Friday, May 24, 2013

Delusions of Gender - by Cordelia Fine

In a truly paradigm-shifting work, Fine revists the nature vs. nurture debate regarding sex roles. Questioning  conventional wisdom, as well as current scholarship, she delves into how society creates and reinforces gender stereotypes. Even those of us who believe we were raising our children in gender-neutral settings are easily lead into this trap. Explaining how even many feminists, like myself, simply threw up our hands in surrender when our young daughters showed serious preferences for princesses and pink, despite our best efforts to dress them in gender neutral onesies and provide them with sports equipment, Fine provides evidence to show that perhaps we weren't as neutral as we believed. Furthermore, our children are influenced by so many other outside forces we are at a loss to control them all. 

In her chapter entitled "The Glass Workplace" Fine explores the question of why men are drawn to some jobs while women are drawn to other (most notably the "helping") professions, and what happens when those of one gender try to cross-over to a profession of another. It is here that I found the only mention of librarians.
...often, when men choose to enter less-prestigious female professions they quickly find rolled out for them a red carpet leading to a better-paying position within the field...sociologist Christine Williams coined the term "glass escalator" to encapsulate her discovery that men in (what are currently) traditionally female occupations like nursing, librarianship (emphasis mine), and teaching "face invisible pressures to move up their professions. As if on a moving escalator, they must work to stay in place."...Perceived as, in a sense, too competent for feminine occupations, they were tracked into more supposedly legitimate, prestigious ones.
This will come as no surprise to those of us in these professions. In my 20 plus years as a librarian, I have almost always had a male boss. On those occasions when I've worked for a woman director, she was placed in the position only in an "acting" capacity, until a permanent (male) could be found. To be fair, I have worked as a department head, and had men working as my subordinates, but the head honcho has almost always been a man.

One glaring omission from this work was a discussion of transgender children. Transgendered individuals are given minimal mention in "The Glass Workplace", but that is the only place that explores this topic.

A thought-provoking work. I am looking forward to discussing it with my colleagues in the Women's and Gender Studies Program in the fall.

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