There’s a nice explanation at Inside Higher Ed today about the #ILookLikeAProfessor meme that took off last week on Twitter. Masterminded by my Tweet peeps Sarah Pritchard, Adeline Koh, and Michelle Moravec, the movement attempts to address the age-old problem that we professors who aren’t bearded white men face at work:
Frustrated by the microaggressions we experience as “nontraditional” faculty, we started a new hashtag:#ILookLikeAProfessor. The flurry of photos, retweets and horror stories since last Thursday suggests that we are not alone in experiencing entrenched stereotypes and bias — both subtle and explicit.
- The female professor mistaken for an undergraduate. She was grading homework, not doing it.
- Male teaching assistants assumed to be the professor.
- Faculty members of color assumed to be the custodian.
- Asian professors assumed to be Chinese food delivery drivers.
We are not making this up.
Of course not! I don’t get this so much any more but because I’m white as well as female, I was assumed to be a student when I was younger. Then I was assumed to be a secretary. Some passers-by might still make that assumption, because when I’m in the office I tend to keep my door open, and because I respond to requests for help navigating our confusing building and finding another office or department. But then, that’s me: always happy to help.
(Also: who gets food delivered to the office? Must be a big city thing.)
This was something that a lot of us grad students and junior faculty talked about twenty years ago. I’m sure those of you nearing retirement can report that these conversations were happening forty years ago too. Will we still be talking about this in another ten or twenty years?