Image credit: PhD Comics www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
Source: Cosmopolitan Magazine, November 2014
Every day I drive a half hour from my home to my office at the university and a half an hour from the university back home. Like many of my peers, I pass time during my commutes listening to National Public Radio. I know it is a bit of a cliché, the doctoral student in the sociology department listening to NPR every morning, but I really do feel as if my 60 minutes of NPR each day keep me on top of current issues in local and global politics, business, science and technology, and global health. NPR is part of my routine and for the most part it is pretty predicable.
However, last week I was caught off guard by a segment in the special series “The Changing Lives of Women.” I had heard a couple of other stories in the series. There was a very interesting interview with the Navy’s first four-star admiral, Michelle Howard. There was also a piece on female programmer who were pioneers of the computer revolution. On October 14, 2014, the NPR series focused on Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.
By Nicolás Espinosa (De mi computador) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
If you read my last post
about how women’s colleges are still relevant, you know that I am a large advocate for women’s colleges. There is a plethora of evidence that women’s college students experience (and gain) significant benefits compared to their coeducational peers.
That does not mean, however, that sex segregation in education is always the answer. In fact, for some single-sex colleges, the gender-focused environment is in fact too exclusionary. Women’s colleges, by definition, are for women. But what does that mean? Who qualifies as a woman? Are we talking about gender or sex?
Under what conditions might it be ethical to refuse to meet or return someone’s gaze? Is it ever acceptable for a social scientist or journalist to write ‘with their eyes shut’? The notion that visual receptiveness can be a spur to urgent ethical response is captured in that familiar category of humanitarian action, ‘bearing witness’ (so much so, in fact, that we often forget about the work that must be done in order for witnesses to be created). At the same time, it is almost a sociological commonplace that to look is to do violence. From Michel Foucault’s ‘medical gaze’ – implying a mute body patiently set before the sovereign eye of a physician – we derive John Urry’s ‘tourist gaze’, and Raewyn Connell’s ‘imperial gaze’. The last is found wherever classical sociologists sought to generate what Connell calls a ‘synoptic view of human affairs from a great height,’ inserting vulgar classifications of social types into a hierarchy of peoples and nations that had an undeniable elective affinity with colonial projects.
By Clara S. [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As I received the invitation to join the Sociology Lens
team as a News Editor, I spent a great deal of time reading archived articles, debating what could I possibly contribute to the discipline. As I came across Heidi Rademacher’s piece “Why We Definitely Need Feminism
,” I realized that my experiences, research interests and questions I ask time and time again are relevant to a larger body of timely literature and understanding about women, gender, sexuality, feminism, education, human rights, and equality. In support of Heidi’s argument, we need feminism because it helps both men and women become fully human.
Just like we still need feminism today, we still need women’s colleges. In fact, the two are inseparable. Having attended one of the historic Seven Sisters and one of the remaining 52 women’s colleges (including coordinate colleges, 47 without) in the US, and now attending a large, southern co-ed land grant university with a large military presence and only 41.6% female enrollment, I am a strong advocate for single-sex education. I single handedly have experienced the positive pro-woman environment that these schools and classes can have, where every leadership position and every award is always given to a woman. But, I also know that personal anecdotes are not enough.
Words excite me. I can’t help it, words are all I have really: they are my bread and butter and what keeps the wolves from the door, and what gets me up in the morning. And a lot of the time that means that I have a propensity to use long words when short words would definitely do. (See, I did it there with propensity. ‘Tendency’ would have worked, ‘habit’ would have done, too. It’s a sickness really.)
Every so often being a Sociologist, academic and chronic over-thinker pays off, and this is one of those cases: those days when you read an academic paper and come across a theory or idea or unnecessarily long word that makes you realise something you had no idea that you knew all along. It’s the Holy Grail for PhD students really, because it gives you a way of structuring all of the over-thinking and over-analysis you do on a daily basis into a nice easy to understand concept. So please forgive me for getting excited about words, but this week I have a new favourite ‘long-word-way-of-saying-something’. The phrase is ‘Negative Intra-gender relations’ and it is basically an academic way of saying ‘bitching’. (more…)
**Please note that this post has illustrations of sexual acts.**
Recently, and for the first time ever, Cosmopolitan Magazine published a list of sex tips and positions for “lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, queers- all lady-loving ladies in the crowd.” At first, as a member of the LGBTQQIAA community, I was shocked and excited at the seemingly legitimate public recognition of my sexual practices by the “sex gurus” themselves over at Cosmo. At a closer glance however, this list is a comical illustration that is not titillating to say the least, but ultimately is quite exclusionary in the understanding of lesbian sex. Needless to say, the lesbian sex Cosmo describes is not my sex, let alone a realistic portrait of most “lady-loving” relationships.
Do you believe that ‘The One’, your ‘soul-mate’, your ‘life-partner’ exists? Have you already found them? Hollywood movies, glossy magazines, and agony aunts repeatedly reassure us that, firstly, somewhere out there is Mr/Miss Right, and secondly, we just need the good fortune to find them – some auspicious occasion when true love will make its presence known. I was compelled to dwell on this when I read Julie Birchill’s recent article on the matter in the Spectator. I don’t want to debate whether or not there is one predestined mate out there for each of us (for the record I’m pretty sure there isn’t), but Birchill’s piece did make me dwell on how we meet partners in particular, and how we meet and make friends generally. In reality, this is often more about the social practices we engage in, rather than personality traits or, good fortune, which bring people together. As with a lot of sociology and psychology, it replaces the romantic with the mundane.
Recently, Netflix added the widely acclaimed documentary Half the Sky to its online streaming library. The film, inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn book of the same name, follows six American celebrities as they travel throughout Asia and Africa addressing some of the health care, educational, and economic issues that oppress women and girls across the globe. Throughout the film, the viewer clearly sees the impact women and girls of the developing world have on both Kristof and the celebrity activists who join him in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Vietnam, Somaliland, India, and Kenya.
What is even more striking is the difference between the lives of the women featured in film and the actresses visiting from the West. At one point Kristof and actress Olivia Wilde are interviewing a former sex worker living in Kenya who is struggling to come up with the money needed to pay for her son’s tuition. When Kristof asks her what she will do if she cannot raise the money needed the woman simply relies that she will not eat. The conversation moves forward to other issues in the woman’s life and the viewer never finds out if the woman was able to pay her son’s tuition.
There are now free tools available, such as Node XL, which, at unprecedented speeds and scales allow us access, harvest, and analyse the traces of people’s (often transgressive) thoughts, opinions and behaviours on Twitter. Since it combines the grand scale and generalisability of methods such as national surveys with the granularity and detail of close textual analysis, ethnography, or participant observation (Driscoll & Walker, 2014, p1746), Twitter analysis seemingly represents the holy grail of research methods. Existing research into misogyny on Twitter for example shows feminism is as indispensable as ever. There is, however, an increasingly important role for sociology to address technologically mediated symbolic violence like this. (more…)