Females are Bullied, Marginalized, and Devalued in the Academy
At my former institutions sexist politics was the name of the game for the males– both bureaucrats and faculty –on campus. It took many forms and often it was very effective in robbing females of power and influence on campus. Some of the forms it took were:
- Bullying and Intimidating females in private meetings.
- Bullying females during committee meetings in front of other colleagues.
- Never nominating females to committees that have any power or influence.
- Sending the lone female bureaucrat to attack and demean female professors. Females can be co-conspirators in bringing down other female competition!
- Requiring females to be more social than males.
- Undermining female-managed programs by offering similar classes taught by males in another department or college.
- Requiring continuous overloads in both the number of classes and class size.
- Repeating institutional gossip/baloney with the sole purpose of disempowering females.
- Paying females less for doing the same job as males.
Let me explain!
Bullying and Intimidating Females in Private Meetings
My boss would never allow me to take notes during a meeting. The boss always treated me as if I was a lesser being even though the boss’s academic record was anemic. When he wanted to abuse me, he would order me to his office and close the door. Sometimes that abuse lasted for more than an hour. In later years, since I lived over ninety miles away from the university, the boss would require me to come in on a day in which I was not scheduled to be at the university.
He always made me wait for him outside his door like a puppy who wanted to come in out of the rain.
The boss would say things to me like, “What kind of ear rings are you wearing?” “Oh, there are little heads hanging on your ears. Are these the heads of male faculty?” Another boss would refer to my clothing every time I saw the boss. And then he would wring me dry by asking me what about certain issues and how to do things on campus.
If I consulted with someone else on campus, the boss would read the riot act to me about how the hierarchy works and that everything had to go through him. Often I had students who misbehaved in class or threatened me in some way. The boss did not know how to handle these situations so I would seek help from Student Affairs. They could help me defuse the situation quickly. The boss could not.
I have had faculty come to my office and blow smoke in my face. One male faculty member told me to “Get the hell out of the break room.” He was offended that a female was sitting at the same table. A department chair put his fist in my face and another department chair pounded on my door and came in my office and threatened me.
It is impossible for me to discuss all of the abuse that I experienced in my previous employment by the hands of the bureaucrats or the faculty.
Never Nominating Females to Committees that have any Real Power
During my tenure at my last appointment, I never served on the Tenure and Promotion Committee although when I came up for promotion and, then, tenure, my dossier (as I was told) was voted at the top. The head of my college never nominated me to any committee. I volunteered to work with committees every time a new president was installed. Those key spots were always reserved for insiders. Faculty members stonewalled my appointment to the International Studies Committee even though I had traveled to more than fifty countries and studied several languages. I did chair the development of the International Studies major but the boss was playing politics all during the development and I resigned before its completion. Bureaucrats generally only appoint people they can control to key committees.
Requiring Females to be more Social than Males
Over the years at my former institutions, I witnessed female faculty baking and cooking for colleagues. As one faculty member said to me, “If this helps me get tenure, then I will bring cookies until the cows come home.” I was always shocked by this behavior because I never saw any males bring in food for others.
Males are offended if you don’t give them some attention. “Have you been stuck in your office all day?” “We never see you any more, where are you?” They also think they have a right to tell you what you should do with your career. “Why work so hard? Isn’t it time that you had children?” “Do you always eat that awful Weight Watchers stuff?”
Repeating Institutional Gossip/Baloney with the Sole Purpose of Disempowering Females
At a former institution we went through about six Deans in the span of a few years. There was always an introduction and the need to explain the program I directed. It was so obvious to me that they had spoken with former Deans or Provosts with whom I worked. I would say, “You have talked to so-in-so, haven’t you?” And bewildered, they would say, “How did you know?”
Bureaucrats are not the most intelligent people on earth. Instead of processing and analyzing gossip, they just passed it on in the same words they received. Their points of view were controlled or colored by those with whom they talked. And none of them, not one of them, thought to question that gossip.
At another institution, a faculty member who did not like my feminist approach to teaching, accused me, through gossip, that all of my assignments and tests centered on females. So a tribunal was set to look at all of my teaching materials. This took weeks. The committee found that the gossip and accusations were not true. But that professor had put me through “hell” because he differed with my philosophies. And even though I was innocent of the charges, the gossip remained and was passed on from faculty member to faculty member.
This is not a pity party here.
I want the world to know how difficult it is to work as a professor in many institutions in the United States. It takes a lot of courage, fortitude, and creativity to continue in the career, because many males absolutely do not want you in their hallways. Your presence makes them feel impotent.
The next blog will explore strategies on how to overcome the sexist politics! Be back soon!
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