Tag Archives: gender

the ducks

29 Jul

Back in library school, Maureen and I talked about the patriarchy, the archives, and programming languages all the time. “Start writing again” has been on my to-do list since forever, and today Maureen implored me to write about my famed ducks, and that was precisely the jump-start I needed. She graciously let me cross-post my snarky writings on her blog.

Last September, I came into possession of some ceramic ducks. This was generally received as a good thing, because who doesn’t like ceramic ducks? They’re arguably less grotesque than lawn gnomes, plus: ducks! I even tweeted about it, like, “Ceramic ducks are guarding the house. I feel safer already.” I have to say that I have changed my mind about that: I am uneasy that these ducks are in front of my house.

So here they are.

You know, at first glance, they look harmless. That duck on the right almost looks like it’s giving you the hey-yeah-we’re-cool eyebrow raise. You know, when you also tilt your head back and lift your chin, like you’re channeling the Fonz or something. Almost.

Okay, imagine you’re me, happily going about your life, with the ducks guarding the house, and one day, your neighbor comes up and says, “Hey, I guess that duck,” (for the record, your neighbor was talking to the duck you thought was kind of channeling the Fonz) “is the girl duck.” And then you’re like, “Oh. my. god. You’re right.” See, formerly-Fonz has eyelashes painted on, while the other duck does not. And the thing is, I sort of implicitly know that this type of embellishment signals “female” while no embellishment “defaults” to male [1][2].

(Note the “girly” eyelashes.)

So now I’m suddenly fascinated by the relationship between these ducks. Look at the “boy” duck. He’s standing tall, with his chest out, facing directly forward.

And the “girl” duck has this wickedly slouched posture, it doesn’t look “cool” anymore. It sort of looks painful. Like, ow.

Also, look at the height difference between these two, and they’re about the same size, so this height difference is nearly completely accounted for by their respective postures. The “boy” duck looks in control, assertive. The “girl” duck doesn’t look cool anymore; she looks meek, shy, demure. I showed the ducks to my mom, and she noticed that the “boy” duck has his mouth (beak?) open while the “girl” duck doesn’t: “It’s like, the boy duck has a voice, while the girl duck has to stay quiet.” It’s a big deal, too. I mean, we’ve internalized gender norms so much that they’re even playing out in ceramic duck figurines. And it was subtle: it stayed under my radar until my neighbor commented on it, but now it’s all I see when I look at those ducks. Gender norms! In my own front yard! Performed by cute ceramic ducks! Is nowhere safe?

Okay, now for the fun part. I figure, if I am going to have gender norm ducks in front of my house, I might as well make fun of them. These ducks will now have signage. Snarky signage. I enthusiastically welcome ideas for captions. Here are some of my thoughts (with thanks to Maureen):

Please do not feed the heteronormative ducks.
Ducks are queerer than they appear.
Dr. and Mr. Quackles.

My neighbors will love this, right!

[1] Marked Women, Unmarked Men
[2] Stick Figures And Stick Figures Who Parent

Why I also don’t post to Archives & Archivists

28 Jul

In honor of Ben Bromley’s post, I thought that I would keep the ball rolling about why I don’t find A&A useful, and also talk about professional development resources that I do find useful and how I think the A&A could be improved.

I will make a caveat that I’m something of a crankypants about fluffiness entering my worklife. This is partly because I’m extremely busy — I’m near the beginning of my career, trying to learn a lot, and responsible for a large project — and partly because I think it’s important to separate my work life and my personal life. If I’m going to read jokes on the internet, I’m going to do that after hours. Same for looking at images of flowers. Same for thinking about picnic menus. I’m friendly, I’m cordial, and I’m personable at work, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to send my colleagues those kinds of emails. And frankly, I think that we would all be better off if we thought of members of the list as future colleagues or supervisors. It’s unprofessional to interrupt my inbox with dumb crap in a professional forum.

I also like to separate my work and personal life because I consider it in my best interest as a woman. There are two very good books about this that I would recommend,* and they both come to the same point that women are expected to do more “care” work in the workplace — they have to be feminine, nurturing, and sweet-voiced, they’re expected to un-ruffle feathers and tend to do more bullshit administrative work, but are held to a higher standard of competence.** So I don’t really talk about my personal life, I don’t send dumb jokes, I’m not on the party-planning committee and I don’t bring baked goods to work. I don’t offer to take minutes at meetings, unless we’ve already set up a system and it’s my turn. I don’t take work home. I do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and then I leave.

