Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Social Sciences Building
Leeds, LS2 9JT
UK

Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 3770
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415
gender-studies@leeds.ac.uk

Seminar: ‘Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia and the gender gap

On 15th March 2017, 12:00-13:30, Dr Heather Ford will discuss her research on Wikipedia and gender.

‘Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia and the gender gap

Feminist STS has long established that science’s provenance as a male domain continues to define what counts as knowledge and expertise. Wikipedia, arguably one of the most powerful sources of information today, was initially lauded as providing the opportunity to rebuild knowledge institutions by providing greater representation of multiple groups. However, less than ten percent of Wikipedia editors are women. At one level, this imbalance in contributions and therefore content is yet another case of the masculine culture of technoscience. This is an important argument and, in this talk, I examine the empirical research that highlights these issues. My main objective, however, is to extend current accounts by demonstrating that Wikipedia’s infrastructure introduces new and less visible sources of gender disparity. In sum, my aim here is to present a consolidated analysis of the gendering of Wikipedia.

Time and Location Details

15th March 2017

12:00 – 13:30
Room 12.21 and 12.25,
Social Sciences Building,
University of Leeds,
Leeds,
LS2 9JT.
This event is free to attend and no booking is required.

This entry was posted in Events.

Seminar: Dr Rosemary Lucy Hill – Persuasive Data: the use of data and visualisation in abortion campaigning

On 1st March 2017, 12:00-13:30, Dr Rosemary Lucy Hill will discuss her research on abortion-related data visualisations in campaigning contexts.

Persuasive Data: the use of data and visualisation in abortion campaigning

Data visualisation has been argued to have the power to ‘change the world’, implicitly for the better, but when it comes to abortion, both sides make moral claims to ‘good’. Visualisation conventions of clean lines and shapes simplify data, lending them a rhetoric of neutrality, as if the data is the whole story. It is imperative, therefore, to examine how data visualisations are used to shape women’s lives. This article draws on the findings of the small Persuasive Data. Google Image Scraper was used to locate abortion-related visualisations circulating online. The images, their web locations, and data use were social semiotically analysed to understand their visual rhetoric and political use. Anti-abortion groups are more likely to use data visualisation than pro-choice groups, thereby simplifying the issue and mobilising the rhetoric of neutrality. I argue that data visualisations are being used as a hindrance to women’s access to abortion, and that the critique of such visualisations needs to come from feminists. I extend discussions of how data is often reified as objective, by showing how the rhetoric of objectivity within data visualisation conventions is harnessed to do work in the world that is potentially very damaging to women’s rights.

Time and Location Details

1st March 2017

12:00 – 13:30
Room 12.21 and 12.25,
Social Sciences Building,
University of Leeds,
Leeds,
LS2 9JT.
This event is free to attend and no booking is required.

 

This entry was posted in Events.

Seminar: Dr Clarissa Smith – Talking about pornography in everyday life: what can be learned from talking to audiences?

On 22nd February 2017, 12:00 – 13:30, Professor Clarissa Smith (Sunderland) will be speaking in the School of Sociology and Social Policy:

Talking about pornography in everyday life: what can be learned from talking to audiences?

Despite the heat of debates about pornography – its meanings and impacts – we still know very little about the quotidian consumption of porn. In this presentation Clarissa will draw on findings from a complex online questionnaire into the meanings and pleasures of pornography, which garnered more than 5,000 responses.  The data suggests that pornographic materials have intricate meanings in respondents’ everyday lives and multiple significances for their senses of themselves as sexual subjects.

Time and Location Details

22nd February 2017

12:00 – 13:30

Room 12.21 and 12.25,
Social Sciences Building,
University of Leeds,
Leeds,
LS2 9JT.
This event is free to attend and no booking is required.

This entry was posted in Events.

