (whatever that means). Menon’s perspective is powerful, precisely because it is based on feminist scholarship and debates in what she calls “my part of the world.” She highlights many non-Western assumptions and goes beyond other Zubaan books that have a historical focus. The book looks “directly on the gendered nature of power.”

In the end, like Rainer Maria Rilke’s quote on loving the questions themselves, her aim is not to provide answers, but new questions. Menon wants each to shift her or his lens. To see like a feminist is “not to stabilize, it is to destabilize. The more we understand, the more our horizons shift.”

If only Seeing Like a Feminist was required reading for all college students—and professors.


Read the rest of this guest blog series on feminism in academia.

Why Are There So Few Female College Presidents?

Lady in the Ivory Tower post by Lakshmi Sarah on April 2, 2013 – 4:27pm; tagged academiacollegefeminism,presidentsuniversitywomen.

A crowd of mostly male college presidents

Women make up a majority of college students, but at the top of the academic ladder, the percentage of women wanes: only 26 percent of college presidents are female. Why is this?

The percentage of female college presidents is actually better than the stats for other positions of leadership—women make up only 20 percent of Congress. In order to gain a better understanding of some of the intricacies in of the role of college president, I spoke with Laura Trombley, the president of my alma mater, Pitzer College.

President Trombley has clearly been busy and successful in her role as the head of a liberal arts college; Congress recently named her to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Notably, having chlldren is not necessarily an issue in the lack of women in the stressful presidential job. Trombley combines being an administrator with her work as a scholar, teacher and mother who also considers herself a feminist.  As Swarthmore college president Rebecca Chopp told the New York Times, “I wrote my dissertation from 5 to 7 every morning, and then got my son off to school. Having a child in graduate school helped keep me grounded.”

Instead, says Pitzer President Trombley, the gender gap comes down to both money and academic bureaucracy.

“You look at where women presidents tend to be concentrated, it tends to be at the community college level,” says Trombley. The smallest number of female presidents are at Ivy Leagues and research universities, she noted. “You can trace power, status and money. That also gives you a really interesting snapshot of gender issues.”

One problem for women in academia is that traditional departmental structures create a narrow path to the top. For women, it is often very difficult to become department chairs, because they are usually not among the most senior faculty.

“It is actually a pipeline issue. If you don’t start looking at how women can enter the administration ranks at a lower level, then you are not going to solve greater representation at the presidency level,” says Trombley.

That means the problems with a gender gap at the top of the ladder stem in a large part from workers not having an equal footing when they start the climb. The gendered pay gap in academia isn’t as bad as in many careers, but female faculty members earn 19 percent less than their male colleagues—a number that hasn’t changed in thirty years. Instead of sticking around in academia for decades and following the regular academic “pipeline,” some of the most prominent female college presidents have landed through nontraditional tracks, landing the job after building successful careers in media and politics.

As with all discussions of why gender differences exist at the top of the heap, we can’t just look at what’s going on at the top. The problems begin much deeper.

Photo of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitee via Treehugger.

Read the rest of the Lady in the Ivory Tower series about feminism and academia!

The Best Conference You’ve Never Heard of: Empowering Women of Color Conference

This post is part of a guest blog series on women in academia for Bitch Magazine.

I don’t exactly remember  how I discovered the Empowering Women of Color Conference (EWOCC) in Berkeley, California but I first attended the event last year. Far from the stuffy conference rooms of a fancy-dancy hotel, EWOCC is a grassroots conference geared toward women of color, and open to all. This is a place that offers childcare, access for all people regarless of ability and offers low-to no cost registration. Last year’s conference was complete with spoken-word performances, a workshop on agriculture food justice, actually interesting panels, and a creative writing exercises.

This year, the 28th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference was titled, “Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Bodies and Souls Building Life,” and seeks to honor a multiplicity of women’s experiences around labor: “As women of color, our journeys are marked by stretches of struggle and moments of victory. We seek to honor labor across generations: our mothers, grandmothers, and caregivers whose souls and bodies gave us life.“

EWOCC’s intention is to “build with ancestral ways of working that are attentive to the politics of liberation, decolonization, and healing.“

This year’s conference just happened last week. I asked the organizers to answer a few questions on the history and evolution of their event.

