Tuesday, March 14, 2006

International Women's Edublogging Day - my views

Josie Fraser picked up on my reluctance. I think I have been misunderstood on this point. So let me explain myself. Let me also make it clear that these are my views and do not represent those of my employer or of any organisation to which I belong. I have two reasons for objecting to the International Women's Edublogging Day.

1) It is patronising. In some sporting events, competitors are separated out for good reasons. Women don't play tennis against men, they don't run in the same sprinting races. Why? Because they would be at a disadvantage due to the differences in physical make up. There are also separate sporting events for blind people, people in wheelchairs, people with Downs' Syndrome, etc. - all these people have different requirements and abilities and the events are adapted to suit them. It would be impractical to do anything else. Fine. However, there are some competitions where men and women compete against one another, because the men do not enjoy any natural advantage simply by virtue of being male. Showjumping, for example. To my mind, men enjoy no natural advantage in blogging or in education. However, by creating a separate "event" for women is to imply that somehow that we can't cut it on a level playing field.

2) It is part of a disturbing trend. For how long have women fought to overcome the stigma of sexism? Some women even died for this cause. Some still do in places where the battle has hardly even begun. So while I accept that the idea was never to "dis" men, I worry at the way women are starting to carve out "women only" niches. We feel okay about excluding men when we fought so hard for inclusion. We feel okay about doing men down in our advertising campaigns and the jokes we tell at work when we have seen to it that the reverse has become politically incorrect, and a litigious minefield. We feel that we are allowed to feel smug about the areas in which we are the ones with the natural advantage, when we have been at such great pains to explain to men that you can't take credit for something that is genetic. Women are great about taking care of women who have been physically abused by a stronger man, who takes care of the man who has been psychologically abused by a more manipulative woman? Sauce for the goose and all that...

Where physical (or other) requirements dictate, I accept that competitions need to be kept separate on the basis of gender (or number of functioning limbs, or visual acuity, or whatever). Where no such natural advantage exists for any group, I'm in favour of keeping the playing field level. The online community is the one place where we are (almost) all on an equal footing - as a blogger, I am not held back by any constraints of gender, weight, disability, age, appearance, race, religion.... the list goes on.

I am blogger, hear me roar ;-)



Josie Fraser said...

I’m more than happy to promote women role models within the seriously un-gender balanced fields of science and technology.

You obviously disagree, but for me, championing the work of women edubloggers in no way conflicts with the interests of edubloggers as a whole, nor does it distract in any way from the achievements of men. I’m puzzled that you think that one thing necessitates the other. It isn’t after all a competition (although you phrase your whole post in terms of winners and losers - a ‘playing field’ existing mysteriously outside of socio-economic and political realities) – surely it’s a question of promoting good practice in education?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I over-emphasised the sporting allegory. I didn't mean to imply that blogging, or indeed education, was about competition or winning and losing. What I did mean to emphasise was that it was about participation.

Since no special dispensation is required to improve the validity of any one subset's contributions, I still feel that to focus on a particular subset (whatever it may be) is to create unnecessary distinctions and take a step backwards in the move towards equality.

Josie Fraser said...

Hum, I guess it depends on your definition of equality - if you regard it as synonymous with homogeneity, your argument makes sense. I've very much in favour of celebrating and supporting difference, rather than reducing heterogeneity to normative models and values.