Two new books by CIGS members

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Karen Throsby‘s Immersion is about the extreme sport of marathon swimming. Drawing on extensive (auto)ethnographic data, Immersion explores the embodied and social processes of becoming a marathon swimmer and investigates how social belonging is produced and policed. Using marathon swimming as a lens, this foundation provides the basis for an exploration of what constitutes the ‘good’ body in contemporary neoliberal society across a range of sites including charitable swimming, fatness, gender and health. The book argues that the self-representations of marathon swimming are at odds with its lived realities, and that this reflects the entrenched and limited discursive resources available for thinking about the sporting body in the wider social and cultural context.

The book is aimed primarily at readers at undergraduate level and upwards with an interest in sociology, the sociology of the body, the sociology of sport, gender and the sociology of health and illness.

 

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Rosemary Lucy Hill‘s Gender, Metal and the Media examines the tension between being a rock music fan and being a woman. From the media representation of women rock fans as groupies to the widely held belief that hard rock and metal is masculine music, being a music fan is an experience shaped by gender. Through a lively discussion of the idealised imaginary community created in the media and interviews with women fans in the UK, Rosemary Lucy Hill grapples with the controversial topics of groupies, sexism and male dominance in metal. She challenges the claim that the genre is inherently masculine, arguing that musical pleasure is much more sophisticated than simplistic enjoyments of aggression, violence and virtuosity. Listening to women’s experiences, she maintains, enables new thinking about hard rock and metal music, and about what it is like to be a women fan in a sexist environment.

 

You can read her blog about the book here: http://gender-studies.leeds.ac.uk/category/blog/

 

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Rosemary Lucy Hill publishes new book: Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

By Rosemary Lucy Hill

@rosemarylhill

 

Women fans of popular culture are often derided or overlooked – and music is no exception. But academic work about music fans does not tend to think about the ways in which women music fans might experience their musical engagements differently to men – in part because of the derision. In fact, when it comes to rock music, a lot of work about fans does not think very hard about pleasure in music at all; it tends to use a framework of subcultural theory which means that consumer practices like attending concerts and buying records are prioritised. Music itself, and enjoyment of it, gets left out.

As I grew up enjoying rock and metal music, I struggled to negotiate the stereotypes of women fans. And I felt left out by the culture: in the media women were either ignored or the butt of jokes that furthered male bonding. These things had an impact on my fandom, making for a more obviously gendered terrain to negotiate as a fan, especially when around other fans. And as a feminist I was pretty cross about these things, which I identified as being rooted in sexist assumptions about women.

This is the starting point for my new book: Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music (Palgrave). I examine how stereotypes of women are reproduced in the metal media. This means looking at how women are mythologised as fans and as groupies whilst men take the stage. It means understanding how the gendered roles of fan and musician are naturalised, resulting in a common sense idea that women shouldn’t be on the stage at all. But all this happens within another mythologised value: the metal media propagates the idea that the culture is one of equality, and that it doesn’t matter what sex, race, sexuality or nationality you are, as long as you love the music.

These stereotypes of women as groupies and of metal as a realm of equality impact upon women’s fandom in particular ways. The myth of the groupie means that women’s fandom is always suspect: we are assumed to be more interested in the musician that the music. Women’s passionate engagement with the music is ignored, as if we can have no serious interest in listening. Women fans feel angry about this sexist portrayal. But we also feel inhibited when it comes to talking about any sexy thoughts about musicians that go along with our listening pleasure, because these might be seen to diminish our status as fans. But why should music fandom only be about listening? When we see bands perform it would be odd not to think of the musicians as playing a key role in creating the experience of our musical engagement; why, then, take only select aspects of that pleasure and treat them seriously, but not others? We vitally need to rethink how we understand musical pleasure. And we need to grasp how some elements reproduce sexist arguments that diminish women’s fandom.

Music has multiple meanings for people – there are as many different interpretations of the same song as there are listeners. Some of these meanings are explicitly informed by the listener’s gender, for instance when a particular band become a great accompaniment for doing housework. More domestic labour is still done by women than men and so the significance of choosing music to help get through the cleaning highlights how gender shapes our musical experiences. But not all experiences. Music has the power to help us move beyond those specifically gendered experiences – I spoke to one woman for whom listening to her favourite bands enabled her to forget the boring chore of ironing, even as she was in the process of doing it. Music has a transcendent quality, helping us to think creatively, to leave the gendering of our subjectivities behind temporarily.