How did the Empowering Women of Color Conference start? 

EWOCC was founded in 1984 by a group of undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley. The initial project, was entitled “Women of Color in the United States,” and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Students decided to organize another event. In 1986, with the formation of the GA’s Graduate Women’s Project (GWP), it was decided to institutionalize this event and make the conference an annual project under the auspices of the GWP. EWOCC was one of the first conferences to present women of color with an opportunity to address the racial, class, and gender issues facing American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Chicana/Latina women.

How is it organized?

EWOCC is completely volunteer-run. Every year, the planning committee selects new members, based on their background, interest in planning, and their passion for continuing our conference. Our keynote speakers are chosen by the entire committee over several months of discussion regarding specific issues we want to address in our conference and who would be the best representative of these issues. In the past, notable women of color have given keynotes including Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Dolores Huerta, among many other extraordinary women.

How do you manage to stay true to feminist principles?

We stay true to feminist principles as the foundation of our existence. Specifically, the principles of community, education, holistic healing and overall empowerment are principles at the core of our conference, and why the planning committee remains dedicated to ensuring that this conference continues. This conference fills a gap in many traditional feminist spaces and discussions in that we address issues specifically facing women of color in the United States. We provide a safe space to facilitate dialogue and to share experiences in an empowering way unlike any other conference of its kind.

EWOCC is not the typical scholarly conference in that we expand the invitation participate to community members as both conference planners and presenters, rather than restrict our conference to the academy. We also strive to incorporate the arts, spiritual practices, and other means of knowing, more so than a typical academic conference provides.

How Can Harvard Help End Rape in India?

This post is part of a guest blog series on women in academia for Bitch Magazine.

Today, six men accused of gang rape in India head to court. If that sounds eerily familiar, it’s because just two months ago, six other men also went to trial for gang rape in India in a high-profile case involving a woman fatally assaulted on the bus in New Dehli.

After these terrible crimes come to light, we all want to see major change. In reaction to the New Delhi rape, Harvard University decided to sponsor a policy task force “to offer recommendations to India and other South Asian countries.” But the group received a critique from Delhi blogger Nivedita Menon, who wrote in a post called “Harvard to the Rescue!” that Harvard would be better able to discuss rapein South Asia not from the ivory tower, but by consulting with feminists on the ground in India. “It’s been a long hard haul, so it’s a great relief that the Harvard Law School has stepped in to take this burden off our shoulders,” writes Menon sarcastically.

Harvard’s plan is to produce a working paper to advise on the implementation of the recommendations from India’s Verma Committee, a report pulled together by three members of India’s judicial system that spells out crucial ways to make rape cases come to trial more quickly in India and to create harsher punshiments for people convicted of sexual assault. Feminists in the Global South may have overreacted to the plan for a working paper—it’s possible that Harvard has every intention of consult women across India on what should be done. However, the general sentiment seems to be indignation that Harvard would be able to “save” the poor women of India. This is illustrated in a letter in The People’s Record that charges Harvard with ignoring “the long history of Indian activists themselves fighting to end rape and sexual violence.”

There is clearly a need for collaboration internationally on rape issues, in addition to study.

In Harsha Walia’s piece on the Feminist Wire, she says, “While navigating my own relationship to Delhi and home, it has been infuriating to read Orientalist renditions of South Asian women needing saving from barbaric South Asian men.” Walla sees the myth of Western superiority as a part of a facade of gender equality “‘at home’ that invisibilizes, for example, the gruesome gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio, and US representative Todd Akin’s comments about ‘legitimate rape,’ and the ritualized colonial violence against Indigenous women murdered at alarming rates, and Black women in prisons and migrant women in detention centers, and women of color, poor women, transfolks, and sex workers.”

Let’s continue to create task forces, and study these issues. But let us also work on our transnational feminist collaboration and coalition building, so as not to continually repeat history and create different groups trying to achieve the same thing. I look forward to seeing greater coalition building between Harvard feminists and those on the ground in India.



