#educationtoo: resilient sexism in education research and practice

Year: 2018

Author: McKnight, Lucinda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

“Hard data, outcomes, inputs and outputs, rigor, impact, Taylorism, scientism… but how is that sexist?” This paper engages with the extensive literature around sexism in research and education and the extraordinary denial of this literature that accompanies feminist scholars’ attempts to put feminist theory to work. If you have ever wondered “how is that sexist?” and felt bemused or offended by a claim of misogyny or sexism, this paper will assist you to understand the basis for that claim, whether you are convinced by it or not. If, as a feminist scholar of any gender, you have struggled to persuade an audience that a particular intervention or statement is sexist, this paper will provide resources that may prove useful.
The paper expands on Angela McRobbie’s notion of the postfeminist contract, to argue that a resurgent feminism realised via platforms such as #metoo is accompanied by a breathtakingly blatant erosion of feminist gains. An example of this in the public sphere is the involvement of Australian politicians in reclaiming words such as “mankind” to represent people of all genders, as if the arguments of feminism no longer matter. The same agenda is behind the assumption that scientism in education does not perpetuate gender binaries, leading to the uncritical importation of masculinist medical metaphor in education, as if it has never been troubled by powerful critique.
Calling on a range of thinkers, including (in no particular order) Riyad Shahjahan, Roxanne Gay, Francis Bacon, Rosi Braidotti, Mikhail Bakhtin, Sandra Harding, Madeleine Grumet, Patti Lather, Rene Descartes, Bettie St Pierre, Michel Foucault, bell hooks, Michael Apple and others, this paper aims to provide resources that will support educators in saying “that’s sexist because…”, especially in the moments when sexism seems so blatant to us that we don’t know where to begin in responding! Through these resources, the paper proposes that those who are not in majority groups or positions of power in culture and society do matter, and should not be forgotten, obliterated, ignored or trivialised by the convenient elision of their concerns and contributions.