Hard rock and metal are culturally coded as masculine, and they are notoriously male dominated. A lot of research identifies where the culture is sexist too. But this is not the whole story. Indeed, rock and metal exist in our sexist societies so it is no surprise to find sexism here too. More surprising is that for a lot of women fans, our participation in metal events (concerts, festivals and clubs) means entering a space in which we are less likely to be the targets of men’s unwanted sexual advances and harassments than at mainstream events. This means that metal can be a space in which women can find some freedom from constricting gender roles and oppressive sexism. Of course, it is not entirely free, but we can say that it is free-er. That myth of equality clearly plays a part here, helping people to act in ways that are not organised by prejudice. But sexual equality is not yet a reality, and that myth of equality needs work if it is to become reality.

Musical experiences (both private and social) are therefore shaped by gendered divisions and expectations. And yet hard rock and metal fandom can provide spaces in which women can temporarily forget the gendered limitations placed upon them. ‘Metal fan’ it can be an identity through which to resist gender strictures. These subtle conclusions show how examining women’s experiences in male dominated culture reveal some of the contradictions of femininity, of equality, of feminism – and of gender as a division of people into two groups. It reveals the oppressive nature of the ordinariness of sexism and of the strictures of femininity. It speaks of the need for alternatives for women in order to live our lives as we wish.

 

The book is available from Palgrave. Use the code PM16THIRTY until 31st December 2016 for a 30% discount. http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137554406

Rosemary will be talking about the book on Thinking Allowed on 21st December 2016.

 

A note on the research underpinning the book.

The research was conducted at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York. It was self-funded. Methods include a case study of semiotic analysis of a music magazine in the early 2000s, and interviews with women fans living in England. The research was conducted in line with feminist ontology and epistemology. In particular the book engages with theories about women’s involvement in popular music and research about hard rock and metal.

This entry was posted in Blog.

Safe Spaces and the politics of vulnerability

By Chris Waugh
@classwaugh

Image credit: the author

Image credit: the author

In her recent essay, “Bouncing Back: Vulnerability and Resistance in Time of Resilience,” Sarah Bracke identifies a clash between what she calls the “Look I Overcame” narrative and a culture of trigger warnings and safe spaces on University campuses. For Bracke, the former epitomises an enforced character trait of resilience within neoliberalism. Subjects are expected to be resilient to the harsh threats and dangers of life, to respond with overcoming rather than vulnerability, and thus those subjects who are not perceived as resilient – those who call for safe spaces, for example – are denigrated and belittled.

As both an activist and a social movement researcher, the concept of safe spaces has long interested me. My research focuses on gender discrimination and sexual violence within socialist movements, many of which are ideologically hostile to gendered ideas of vulnerability. Safe spaces, in some ways, are an attempt to explore this vulnerability. So I’d like to consider in this blog post the role of safe spaces, and why, in my opinion, they are vital spaces for the politics of vulnerability.

Safe spaces. Who’d have them? A fair number of students unions and leftist campaigns would, but the list of people who wouldn’t includes, in no particular order, Stephen Fry, the Guardian, and Theresa May. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to speak for safe spaces, but the list of people to speak against them is long and acerbic in their condemnation. If you knew nothing about them, you’d think that safe spaces were some sort of ungodly bogeyman responsible for all evil in the world; Theresa May brands safe spaces as “self censorship” and even went as far as to blame them for potential problems in the UK economy. More commonly, we hear the claim that safe spaces impinge on freedom of speech, and are the product of “molly coddled” or “snowflake” students who want to live in a bubble, isolated from the sober realities of the world. It’s funny, really; one of the principles of free speech, as I understand it, is that you try to understand your opponent’s rationale, and it seems in the majority of cases, the free speech advocates haven’t bothered to do this with safe spaces. So, now, let’s speak for safe spaces, and why, in my opinion, they are a sometimes clumsy, but vital part of enriched public discussion and political participation.