Queering the Academy: Four Signs Queer Studies is Still Fighting for a Place in Academia

Judith Butler saying "Gender Yer Doing It"

When do you know your academic field of study gains mainstream support? One sign: When you do notneed to have a hunger strike in order to keep the field of study at your university.

Queer Studies, specifically, is clearly still fighting for a solid place in academia. Here are four of the signs.

1. There are only four collges with Queer Studies majors. According to College Equality, there are only four colleges with LGBT Majors and nearly thirty with Minors. According to a new Gallup survey, the country’s highest concentration of people who identify LGBT live in Washington DC—none of the colleges in the DC area have Queer Studies majors, minors, or concentrations.

2. There are Queer Studies conferences. Though there do not seem to be many, they do exist. The UNC Asheville Queer Studies Conference would indicate that Queer studies is a thriving discipline. That conference has run biennially for the past fifteen years and hosts workshops, papers, and panels by about 50 faculty and students. The website says that it attracts an “international audience of activists, academics, and artists who showcase a range of creative and scholarly pursuits related to the investigation of genders and sexualities,” with participants from Tokyo, Canada, the Philippines, Israel, Australia, England, Europe and across the US. A discipline has to start somewhere.

3. Some professors are still punished for being pro-gay. What about being able to be proud of who you are as an academic and as a person who identifies as LGBTQ? In some cases, we see that free speech is only allowed for some. Last year at Gallaudet University, an administrator was placed on leave for signing a petition to put Maryland’s gay-marriage law on the ballot.

4. Textbooks aimed at Queer Studies do exist. Though, there is still the question of quality and quantity, the fact that textbooks are being written is surely a good sign, though there still seems to be a long way to go in terms of a consistant flow of new books and articles in the field.

In 2010, Gawker published the “Top 10 Colleges for Gay Students,” but what about the top colleges to be a queer professor? Where does this list begin? The next post in this series will look at some indicators  for this list.

Do We Still Need Women’s Colleges? Yes and No.

Women’s colleges were born out of institutionalized sexism. So, do we still need them?

In mid-December the Huffington Post published a guest editorial by Elizabeth Pfeiffer titled, “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Women’s Colleges Might Just Be the Answer.” In her post, Pfeiffer defends the all-female Scripps College. She argues that a school should be defined by “the richness of the community…and the possibilities this kind of environment offers.”

I agree: Schools should be defined by the richness of their community. But that goes beyond a gender binary. How about those whose identity does not fit within this heteronormative binary of man or woman?

Pfeiffer asks,  “Why is Scripps, or any women’s college, still relevant?” Pfeiffer believes one reason is because of the leadership roles she was able to take on, as well as the idea that women’s colleges instill a sense of leadership. She cites the fact that women’s college graduates make up “more than 20 percent of women in Congress and 30 percent of a Businessweek list of rising women in corporate America.”

The woman’s college is in some cases a moot point, in many institutions across the country, women attend colleges in numbers at par with men. But if some women need this environment to find their power, I am all for it.

Pfeiffer’s article received a response from Shannon Miller, a current student  Claremont McKenna College (CMC). Claremont was a male-only college until 1976 and is part of the five-college Claremont consortium with Scripps. The response, “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It” asks, “What makes Scripps—or any other women’s college—any better than CMC, based solely on the gender composition?”

Miller argues that Claremont better equipped her to tackle the gender gap than most women’s colleges, particularly because of the co-ed environment. She also says that in her own search she wanted a “challenge” in her college experience, she “wanted to enter a school that would push me to be stronger and bolder, not indulge my weaknesses by protecting me from ‘injustice’ in an inaccurately idyllic setting.”

It’s worth noting that by almost any standard, both Claremont and Scripps are both idyllic settings. I attended Claremont consortium school Pitzer College and can say that there is an enormous percentage of the global population who do not have access and could not afford to be on any of private liberal arts college campus.

But the debate over women-only colleges is about more than the sex break-down of institutions. What we need are not colleges and institutions that define themselves by one means of oppression (sex), but colleges and universities that have a greater understanding of how some dynamics of academia can create institutionalized oppression.

