I was interviewed by Buzzfeed, about a new study by Professor Kate Clancy and colleagues, showing women of colour scientists are more likely to experience race and gender harassment. Women of colour scientists are also excessively critiqued for being either too feminine or masculine enough, they have their physical abilities questioned, and they are more likely to miss professional opportunities like conferences, fieldwork, classes and meetings because their workplaces are unsafe. My comments from the interview:
“The study really reinforces a lot of what the literature already tells us — that women of colour are more likely to experience multiple forms of harassment and feel more acutely the impact of a hostile work environment in the sciences,” Zuleyka Zevallos, a sociologist at Swinburne University in Australia, told BuzzFeed News.
Although this isn’t the first study to show evidence of the “double bind” of racial- and gender-based harassment, some critics continue to deny that the effect is real.
“A lot of the pushback that we see in the individual scientific communities —astronomy or any other science — is that scientists want data,” Zevallos said. “And even though there’s a plethora of data, it’s like they need to see more data for themselves.”
Last week, I was interviewed on Triple J radio for the program, The Hook Up. The show explored listeners’ experiences of sexual fetishisation and prejudice in relationships, as well as what it’s like being partned with people from minority backgrounds. A few minority background callers described feeling reduced to only one facet of their identity due to sexual racism. An Indigenous woman talked about the explicit and implicit racism she faces as someone perceived not to look and act like a “typical” Aboriginal woman (despite the diversity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people). A woman of Indian background felt no strong cultural connection to India but was often placed in the position of being tokenised because of her heritage.
The discussion featured the talented Zambian-Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker Santilla Chingapie. She reflected on her SBS documentary Date My Race, where she shared her personal experiences being discriminated against as a Black Australian woman on dating apps. White Australian counsellor Sue Pratt talked about the challenging patterns that interracial couples experience as they attempt to work through cultural differences, as well as strategies to manage intercultural respect in relationships. Andy Trieu, Australian-Vietnamese co-host of the SBS TV show, Pop Asia, discussed how the only women who respond to him on dating apps are from similar Asian backgrounds. He expressed a curiosity about dating White women and why they may not be interested in him as an Asian man. Shantan Wantan Ichiban discussed the racist implications of the question “Where are you from?,” which is often used as opening line in bars and other pickup situations.
I discussed how people often try to frame sexual fetishes as a positive compliment, but that this is misguided. Racial fetishes are the twin side of the same coin of racism; on the one side are stereotypes that emphasise exotic otherness and on the other side are those same people who must navigate multiple experiences of being discriminated against as they go about their daily lives. I note that one thing we can collectively do to start tackling sexual racism is to start having broader conversations about race and racism in Australia. Most of the people who have racial fetishes and those who exclude being open to dating particular groups have never had to think about their race. There are many resources available, including on social media, that are produced by minority groups, that help us all to better understand other cultures without fetishising differences and which break down negative biases.
Over the past couple of months, I have been using sociology to show how everyday experiences of sexism and racism feed into the educational and career trajectories of women and minorities in various disciplines within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Here I include summaries of my writing from recent times, which show how social policy can dramatically impact on women’s educational outcomes. I’ve also covered how childhood socialisation impacts on girls’ transition from school to university. Experiences in higher education are also gendered, that is, culture shapes how women and men think about what happens to them at university. We see this clearly in relationships with thesis supervisors and informal socialising, as well as in more formal processes in administration. I’ve also highlighted some progress in diversity, namely the appointment of a lesbian technology expert, Megan Smith, who now holds a key role with the American government. Despite this achievement, various controversies in STEM related to social media use by scientists, research on women and high profile science events signify that despite strides forward, women and minorities are still the targets of inequality and marginalisation.
I had always planned to use this website to collate my various writing and social media, to have them all in one place. I’ll now bring you a weekly update on my current writing as well as a look at past posts from my different blogs and communities. I’ll organise the articles based on themes. This week is focused on my sociological writing about women’s issues. First, an overview on what I’ve been writing lately.
Over on my research blog, The Other Sociologist, I’ve written about How Media Hype Hurts Public Knowledge of Science. I discuss how scientists can better support public education by critiquing poor science reporting in the news. A recent example involved the media reporting that most people think that astrology is a science. This “factoid” came from a large study by the American National Science Foundation, but the results were quoted out of context and needed scientific critique. The broader study actually shows that the public do not really understand what scientists do, how our research is funded and the outputs of our work. This lack of knowledge undermines the public’s general understanding and trust in science. I argued that more scientists can get involved in diverse outreach activities to support public learning. This is part of a long-standing series I’ve been writing on how to improve public science education. Read more my blog.
On Sociology at Work, I talked about How Sociology Class Discussions Benefit Your Career. I used this post to highlight how the group work we do during an undergraduate degree trains students for the types of activities they’ll carry out as applied researchers outside academia. This includes dealing with clients, running community consultations and thinking critically on our feet. Learn more.