We’re definitely underpaid, ladies, considering the extra layer of bull$h!t we have to deal with in the course of just doing our jobs. Read on for a fascinating illustration of the costs of doing business when you have a female name and internet profile.
Some of us have been having fun on the interwebs recently mocking Donald Trump’s comment Tuesday night that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, “The only card she has is the woman’s card; she’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote. … The beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, OK, and look how well I did with women tonight!” Check out the hashtag #womancard on Twitter–who says feminists have no sense of humor? A lot of the #womancard Tweets, my own included, are about money and women’s access to it.
So it was kind of perfect that I first stumbled upon this series of tweets yesterday, which were then turned into a blog post by Kelly J. Baker, professional writer and recovering academic historian, on “The Men Who Email Me.” In the spirit of Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Baker writes about the consequences of being an unaffiliated writer on the internets.
Long story short, she fields emails from men who think she desperately needs to hear their point of view, or to help them get their essays published. Because of course, they’re all unrecognized geniuses, and who the heck does she think she is, anyway? And this represents a drag on her time and energy that represent a hidden cost of being an intellectual woman in public. Baker writes,
The men who email me tell me that I’m wrong. I’ve made the wrong argument. I’ve missed the essential issue or the salient details. I’ve made errors and mistakes. I didn’t use data. I used too much data. They assert that gender is not as big of an issue as I make it out to be or that I don’t realize how hard it is to be a man. They assert that I can never be anything but wrong.
The men who email me claim that I don’t know anything about higher education, religious studies, labor, gender, or any other topic I’ve ever written an essay about. They ignore my credentials in favor of assuming my incompetency. “You didn’t possibly think this through,” they type. They don’t care that I have, but just assume that I haven’t. If competency appears out of reach, expertise becomes impossible.
After describing the different varieties of irritating email she receives from complete strangers who only want to mansplain something or ask her for a favor (or shockingly, sometimes both), she concludes with something I find even more outrageous than insulting someone while you’re also asking her to work for you for free:
The men who email me are not anonymous. They use their personal or work email. They gladly offer their names, their job titles, and their sense of entitlement. They can’t imagine that I would refuse to listen to them. It is just an email, just a comment, just a criticism, or just a threat. What’s my problem?
The men who email me take up space in my inbox. They take up space in my head. They take up my time. What amazes me is that these men think that I owe them time, attention, and effort because they read something I wrote. I don’t owe them anything, but I seem to be the only one who knows that. These men continue to believe that I deserve their opinions. I want them to learn to keep their opinions to themselves.
Baker’s story exposes not just the hidden time and psychic costs of being an online writer, but also the ways in which her male correspondents believe that correcting her is not only acceptable, they of the dubious credentials and expertise, but part of their jobs!” Yes, they’re so confident of the righteousness of their intervention that they do it through their work accounts and sign their own names. Because of course they’re important! Of course their opinions must be attended!
They see it as in their job description to school women writing on the internet.
For the record, I get emails too as a result of this non peer-reviewed blog on the World Wide Timewasting Web. I also get requests from correspondents–usually they’re looking for advice about graduate school, or a scholarly issue I have raised on the blog, or (more often) they’re requests from current graduate students or faculty in abusive departments who are looking for some advice and a shoulder to lean on. I answer all of them, because 1) they’re always respectful, and 2) I see it as part of my job as a historian with a university position–it’s part of this blog’s public outreach and service to the profession at the same time.
And you know what else my correspondents have in common? They’re overwhelmingly women. I wonder if there’s a connection between sex and asking politely for help versus lecturing condescendingly? Could be!