deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] deborah
After Henry Jenkins' male/female scholar acafan debate, he asked for feedback from the participants. I didn't contribute any, mostly because real life intervened, but I was so intrigued by the responses of those who did that I found I did need to say a little something, after all.


My experience in reading and writing during this debate has been so mixed. On the one hand, I think the most progress on the gender debate per se was made in those conversations which got most hairy and uncomfortable (either directly in [Henry's] blog, or in the ensuing livejournal/blogosphere conversations). Real underlying thorny issues were revealed, real disagreements came for us, and people got a chance to learn from each other.

But on the other hand, those uncomfortable conversations were, well, uncomfortable. Women feeling like the contributions of female academics or fans are marginalized; men feeling like they were attacked as sexist -- these left some pretty raw wounds. Whereas my conversation with Alan was pleasurable throughout.

There were places I didn't poke in my exchange with Alan. Not that I thought it would have turned into an uncomfortable, hairy situation. No part of that conversation was anything other than pleasant, enjoyable, and educational. But I'm an independent scholar -- and a woman, socialized to avoid public disagreement -- and I was having a very public conversation with a male credentialed associate professor in my field. I was far too wary to prod at any statements I disagreed with. Not that I think Alan would have responded negatively. On the contrary, I think further questioning on my part would have only enriched our conversation and added to our pleasure in the exchange. I went through drafts of e-mails I didn't send to Alan in which I did raise questions about assertions he made. But I rejected those drafts out of nervous suspicions that I was out of line.

This isn't the fault of Alan or Henry or any of the participants in the conversation giving me this irrational sense of risk. I think it comes back to the professional/amateur divide which Kristina reiterated, and which is part of a larger question: why does the balance of faculty to independent scholar in our field (and academia in general) appear tied to gender, and what can we do about it? (Whether what we do about it is address that gender balance, or instead address the lack of support for independent scholarship is yet another question.)

That being said, I had so much fun in my conversations with Alan -- they were interesting, compelling, and entertaining. And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't accuse him of being a patriarchal oppressor, no matter what he claims!

Thank you so much for setting this up. I had a fabulous time.
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