Home > rant > Navigating sexism does not mean accepting sexism

Navigating sexism does not mean accepting sexism

April 1, 2014

Not enough time for a full post this morning, but I’d like people to read a New York Times article ironically entitled Moving Past Gender Barriers to Negotiate a Raise (hat tip Laura Strausfeld). It has amazing and awful tidbits like the following:

“It’s totally unfair because we don’t require the same thing of men. But if women want to be successful in this domain, they need to pay attention to this.”

If you read on you realize that what they mean by “pay attention to” is “roll over and conform to stereotypes”. Super gross, and fuck that.

I feel like this is a more subtle, New York Times version of Susan Patton’s terrible advice for young women in snaring husbands. What happened to the feminists?!!

Categories: rant
  1. April 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

    The feminists ended up in Romney’s binders full of women so the 1% can blacklist them.


  2. RS
    April 1, 2014 at 9:31 am

    And somewhere else in the world in a cold country called Sweden a self proclaimed feminist gave us some advice this morning in a newspaper i quote “””But it is not enough. For the male hierarchy seems to survive all the chemo. If you flee rather than fight, you’re not man enough. Then you are incapable of being male.”””.
    I don’t think our Swedish feminist will help you get that wage raise ….


  3. Christina Sormani
    April 1, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I have the impression that in the academic math world, email is the preferred form of communication about serious issues as one is able to clearly dilineate exactly what one wishes for. The famous email mentioned in the NYTimes article where an offer was rescinded after an applicant made requests via email (including maternity leave) is borderline illegal depending on the state. When I was offered a job at JHU years ago I requested maternity leave by email and I was granted this request even though, at the time, JHU had no existing policy. I have also negotiated raises and improved work conditions by email with a variety of institutions.

    I start the email with positive friendly phrases, then mention some new accomplishments, then make the request, and I usually close with bail out option (saying I understand if it is impossible to comply at this time). I rarely conduct these negotiations in person because there is no precise record of what I requested and I find people hear what they want to hear. In fact in person negotiations have been far less successful for me.

    I must say the best advice in the column is to have advocates who are helping you out from above: people who appreciate your work and want to help you up. Thats not advice just for women.


    • Josh
      April 2, 2014 at 6:44 am

      Having hired many people for non-academic jobs, I agree that getting agreed points in writing is really helpful. Conducting the discussion via email can work, but another option is to have a verbal discussion with the agreed points summarized in writing. In either case, the tone will change how the email is perceived (whether the writer is male or female).

      Also, my 2 cents on the overall article agrees with some of the comments below: these are all things men should do. I think the framing is a marketing ploy to make the advice seem more customized, more important, and more exclusive. In my office, “for women” career books get circulated more widely and enthusiastically (even among the men!) than those targeted to everyone.

      Maybe this is a tactic you can use for your modeling book?
      “Weapons of Math Destruction: What every working woman needs to know”

      If you do that, I suggest some follow-up editions:
      “Weapons of Math Destruction: The busy parent’s guide”

      “Weapons of Math Destruction: For Teens!”

      “Weapons of Math Destruction: Crucial Insights for recent retirees”



      • April 2, 2014 at 6:54 am



        • Christina
          April 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm

          I have often felt that when I face a person directly I am extremely female (short, high voice, and possibly cannot even catch the person’s eyes if they tend to wander). I am sadly not very aggressive when directly facing a man (unless discussing a mathematical proof). By email, I feel removed from my sex and more comfortable. Certainly when I read emails I am not picturing whether the person is male or female. But perhaps others picture this. At least I am not immediately shorter and my clothing is not being judged if I communicate by email.


  4. Bill
    April 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I’ve going to play devil’s advocate here…

    By my rough estimate 1/2 of the suggested tactics are what everyone is told to do. I’m not sure why the author is implying it is only the right thing to do for women. It is good advice for anyone.

    While I can understand not wanting to conform to stereotypes, I think it is illogical to ignore the fact that human beings are animals. You wouldn’t expect to be treated the same way by a hungry lion as you would by a hungry house cat. If I walk up behind most people and yell Boo!, they are going to jump. While it is clearly the case that most human behavior isn’t so completely controlled by ingrained reflexes, some if it is going to come close to that. Even individuals/organizations which on a conscious level are doing everything they can do to not stereotype individuals will not always realize they are doing so on a subconscious level. I don’t see how being aware of this is a bad thing. On the other hand, we way the author framed this is a problem.


    • April 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Agreed, I’m mostly objecting to the framing. And I agree that “not being an asshole” is good advice for everyone, and you can say that in a bunch of different ways.


  5. Lily
    April 6, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Thank you for being a voice of reason re. this article and others like it. Once again the conversation is about women learning “how to navigate” their sexist workplaces, rather than about employers changing those sexist workplaces. As others have pointed out, it’s not that the advice is useless- but we’re having the wrong conversation here.

    Also, often advice like this is adding insult to injury: “you’re not getting hired, paid, or promoted fairly- oh yeah, and it’s your own damn fault.”


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