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Academia is quietly and systematically keeping its women from succeeding, Marcie Bianco, quartz (emphasis added, as always):

Academia’s war on women is real. Even though women outnumber men both in college enrollment and graduation rates, colleges aren’t exactly bending over backwards to accommodate them. From skyrocketing costs resulting in women taking out more loans—and incurring more debt—than men to the complicity of administrators in on-campus sexual assault, women do not always feel particularly welcome on campus. Not to mention that once women graduate, they will earn over 20% less than men.

Perhaps more important, however, is the correlation between a decreasing interest in the humanities and an exponential increase in adjunct labor. Of course, it’s not just women in the humanities who suffer. Women in research fields have long complained of discriminatory practices and sexism from colleagues and administrators. Meanwhile, bias against mothers continues to hold women back from achieving tenure. Statistically, however, many more women work in the humanities than in the sciences, and over 55% of female humanities faculty are adjuncts, or “contingent” workers. And so the devaluing of the humanities in higher education is bound up with our culture’s larger devaluation of women’s work.

Many more women work in the humanities than in the sciences, and over 55% of female humanities faculty are adjuncts. The backlash against the humanities began in the late 1980s with the institutional recognition of women’s studies, as well as other minority-based programs such as African-American studies. Conservatives attacked the humanities for its “liberal agenda” and fomented disdain for higher education through the discourse of “political correctness” by intimating that liberals were policing language on campus. Lynne Cheney’s 1988 report to US president Ronald Reagan on the “Humanities In America” criticized the “trivial” nature of this new race, gender, and class inclusive humanities curriculum.

The late Harvard professor Barbara Johnson explained this “self-reconstitution of patriarchal power” in her book The Feminist Difference:“[J]ust at the moment when women (and minorities) begin to have genuine power in the university, American culture responds by acting as though the university itself is of dubious value. The drain of resources away from the humanities (where women have more power) to the sciences (where women still have less power) has been rationalized in other ways, but it seems to me that sexual politics is central to this trend.”

The gender breakdown of the humanities would appear to bear out Johnson’s hypothesis. The 2013 Humanities Departmental Survey, which surveyed 621 humanities departments from 448 academic institutions in the United States, found that “women comprised almost two-thirds of the faculty in languages and literatures other than English,” and make up nearly half the humanities faculty in total.

(quartz)

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