Locating labor

Labor was a big theme of last week’s Women’s History in the Digital World conference. How to discover, analyze, and reclaim women’s invisible labor. How to incorporate the labor of conversation within the digital humanities—yakking rather than, or in addition to, hacking. How to find support, at the top and bottom, to nurture digital humanities work in general and produce projects.

A recurring theme—present at this conference, and perennially discussed elsewhere1—was the specific issue of academic institutional support, or lack thereof. I see similar conversations in groups of public historians and archivists, though folks working outside of the faculty, or outside of academic institutions in general, do not have the same sets of concerns (e.g. tenure committees, course loads) as academics. WHDigWrld15 trended very academic.2 The experiences of full professors, varyingly contingent faculty, postdocs, grad students, and undergrads bring different perspectives, opportunities, and limitations to performing digital humanities work. While I feel comfortable using the umbrella term “academic,” it’s very important to be mindful of the wide variation of roles gathered beneath that umbrella, some drier than others.3

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Educating women

A week ago, I wrote about how Bryn Mawr’s Health Center screwed up. Today, the Board of Trustees sent an e-mail where they got it right.

“It,” in this case, is the question of how to navigate complicated questions of individuals’ gender identity at an institution for women. The letter comes down on the side of gender identity trumping biology, which pleases me. (A person who, it should be noted, is cisgender and only affiliated with the college as an alumna.)

Of course, the devil is in the implementation details. The bar for living and identifying as a woman could be the applicant’s affirmation, or could be set inconveniently high. The letter addresses transgender and intersex applicants but not, for instance, individuals who identify as agender or gender fluid. (On my initial reading, I assumed they would be welcomed as applicants on the basis of general flexibility, inclusivity, and “not men.” But those identities do present a somewhat thornier philosophical challenge to the concept of a gendered institution, so perhaps they are not merely unaddressed corner cases but intentionally excluded on the basis of “not women.”) Time will tell.

It’s only a letter. But it’s a pretty good letter.

Ethics, BMI, and PR disasters

My alma mater has been in the news, thanks to an exceedingly ill-considered e-mail offering a weight loss program to select students. Said selection was made using students’ BMI data, leading to student outrage and headlines regarding fat-shaming. (Or “fat-shaming,” which I can only assume means some news outlets aren’t entirely sure fat-shaming is a thing and not just, I don’t know, all those liberal girls getting hysterical about their looks.)

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