UCLA law prof Stephen Bainbridge revealed an internal email sent by the school’s chancellor to all faculty. The email alerted faculty that they were, under new policy, “responsible employees” to report sexual harassment and sexual violence. Or to be less officious, profs were now the campus snitches. Bainbridge was not pleased with his new duty.
The new policy strikes me as problematic in several ways. First, I resent being drafted into the Title IX cops, especially given the very legitimate critiques of university policies in this area. Suppose I think that UCLA’s definition of sexual harassment is too broad (as many are) or I think UCLA’s policy for handling complaints in this area lacks due process (as many do). Requiring me to become an informer despite those concerns strikes me as a serious abuse of academic and personal freedom.
Are academics adorable or what? Fighting losing battles as they’re conscripted into an ideology army that has already consumed higher education. Is the war really lost? Can the Title IX genie be put back in the bottle. Well, perhaps, but then there’s this*.
A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research
Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.
A joke? From the Onion? Hardly.
Most existing glaciological research – and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change – stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses. These characteristics apply to scientific disciplines beyond glaciology; there is an explicit need to uncover the role of women in the history of science and technology, while also exposing processes for excluding women from science and technology (Phillips and Phillips, 2010; Domosh, 1991; Rose, 1993). Harding (2009) explains that the absence of women in science critically shapes ‘the selection of scientific problems, hypotheses to be tested, what constituted relevant data to be collected, how it was collected and interpreted, the dissemination and consequences of the results of research, and who was credited with the scientific and technological work’ (Harding, 2009: 408). Scientific studies themselves can also be gendered, especially when credibility is attributed to research produced through typically masculinist activities or manly characteristics, such as heroism, risk, conquests, strength, self-sufficiency, and exploration (Terrall, 1998). The tendency to exclude women and emphasize masculinity thus has far-reaching effects on science and knowledge, including glaciology and glacier-related knowledges.
You know, glaciers kinda have that phallic thing going, right? Like the snow penis, which was obviously a gender bias problem for lack of a snow vagina.
Maybe the university ought to investigate snowballs, too.
Come on, that’s pretty funny. What isn’t funny at all is that other academics, scholars, grown-ups, are afraid of calling bullshit for fear of being branded a misogynist, racist or, god forbid, rape apologist, for challenging the program. But to do so would not only
risk guarantee castigation in the Academy, but liability as well.
Finally, I am deeply troubled by the requirement to report “possible” sexual harassment. I have been unable to find a definition of “possible” in the new policy. I assume possible means something less than “more likely than not,” but how much less? How do I know when I am supposed to report?
“Vague laws offend several important values. First, because we assume that man is free to steer between lawful and unlawful conduct, we insist that laws give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly. Vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning. Second, if arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is to be prevented, laws must provide explicit standards for those who apply them. A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory applications”
Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108–109 (1972).
All in all, I think we can safely add this policy to the long and ever growing list of Title IX excesses.
By merely questioning his duty as a feminist ally, Bainbridge has exposed himself to all manner of hate from his peers and students. Will they need a safe space from his classes? Will there be trauma teams to soothe the kiddies with puppies and Play-Doh after his lectures? Will he be put on leave so the Office of Civil Rights can investigate his flagrant violation of Title IX? Will he be exiled to a manly glacier?
On the one side, scientific studies have gained sufficient legitimacy to be framed as a gender issue, because the laws of nature may not care about gender (and not that old binary notion of gender, but the spectrum view), but academics surely do.
On the other side, the few academics who refuse to be co-opted into the Title IX army do so at grave personal risk. Still not convinced that scholarship is so unhinged that it’s unsafe to question feminism?
Feminist glaciology asks how knowledge related to glaciers is produced, circulated, and gains credibility and authority across time and space. It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology. It asks how glaciers came to be meaningful and significant (through what ontological and epistemological process), as well as trying to destabilize underlying assumptions about ice and environment through the dismantling of a host of boundaries and binaries. The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science.
Blame it all on the patriarchy. Even glaciers. Yeah, it’s that crazy.
*Via a twit by Brian Earp