Instead of focusing on whether or not we need women’s colleges, let’s expand the debate to ask what kind of institutions we need, and how we can make visionary institutions a reality. In my humble opinion, we need innovative environments that go beyond sex, race, class and citizenship. For a step in the right direction, check out the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning CIEL. We need a culture shift in academia that’s both local and global.

Six Tips From Women Working Male-Dominated Engineering Fields

One of my greatest high school regrets is that I never took an auto shop class. I would have had a chance to learn some practical skills like changing oil and changing a tire. At the time, I doubt it fit into my schedule, but entering a class of mostly boys scared me as well. It’s not that I was afraid of boys—I considered myself a feminist despite not fully understanding what that meant—but it would still have been intimidating to walk into a classroom full of dudes.

When does this happen, this point where men are encouraged in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math and women are left out? My mother teaches kindergarten; in her class, all the kids seem equally excited by counting and banana slugs. But somehow, by the time women reach the higher echelons of education, there is sorting out, if you will, in which mostly men go in one direction and women in another.
Bitch has covered the reasons behind the lack of women in science and technology fields before, but I wanted to get a personal perspective on what it’s like to work in a predominantly male discipline. I called up two women with advanced degrees in engineering fields and put together a list of five big things they’ve learned about working in these male-dominated fields.
The women I spoke with were Maura Raburn, a Silicon Valley tech worker who has a Ph.D in Electrical and Computer Engineering from U.C. Santa Barbara and Rebecca Batchelder, an LA water engineer who did a Masters in Environmental Engineering at Tufts University.

Raburn said she liked being a gender minority most of the time in school because she did well in most of her classes and had a more generous scholarship than most of her male peers. “I felt I was representing well for my gender, both during my Ph.D. and post-doc,” she says.  Batchelder’s choice of career combines her passions: She decided on Civil Engineering initially because she liked “building things and was good at math,” and chose the environmental track after her involvement with environmental activism. In graduate school, the majority of Batchelder’s classmates happened to be women but all of the professors were male. “It was difficult. In part because grad school is difficult, but also having male professors was challenging,” she says. Batchelder recalls a classmate complaining that when she told her advisor she needed to finish her PhD in four years so that she could begin having children, he replied that he had children while he was getting his PhD—and failed to recognize that he had a stay at home wife.

Batchelder now works at a company with a majority of women, and two male bosses. “I usually find myself as the only female engineer at meetings, even though on a daily basis I interact with women regularly,” she says.

So what have they learned? Here are six nuggets of wisdom:

1. Make friends with your colleagues, both male and female.  Your network is your biggest asset.  Seriously.  This might not seem the case now, but it really matters who your friends are in your field.

2. Learn to take criticism well—consider the validity of the feedback without getting too wrapped up in emotion.

3. Go looking for general career advice. A good source for those starting their careers is the Manager Tools/Career Tools series. Some managers are afraid to give women the feedback they need, for fear of hurting feelings. Read and listen for your own mistakes.
4. Take up a sport where you lose sometimes. Get in the habit of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting again.  Raburn’s years of judo helped her lose some of her unhelpful perfectionism.
5. Life is too short not to be treated professionally. If someone with power over you is treating you unprofessionally, try to change the situation, get them to be held accountable, or get out as soon as you can. There will always be other opportunities.
6. Do what you love. That is more important than anything.

Is there an “Adobe Ceiling” for Latina Women in Academia?

In India, the roof is used as an economic indicator. Whether your roof is made of thatch, tin, or tiles sends a message about your place in society.

Academia has a less-literal ceiling that serves as a symbol of status: the new book Presumed Incompetent describes the difficulty of Latinas climbing the ladders of academia as an  “adobe ceiling” (a reference, of course, to the traditional corporate “glass ceiling”).

Recently, Latinas have been gaining a high-profile foothold in academia. Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor—the court’s first Latina— described herself as a feminist in a recent interview with Eva Longoria. And, despite the fact that it is much overdue, Yale finally gave tenure to its first Latina law professor.

“When did Chicana studies become cool?” a friend of mine asked me, after looking at the website of our own Alma Mater, Pitzer College. I don’t know when exactly it was, but the field of study has become a topic of conversation on the heels of the news that America is a nation of “minority majority” babies.

