A sin of omission

October 15, 2009

In the contributions to the feature on the "seven deadly sins of the academy" (17 September), one sin was plainly visible throughout but never named - sexism. Seven sins, seven male authors.

There is an assumption throughout the feature that academics are male ("nobody in his right mind", "alpha-male status", "every scholar worth his salt"). One of the many crimes against women committed by Terence Kealey ("lust") is to assume that all scholars are male and that women serve merely as "acolytes". Women are assumed not to be pedantic (so my fine combing of this article will be forgiven), nor arrogant (for it would seem we have nothing to be arrogant about); by contrast, we are criticised for our "utilitarian" appearance and for being "more interested in abs than labs". Indeed, the only woman pictured in this article is in her underwear.

So there we have women's sum contribution to the academy - our clothing and our transgressive desire for male scholars (aka "bitch-magnets"). Sinful? Shameful more like.

Rainbow Murray, Queen Mary, University of London.

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