Anyway, here’s why I don’t post to the A&A:

  1. I’ve never gotten a helpful response. Okay, that’s not true. At my previous job I offered to give away some sound recordings, and someone accepted them. That was cool. But usually the discussion isn’t terribly practical, and high-volume posters are more likely to pontificate or willfully misinterpret a position than offer advice based on experience or technical know-how. Do not get me started on the fact that offering a Google search is not a helpful contribution. I’m not going to argue that every archivist needs a graduate degree, but I will argue that every archivist needs to be able to perform a skilled search.
  2. Many archivists who might be able to offer advice don’t hang out there, or are dissuaded from offering responses because they don’t want to deal with others on the list. This is an extension of my previous point, but I don’t think that I will go to the list for help anymore, because I don’t think that the majority of highly-innovative archivists hang out there. For instance, my project is using the MIX standard for technical metadata for digital images. LC has samples of MIX 1.0 files, but not MIX 2.0, and I wanted to work from an example. So, I asked the list if anyone could send me a sample of a MIX 2.0 document. Crickets. Is this because archivists aren’t using MIX 2.0? No. Is it because archivists don’t like to share? Certainly not. It’s probably because archivists who could help me just don’t hang out there.
    I don’t learn about exciting new archival projects from the A&A — I just don’t. It isn’t my source, and it wouldn’t be a very good source. The people who are conducting them don’t post there. Plus, there’s a weird strain of professional conservatism that feels the need to challenge innovations in practice in histrionic tones. Look, dudes, there’s enough un-processed, un-researched, possibly not very important crap out there that we should encourage each other to figure out new ways of getting through it. I would almost say that there’s a strain of “BUT WHO WILL THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!” [replace children with precious, precious old crap] to some of these discussions. There’s a class (dare I say generation?) of archivists who understand protecting the longevity of individual objects, but don’t do much for the sustainability and accessibility of repositories.
  3. Some of the content makes me cringe. The spam email took up the bulk of discussion for like… three days.

Let me just say, though, that there should be a place for good-hearted, thoughtful musing (for the record, I get a kick of of Maarja’s posts and I like how much she’s thought through her responses). But damn it, I also want a listserv that’s helpful, interesting, professionally relevant and not quite so pedestrian. Does it bother anyone else that with American institutions’ wealth and brainpower, the Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders are (on the whole) kicking our butts when it comes to innovations in archival practice?

So, how could the listserv be improved? Here’s my modest proposal for a list of rules and attitudes we could all adopt:

  1. If you wouldn’t send it to the director of your institution, don’t send it to this list.
  2. If your argument doesn’t offer new facts, isn’t immediately helpful, or is plain cantankerous, don’t send it to the list.
  3. Check the list archives before posting a question. It may have been already answered.
  4. If you have past or immediate experience with a problem someone is posing, help a sister out. Do send it to the list, and if you can, tell us about your process. What other solutions did you consider? Why did you go with this one? How easy was it to implement? What would you do differently if you were to try again? The list at its best could be a repository of  tried-and-true practices.
  5. Don’t be too cool for the list. If you’re doing something interesting, tell the list about it. Tell us why you’re doing it, how you’re getting around budget restrictions, and how you think it might be applicable to other institutions.
  6. Try to remember that you’re a professional. The profession has some pretty serious problems to face (dwindling funds, new formats, a society that’s only producing more records, forces that try to restrict sensitive records). The listserv too often doesn’t represent this seriousness of purpose.

I don’t think that anything is going to change, other than hoping that the profession becomes  more… professional… over time. And I do have out outlets for what I’m looking for from the professional listserv — blogs, twitter, conferences, geeking out with archivist friends (okay, this is an area where I permit my professional life to enter my personal life). But can we all agree that the A&A is kind of embarrassing, and all do a bit more to make it better?

*  Wajcman, Judy. Managing like a man : women and men in corporate management. University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998 and McDowell, Linda. Capital culture : gender at work in the city. Oxford UK ;;Malden Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1997. These are both very good sociological resources that combine data and theory to make a compelling point that life in the workplace is different for women, and that they tend to be at a disadvantage.

** I’m not interested in talking about this in comments with anyone who doesn’t have a grounding in feminist theory. It’s my house. That’s all.

the home stretch

2 Mar

I graduate from library school in about eight weeks, and anything could happen after that. There are, however, interesting projects in the works.

  • Two papers for the Questioning Authority conference — one on my own about the real teaching value of wikipedia (it’s not what you think — I’ll post the abstract later, maybe) and one about how to navigate the different and converging knowledge cultures of libraries and IT in an e-library environment.
  • I’m still thinking through my gender and labor paper, but it may be a chance to get back to a few ideas about gendered professional development, public space and public knowledge, and the gendered nature of the service sector.
  • My Aluka project. More on this in another post, but it is the brilliant, possibly redeeming red-headed stepchild terror of the semester.
  • Looking for work!
  • Curriculum committee project — addressing performance gaps by gender in tech-intensive courses. I did a few interviews this weekend and am working hard to turn it all into some sort of usable evaluation plan.

More on each of these later…

plenty of librarians here – scope of work

4 Dec

Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be thinking about librarians. Below is the scope of work for two credits of reading about labor, librarians, gender, information technology, tacit knowledge and the digital divide (among other related topics, as they surface).

What I Want to Know: (questions subject to change!)

  • What is the process by which the value of a person’s labor is determined?
  • Through what means do workers represent themselves to capital and to one another? How do historians represent workers from the past in a responsible manner, and to what end is this done?
  • What is the nature of group consciousness or class consciousness among women workers, if such concepts exist? How has this changed over time?
  • I want to know more about the origins and development of librarianship in Europe and North America. How did it become a gendered profession?
  • What do librarians do? (I think that this is a much more complicated question than it appears to be.) How are their performances measured?
  • What processes make technology scary, special, mysterious, or otherwise contribute to the fact that we can all be somewhat idiotic in our compensation systems for people who work with technology? How has technological prowess been gendered male and what is the reality of the “digital divide?” What exactly does that mean, anyway?