Yet despite the increasing “coolness of Chicano studies” there remains a long way to go. In 2008, just 339 (3.1%) of a universe of 10,780 full-time faculty law Professors were Latino.

I talked about this topic with Katherine Rodela, a Phd candidate at Stanford University in Anthropology of Education program at Stanford University’s School of Education. My full interview with Rodela can be seen here.

When Rodela first heard the term “adobe ceiling,” she didn’t like it. “I felt like we were using a stereotypical Mexican object to define the complex barriers Latinas traverse in order to become academics.” But she’s warmed somewhat to the term. “I don’t accept it fully, but I appreciate it.  Physically adobe can be beaten hard to crumble—it’s hard, but possible with lots of effort and force.”

Rodela grew up in what she describes as a working-then-middle-class family. One of the big issues she and other grad students of color deal with is a sense of isolation. Rodela, who identifies as Chicana, is the first person in her immediate family to go to college. In her doctoral cohort, she was one of only five students of color.

Rodela is thankful for her family, but also says she does “feel the adobe ceiling at different times” because “it’s hard to envision myself in that world when I have so few examples.”

Rodela also described how as a woman of color in academia, she has felt like she needs to wear a mask at certain times. “I’ve censored myself, I’ve been silent in times when I should have spoken up, and I struggled to re-find the strong voice I had when I started school.  To me, it wasn’t so much the university itself, it was a combination of my own insecurities as a new graduate student and wanting to show that I belonged there,” she says. In her third year of graduate school, Rodela became a mother. “As Latina women and mothers, we can wear masks to protect ourselves and our families.  But, we can’t be silent.”

Key to succeeding in graduate school, says Rodela—and I agree entirely—is finding support. Dealing with self-doubt and isolation is much easier with friends who understand you. For Rodela, finding the group the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity was like a breath of fresh air.

“Yes, graduate school helps build skills and knowledge,” says Rodela. “But not forgetting the strengths I bring has been something I’ve had to remember and keep reminding myself.”

How to Check if Your Syllabus Reinforces Patriarchy

When I received the course guidelines for the first year of my Master’s here in Denmark and Germany, I immediately Googled my future professors. I was disappointed to learn that all except for one were white men (this has since changed – we have a woman and another non-white man, rejoice!).

Granted, the European context is very different from the American context and there are a wide array of factors that come into play, but still, disappointment is a valid feeling. My disappointment did not last too long, as I was pleasantly surprised when one professor turned out to be well-read in social movement media.

Fast forward a few months. In one course on politics (sidenote: taught by three white men) the course was covering the BRIC’s (For those unfamiliar with the silliness of academic acronyms, “BRIC” refers to rising global economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India and China.) In my course, complete with classmates from 45 different countries (though predominantly European), several classmates brought up the fact that though we were discussing the BRIC’s, we were reading texts from professors in the US and Europe, but not from the countries being referred to.

In true liberal-academic-form, the professors were very open to our feedback. However, the response was lackluster. One professor said the team of professors would be happy to consider any readings we might suggest for the future. In my view, this translates to a tokenization of texts from an “othered” perspective, just to say we “tried.” In addition, one professor highlighted the fact that we did, indeed, have a text by a “third-world writer.” Shocked into silence at the categorization and tokenization of our single Global South representative, I think that was when I gave up the fight. No, actually, that was when I raised my hand, but the white male at the back of the class spoke before I was called on.

This piece is a delayed response to my own professors, and a reminder to us all when we consider the institutionalized structure of various forms of oppression. Adam Mansbach’s “My Fake College Syllabus” was part of my inspiration.

Course Description. How is the learning structured? Is it based on the traditional lecture by an expert? If so, you have already failed to understand and acknowledge experienced knowledge.

Participation Structure. Do you give a check-mark every time someone speaks, regardless of what they say? Are you aware of the power dynamics in the room? Have you made the space comfortavle for those who identify as men, women, or choose to go beyond a binary? Is the space saf for all participants regarless of religion, nationality, race, class and ability?