Let’s begin with a few distinctions. People have a tendency to elide “safe spaces” with “no platform” policies. While these are correlated, they are not the same. “No platform” (a refusal to permit someone a public stage or forum) as a political concept originates from the anti-fascist movement, as a way of preventing the dissemination of racist ideas. This in itself is not a concept which is divorced from wider societal expectations – we do, after all, have a legally enshrined concept of racial hate speech, and provision within law to take away the liberty of those who racially abuse others. Since the 1980s, no platforming has spread to prevent those who advocate hate or violence to marginalised groups from gaining a platform, and there’s a separate debate to be had about that and the concept in general. Safe spaces, on the other hand, arose from the LGBT movement. It was, in essence, a policy proposal to allow LGBT students in particular to find “spaces” (whether these be physical spaces such as rooms in a university building, or metaphorical spaces like a social movement) where they could escape from homophobia and transphobia. This is principled on, for example, encouragement to modify language, to think before you speak, to never presume experience on another person’s behalf, and to be reflexive and supportive. From there, the concept of safe spaces has grown to be incorporated by feminist movements, BME movements, leftist organisations, and beyond. I, for example, attend an alcohol support group which isn’t remotely connected to any university environment, where we are reminded that within that space of a church hall in South Leeds for one hour every fortnight, we are in a safe space, a space where we can talk about our addictions, where we will not be judged for them, and where we must not judge others. At least in principle, safe spaces are based on the idea of consideration and solidarity. What’s so wrong about that?

Part of the criticism of safe spaces is that people who want them do not want to engage with the difficult issues of life, and instead live in fantasy. This is a rather simplified way of looking at things. It has been argued that safe spaces are an excuse for individuals to wallow in their own vulnerability. This buys into a dichotomy, articulated by Bracke, that vulnerability is opposed to resilience, with the latter being an essential virtue of neoliberal subjectivity, and the former being a barrier to resistance. However, as Judith Butler has argued, this binary is not quite so simple. Vulnerability can empower agents and  become a catalyst for resistance in certain contexts.   If anything, people use safe spaces as a method of engaging with difficult issues, often to do with deeply personal topics such as discrimination, rape, ostracism and so on, in a different way. Feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser argues that we tend to think that there is only one “public sphere” which we are all part of, and this is fundamentally incorrect. While there is a “public sphere” each individual and group forms their own “counterpublics” where the rest of the actors in the public sphere are not, necessarily, welcome – your home, for example, is a counterpublic in this sense. Fraser argues that social movements, feminist organisations and the like, function as counterpublics for people with some shared political aim or experience of discrimination. These counterpublics, however, are not separatist organisations but spaces for recuperation, a place where individuals and groups can think about how best to face the issues in the public sphere. Within certain forms of psychiatry, there is a similar concept of the therapeutic community. This is a place, or group, outside of the usual therapeutic setting (i.e, the hospital or the counselling service) where individuals may find some sort of escape from the issues which affect them in daily life. This may be a gym, a community group, or even family. These communities are not separatist, but, rather like safe spaces, are positioned as a place of temporary withdrawal, and recuperation. Fraser writes:

Perhaps the most striking example is the late-twentieth century U.S. feminist subaltern counterpublic, with its variegated array of journals, bookstores, publishing companies, film and video distribution networks, lecture series, research centers, academic programs, conferences, conventions, festivals, and local meeting places. In this public sphere, feminist women have invented new terms for describing social reality, including “sexism,” “the double shift,” “sexual harassment,” and “marital, date, and acquaintance rape.” Armed with such language, we have recast our needs and identities, thereby reducing, although not eliminating, the extent of our disadvantage in official public sphere.

Safe spaces, in this sense, allow for groups to come up with new tools for political engagement in the public sphere, new strategies of resistance. Consider, based on Fraser’s example, how our public discourse is vastly improved for the fact that we have concepts of sexism and so on.  Are safe spaces perfect in implementation? No. Rather like political correctness, they are a clumsy, but ultimately well meaning attempt to build a more inclusive society. What’s so bad about that?

This entry was posted in Blog.

