Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stop Me Before I Read More

And we've moved onto people posting nonjudgmental instructions on listserv email management (hint, digest mode is your friend), desperately polite attempts to introduce other topics of conversation, and someone who did not put her academic title in her email being snippy about not being addressed as "Dr."

Oh, I am so impressed.

And the Robot Librarian is chiming in in his usual charmless, self-important way.

Someone else took offense with the perfectly polite but strongly worded sentiments of another and wrote that the point of discussion was to learn from one another and suggested rephrasing the sentiment in an utterly milquetoast manner. That's when I started to fight the urge to beat someone with my shoe. First off, strongly worded and clever writing is much more fun to both read and write. It's also a more effective tool to influence your audience. Why wouldn't you use the sharpest knife to get the meat cut?

But what bothers me most about that comment is the sexism, which I'm sure is unintended but nonetheless present. That female poster said to another woman (and indeed the whole of a listserv that's probably about 85% female, as is the profession) that she should tone down her language and to be civil, to compromise--in my interpretation, to be embody traits that are more acceptably female. In a field that's mostly women, we don't need that--we need to be encouraged to fight against our profession's inculcation of indiscriminate niceness and bland conversation, to embrace thorough discourse and analysis in its mess and meaness. Because face it, that niceness and its partner doubt are what prevents us from being taken seriously, from fighting for the tools we need to do our jobs, and from drawing lines of unacceptable behavior.

I frequently wrestle with the notion that librarianship is sexist. It's usually small things like this, little asides designed to get others to tamp down intelligence, sharpness and instinct for the sake of being nice or welcoming. I have also bookmarked some glaring examples from Library Journal that have been published in the last year that I've been meaning to write about because I can't believe no one else has noticed this and thought it worth discussing. Stay tuned.

If anyone wants to check out these listserv posts, email me--they are openly archived, just a little hard to find. And yes, I'm interested in hearing if I'm off my nut or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know *I* think you're right...and it's not just because I believe it, too.

I am curious about the LJ articles.
I saw a few recently that made me wince, but it was more the writing/reporting than anything else. I can't wait to get enlightened and then depressed!