Books and Readings. How many writers of color are included? What is the percentage of men and women? Where are the writers from? Have you included any queer writers? I realize that not all subjects have a diverse range of writers to begin with, but ignoring this absence also reinforces it. Even if we are talking about astrophysics, how can you present the information in adifferent format? When considering what books or readings are available, have you made sure that there is a copy of all necessary books in the campus library and/or the local library? This ensures that even the students who may not tell you outright that they cannot afford another book have an opportunity to do all the readings.

Contact Information and Office Hours. It is true, if I were a professor I would probably create a separate email address for use with students, and Mansbach mentions the:

“hysterically punctuated excuse you fired off at five this morning or seven nanoseconds before class started… To say nothing of the sadness that blooms in my soul like a dark flower when I receive emails from students at addresses such as”

But despite the inappropriate use of email, there are still students who may find writing an email easier to explain certain situations. A variety of means of contact ensures that people are able to use what is most comfortable to each person.

Grading. I went from kindergarten to eighth grade without grades, thank you Peninsula School. Even now I don’t quite see the use in someone telling me how they think my paper did, when it does not include any feedback on how to improve.  But, in an effort to support those who have to grade, is the grading system clear and based on a variety of evaluative measures?

The sad fact of the matter seems to be that many professors do not think to do a final check of their syllabi, beyond content and grammar. If they do, not many double-check for patriarchy (and the next step would be for heteronormativity, as well). Perhaps this is the new dream…something we can one day aspire to.

Q&A with an Editor of Race and Class in Academia Anthology Presumed Incompetent

In my last post, I explained my love for the new anthology Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Using personal narratives, empirical studies, and scholarly essays, over 40 different authors discuss the challenges faced by academic women of color in higher education. I emailed with Seattle University School of Law Professor Carmen G. Gonzalez about what it’s like to put together such a meaty and long-overdue book.

How did the idea for this book come about?

CARMEN G. GONZALEZ: As women of color who have managed to survive and thrive in academia despite formidable obstacles, we (the co-editors of Presumed Incompetent) felt a need and a responsibility to create a public dialogue about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of workplace bias women of color experience.

Despite decades of struggle to achieve workplace equity in academia, both women of color and white women face daunting obstacles. For example, a recent study found that female faculty in the United States on average earn 6.9 percent less than men in similar academic positions.

At each full-time rank, women are hired at lower salaries than men, receive less career support than men (such as research leave, relief from service work and research assistants), and are tenured and promoted at lower rates than men. The statistics for women of color are particularly grim. Women of color hold only 7.5 percent of U.S. full-time faculty positions. But even this low number is misleading because women of color are concentrated at the lowest faculty ranks.

Those who differ from the invisible and largely uncontested white male norm find themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, presumed incompetent as teachers, scholars, and participants in faculty governance.

In other words, it is necessary but not sufficient to increase the numbers of women faculty of color. What is required is a transformation of the culture of academia.


What was the most surprising thing you found through your research?

The most surprising thing for me was how difficult it was to articulate the role of class in the experiences of women faculty of color. Our book focuses on the intersection of all three. But when one faces workplace subordination based on several intersecting identities, it can become difficult to tease out what part is due to gender, to race, to class, or to sexual orientation.

We don’t talk about class in the United States despite the fact that the United States has among the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world and the lowest rates of upward mobility.

Women of color from working class backgrounds face enormous obstacles—not only due to material disadvantage, but due to the alienating nature of academic culture. Without family members who can help them decipher the opaque rituals and expectations of academic culture, academics from the working class are essentially navigating without a map. They often struggle with isolation, with the disorientation of stepping into middle and upper class worlds, and with the nagging sense that they have abandoned their communities of origin or “sold out.”

How do you believe we, as a country, community, and world will be able to overcome overt and covert sexism and racism?

I don’t think we will begin to overcome overt and covert gender and racial bias until we stop pretending that we live in a “post-identity” society where race and gender no longer matter.

Only by talking openly about racism and sexism, in all of its manifestations, in all of the institutions that affect our daily lives, will we understand it, deconstruct it, and overcome it.