CIGS Reverse Advent

This year, SSP’s Emma Nelson (Student Experience Manager) is organising a Reverse Advent – so rather than opening a window each day in the run-up to Christmas and getting treat, you use the opportunity to set aside an item that could be donated to a food bank. CIGS would like to make a contribution to this fantastic project and we are inviting everyone to join in.

Having recently seen the film, “I, Daniel Blake”, I have become aware recently of the lack of sanitary towels and tampons available to women who are experiencing poverty and using food banks. There’s a very disturbing article about it here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/women-are-using-newspapers-because-they-cannot-afford-tampons-warns-salvation-army-food-bank-a6932111.html

So this year, we are asking CIGS members to contribute packets of sanitary towels or boxes of tampons, which will be donated to women experiencing poverty and using food banks. If you would like to make a donation (and you feel that you can afford to do so), please send your donations to me – you can bring them to my office (Social Sciences Building, 11.25), or to the CIGS Christmas Celebration on 13th December, send them via internal mail, or drop them off at the SSP reception, either for me or directly to Emma. Alternatively, if you are on campus, if you email Karen Throsby (k.throsby@leeds.ac.uk) I can come and collect donations.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

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New CIGS blog post – gender and sport reporting

Visit here to read a report by CIGS MA student, Olivia Morris, about the problems of gender balance in sport reporting.

This entry was posted in News.

CIGS Christmas Celebration (Tuesday 13th Dec)

Tuesday 13th December, 4-6pm, Social Sciences Building 12.21 / 25

Come along to the CIGS Christmas Celebration – a chance to hear about exciting publications, research projects and other 2016 successes, and to celebrate the achievements of last year’s MA students who will be graduating the following day.

Speakers will include:

  • Rosey Hill talking about her new book, Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music (Palgrave, 2016)
  • Karen Throsby discussing her book, Immersion: Marathon Swimming, Embodiment and Identity (Manchester University Press, 2016)
  • Sally Hines introducing her new, ESRC-funded project on pregnant men.
  • The event is free – all you have to do is register at the address below so that we can make sure we have enough mince pies. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

There will be lots of time to chat and catch up with staff and present and former students over drinks and nibbles, and all are welcome.

it’s free to attend and all are welcome – please register at the address below so that we have an idea of numbers.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cigs-christmas-celebration-tickets-29650502451

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CIGS seminar: Dr Karen Throsby

Wednesday 7th December 2016
12:00-13:30
Social Sciences Building 12.21/25

All welcome

Real meals: radical diets, science and the masculinisation of weight loss

In recent year, anxieties around obesity have shifted away from the familiar bête noir of fat towards sugar. Sugar – or what paediatric endocrinologist and anti-sugar popular science writer, Robert Lustig, calls the “Voldemort of the diet hit list” – is now widely treated as a primary cause of obesity, and it has also been closely linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay, prompting the declaration at the level of international health policy of a ‘war on sugar’. The rush to denounce sugar has facilitated a flourishing array of radical exclusionary diets to which the elimination of sugar (variously conceived) is central. This includes both a variety of low-carbohydrate diets, which are heavily reliant on animal protein and fat, and plant-based diets that shun animal products. However, in spite of their divergent philosophies and practices, these plans share considerable common ground, particularly in their antipathy to mainstream dietary advice and in relation to the ways in which they mobilise nutritional science to support their positions. Furthermore, both dietary approaches make strategic use of similarly normative models of athletic masculinity as a primary means of recruitment and justification, to the exclusion (and sometimes derision) of the women who are the primary targets and users of the weight loss industry. Using the low-carbohydrate plan, The Real Meal Revolution, and the vegan weight loss plan, Forks Over Knives, as examples, this paper explores the ways in which the rush to sugar as the primary enemy in the ‘war on obesity’ impacts upon our understandings of the fat body, and investigates the ways in which these apparently irreconcilable dietary prescriptions find common ground in their appeals to ‘heretic’ science and to athletic masculinity. I argue that this analysis positions the rise of anti-sugar policy and practice not simply as a new departure, but also as a retrenchment of highly individualised gendered (and racialised) understandings about what constitutes the good body in contemporary society.

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