Sunday, 29 March 2015

Gender discrimination in pop culture academia


“How do you propose to ensure this study doesn’t become biased by your obvious fandom?”

Translation: “Isn’t this going to become a 20,000 word declaration of your wish to bone Alice Cooper?”

Presenting a pop culture paper at a conference was never going to be easy. Hell, presenting a paper at a conference isn’t easy full stop, given this was my first one, but it was only an MA day conference discussing dissertation titles. It'll be a breeze, I thought. I was wrong.

Being presented with a question like that floored me at first, I wasn't sure how to respond. I assumed it was in reference to the fact that I look like I revere Alice, therefore my thesis could be compromised by my appreciation.

My immediate response was, 'as I know him and his career, I can offer a more informed view than an outsider with zero experience and knowledge.'

I was warned beforehand that I'd face an amount of criticism for studying a 'fluffy subject', as opposed to something as concrete as the Vietnam war. But as the hours passed and I replayed the moment in my head, the criticism drove far deeper than I presumed in the heat of the moment. 

It seems more enticing and acceptable to humiliate a grad student simply because their subject matter happens to still be breathing. 

If I was to wander into a Wars of the Roses conference and call an academic out on their blatant boner for Edward IV, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. He’s long since dead and fully decomposed, surely the only valid reason for someone studying him is for his merit as a monarch and a prominent historical player? 

Yet a study of Alice Cooper can only be fuelled by sexual attraction… right?

The way I see it, everyone who has every written about a subject they’re interested in could be classed by today’s terms as a ‘fan’.  You wouldn’t choose to write about a topic in so much detail if you weren’t on some level intrigued by it. 

To attempt to humiliate me as a student of pop culture purely because it’s more evident I’m a ‘fan’ is low and, quite frankly, suggests more about you than it does me.

I wish this was the only hypocrisy I can see in that question. But there’s more.

I’m not usually an advocate of the ‘just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I can’t do it’ defence, because I have an unfounded faith in humanity treating men and women as equals. If I fail at something, I don’t immediately blame my ownership of mammaries, I look to myself rather than my gender.

That being said, would the original question be asked of a male presenter? Of course not, it's not PC to ask a man if he has a thing for long-haired men in leather and makeup.

So why is it okay to ask me? Because I walked in with long hair, leather and makeup too? Discrimination against my image is something I'm no stranger to, but was this levelled at me purely because I possess knockers, therefore I must have a crush on Alice?

For the record, I see Alice as a father figure, so there's no sexual attraction involved in the slightest. But I shouldn't feel the need to point that out just because I'm a female that could potentially be driven by oestrogen.

It's not okay to assume a female in this industry is only here to sleep with band members. Not under any circumstances.

All things considered, would it come as a surprise to you if I was to tell you that question was asked by a female?

Of course not.

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1 comment:

  1. i think it is not just against females, for example looking at interviews with men / male bands its the same way around... i remeber a lot of eisbrecher interviews went towards the 'doing it all for females' by the interviewer and their answers seem as annoyed as you are (which i totally can understand)... so well... i guess there still is hope that its simply some ignorant assholes who try to boost their own ego XD

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