I’m beginning to get geared up for the summer research season, and I have to count myself as fortunate. I’m one of those bench guys; I’ll be fussing over embryos and computers in an air-conditioned lab, and mostly sitting in front of a microscope. The field researchers will be out hiking, and facing other privations: heat, humidity, man-eating mosquitos, ticks, summer rainstorms, sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
Oh, wait, those last three…not a problem here at UMM, we’ve got a good group of faculty we can trust to respect the students. But elsewhere, in fields like anthropology where groups of men and women might be out in remote areas for long periods of time, Kate Clancy reports that they are big problems.
We heard many reports of women not being allowed to do certain kinds of field work, being driven or warned away from particular field sites, and being denied access to research materials that were freely given to men (and men who were given access were the ones telling us these things). Ultimately, not being able to go to certain field sites, having to change field sites, or not being able to access research materials means women are denied the opportunity to ask certain research questions in our field. This has the potential to limit the CVs of women and given them permanently lesser research trajectories. This can lead to not getting jobs, or getting lower-tier jobs. It also means certain research questions may get primarily asked by one gender, and reducing the diversity of people doing research has been shown to reduce the diversity and quality of the work.
Don’t be discouraged from going into anthropology if that’s the field you love, but just be prepared: women have an extra duty piled on top of all the research work, to slap down privileged offenders…who may be their superiors.
Hey, wait a minute: Clancy is focused on the field work situation, but even in my cozy climate-controlled environment, there is the possibility of harassment — I’ve even heard tales of faculty (at other universities, of course) who were dirty old men who made life hell for their women students. Is anyone doing work similar to Clancy’s in places like medical schools? Maybe we should be sending teams of anthropologists in to study the indigenous cultures of the biomedical establishment. I fear it would be scary stuff, but at least you wouldn’t have to deal with mosquitos.