Keeping Track

Each week, I will write 500 words on this very blog about what I’m reading, what I think about it, and how it relates to my central questions. Depending on how my counterpart project goes, this may all end up as a kick-ass lit review for an article about these subjects.


I will choose, in consultation with the project adviser, the first six weeks of readings in early January. We will choose the readings for the final eight weeks after project trajectories emerge.

Possible themes and readings include:

Weeks 1-2 Labor 101 – Revisiting Favorites and Stuff I’ve been Meaning to Read

Here I want to get at a sense of the genealogy of labor history, what historians of labor worry about, and what kinds of methods have been used to understand workers in the past.

  • Selections from Marx (Das Kapital), Hobsbawm, Scott (“The Sears Case” and “A Statistical Representation of Work: La Statistique de l’industrie a Paris, 1847-1848” in Gender and the Politics of History), Thompson
  • Geoff Eley. “Labor History, Social History, ‘Alltagsgeschichte’: Experience, Culture, and the Politics of the Everyday–a New Direction for German Social History?” Journal of Modern History 61 (June 1989): 297-343.
  • Alf Lüdtke, “What Happened to the ‘Fiery Red Glow’?” in The History of Everyday Life
  • others

Weeks 3-4 Gendered Workers Today

  • Robin Leidner, “Serving Hamburgers and Selling Insurance: Gender, Work and Identity in Interactive Service Jobs” Gender and Society 1991
  • Christine L. Williams, “The Glass escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the ‘Female’ Professions” Social Problems 1992
  • Joan Acker “Hierarchies, Jobs, and Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations,” Gender and Society, Vol. 4 No. 2, June. pp. 139-158.
  • Annette Barnardt, Matina Morris, and Mark S. Handcock . “Women’s Gains or Men’s Losses? A Closer Look at the Gender Gap in Earnings,” American Journal of Sociology 101, pp. 302-328.
  • Nancy Maclean, “The Hidden History of Affirmative Action: Working Women’s Struggles in the 1970s and the Gender of Class” in Feminist Studies 25(1), 1999: 43-78.
  • Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equality: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • others

Week 5 The Technology Problem

I have almost no familiarity with the literature in this area, so I’m going to have to count on my project mentor for suggestions. I’m mostly interested in problems of how technology becomes gendered and the related process of how it becomes reified (dare I say fetishized?)

Week 6 The Rewards Systems

Here’s where we get into the interesting stuff – not just compensation, but the systems by which compensation is measured, the place of tacit knowledge, the gendered structures/roots of rewards systems, etc.

[explicitly] gendered education

13 Nov

Popular Mechanics, a periodical certainly marketed to men, has produced a DIY guide called “25 Skills Every Man Should Know.” Yes, the idea that these skills are in the exclusive domain of men is irksome (and persistent… I remember as a teenager asking my dad how to change a tire and being given an AAA membership instead), but I’ll let that go for the moment, especially since the comments seem to be covering the same ground that I would.

What’s interesting here is that it’s kind of a crappy DIY guide. There’s no real glossary (what’s an o-ring? beats me), the illustrations are only sometimes diagrams and the diagrams are only sometimes useful, and there’s no “what to do if this doesn’t seem to be working” section. There’s also no “here’s how to not kill yourself while you’re doing this” section, which seems a grave oversight.

Many modes of learning are gendered — I wonder, though, how women would approach this kind of guide. I look at it and think “uh, I doubt I’ll remember any of this in any real way the next time I need to start a fire.” The medium is ineffective, it doesn’t provide enough back-up information, and there’s no binding logic to the kinds of skills included. And, honestly, the explicit gendering leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s less that I’ve somehow gotten the message that these skills aren’t for me, and more that I don’t want to spend any more time on the unwelcoming website.

let’s jump right in, shall we?

13 Nov

Part of the reason why the University of Michigan kept a library school while its “peer” institutions (U of Chicago and Columbia) were closing theirs had to do with how Michigan saw its mission. Instead of training rank-and-file librarians, Michigan claimed (and, in coded language, still claims) to teach the future library directors. This means that library students here have traditionally been male, and that the library school didn’t suffer from the student drain that others did when more professions opened to women.

Librarianship is an inherently gendered profession, and this “gendering” manifests itself in different ways. Here’s a study from the American Libraries Association from the late ’90s that discusses the representation (and pay! don’t forget pay!) problem among library directors.

In short, while only 32 percent of academic librarians are male, 43 percent of academic library directors are male. Twenty-one percent of public librarians are male, but 35 percent of public library directors are male.

Here’s my favorite part. Women directors of academic libraries make $58,202 to men’s $62,961 and women directors of public libraries make $64,549 to men’s $75,383.

That’s correct, folks, a more than $10,000 difference for the same job.