Comments on: Patriarchal equilibrium: UR doin’ in rite! History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:54:21 +0000 hourly 1 By: Emma Mon, 24 May 2010 23:55:22 +0000 In my experience, one of the hardest things about employment discrimination in academia is that nobody — man or woman — will rat out the discriminatory hiring decisions or discriminatory decision makers.

In particular, because tenure is enshrined in the law as so entirely, essentially, and unchangeably subjective, you really need highly placed people who are willing to rat out the bias and discrimination. Much more so than in other work environments where at least there’s a play at objectivity.

It reminds me of the poster here awhile ago who said she witnessed an academic hiring decision that was blatantly discriminatory but, for her own reasons, she did not challenge it in any way or even tell the non-hired woman the real reason for her not being hired.

If people are not willing to come forward, then no, things aren’t going to change. I don’t say any of this to make moral judgments, but to describe the reality. I’m sorry that so much of the onus is on you, truly I am. But the reality is that it is. One woman probably won’t change anything because, in your field, she absolutely needs the support of women and men who are in a position to know the truth of what happened.

By: Emma Sun, 23 May 2010 14:43:21 +0000 I have gotten a few decent settlement for academics on the community college level. I don’t get a ton of cases since not very many profs walk through my door or call my office.

By: LadyProf Fri, 21 May 2010 23:41:03 +0000 Emma, the federal trial courts are pretty horrible too, from what I hear, and getting worse now that the Supreme Court has demanded that plaintiffs more or less prove their whole case at the complaint stage, before they can start discovery.

As a plaintiff’s employment lawyer, have you ever won a good result–settlement or jury verdict–for a female academic client with a wage discimination claim? Hell, I’d be happy to hear about a good result for an academic client with any kind of sex discrimination claim: I’m told that fighting a tenure denial is just as bleak.

(Apologies to all if my conversation with Emma isn’t of general interest.)

By: Emma Fri, 21 May 2010 22:31:44 +0000 I have no idea where you got the notion that female professors can use the law to attain fair pay.

Maybe because I’m a plaintiff’s employment lawyer?

I’m sorry things turned out for you as they did. Yes, state human rights commissions and the EEOC are largely useless.

By: LadyProf Fri, 21 May 2010 16:27:22 +0000 Emma, at job #1 I did talk to a lawyer. Several, actually: very few lawyers are willing to take employment discrimination cases because the doctrine is so anti-plaintiff and even if you win there’s little money.

I filed a complaint with the state human rights commission. (Because doing so isn’t technically suing, I thought it would be a safer path; I wanted to avoid being attacked as a litigious troublemaker. This part of my plan actually succeeded.) My lawyer said my chances were remote, and he was right: I was complaining about a salary considerably higher than that of my female investigator. It was considerably lower than that of inferior male colleagues, of course, but in the eyes of this decider, I was a whiny spoiled richbitch.

Check out the literature on sex discrimination claims made by academics and you’ll see my experience is perfectly typical. It’s better than par, actually, in that I escaped being branded as litigious and crazy. I have no idea where you got the notion that female professors can use the law to attain fair pay. “It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work, it requires plaintiffs to do a lot of work and take a lot of risks, and the relief is often partial” sounds modest, but in fact it grossly overstates the odds that one will succeed.

By: Emma Fri, 21 May 2010 14:44:44 +0000 What’s the right response?

Talk to a lawyer and sue if you can. I don’t belieive that’s the “right” response — people choose not to litigate, or litigate, for all sorts of reasons. The “right” response is what allows you to live your life in a way that works for you. And one can’t drag a plaintiff into the courthouse kicking and screaming.

But there is a mechanism out there which is meant to address pay inequity. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work, it requires plaintiffs to do a lot of work and take a lot of risks, and the relief is often partial. All that is true. And if you don’t want to do it, that’s a perfectly acceptable choice for whatever reason.

You don’t have to do anything, especially you don’t have to sue if you don’t want to. But the mechanism to obtain relief exists whether you choose to try to engage it or not.

By: LadyProf Fri, 21 May 2010 06:01:01 +0000 Thanks, Historiann. Your being sorry makes me feel abashed–my jobs haven’t been a bad gig in the scheme of things. But your point about the Whiggish narrative is brilliant, your takedown of the NY Times article the best one I’ve seen.

By: Historiann Fri, 21 May 2010 02:25:01 +0000 LadyProf: I’m sorry.

Of course, no one wants to take wage discrimination sitting down. But this is not a problem that individuals can solve–even for themselves in their own lives.

I’d like to believe the fantasy that *one* of us can change anything. But, I’m afraid I’ve lived and worked too long. I’m over that fantasy. I know this will sound defeatest, but to anyone who thinks that, I say good luck. Maybe you can do better than every other woman before you. Maybe you are the woman to whom the rules of history won’t apply. I hope that’s the case, but I remain doubtful.

By: LadyProf Fri, 21 May 2010 00:07:31 +0000 No, I don’t think so, Emma. I got a big pay raise when I moved several years ago, and in relative terms I have now lost it, because it enraged too many d00dz. Colleagues and bosses have agreed that it’s wrongity-wrong for a woman to be paid more than a cohort of men.

What’s the right response? Threaten to quit again, get blown off (because my salary already appears WAY high, for a girl you know, and the d00dz are complaining about being emasculated), quit, move, provoke patriarchal equilibrium again, get no raises again, threaten to quit again, get blown off, etc.? Although I loves me some pay equity, I can’t make an obsession of it; I have work to do.

I hope I have done enough to transfer the distribution of cookies, because I don’t have any more to give.

By: Emma Wed, 19 May 2010 15:41:56 +0000 I’m not trying to blame either you or FSP for the actions of others. Since I’m a lawyer, I think like a lawyer, and react like a lawyer.

I have seen women who think that their 5, 10, 15, 20+ of putting up with unequal treatment somehow makes them “better” employees who, after all, only were thinking about the good of their employer. But tolerating discrimination doesn’t make one a good employee who deserves good treatment. It makes one a woman who wasn’t discriminated against. After all, if you approved paying junior men more money, how could it be discrimination?

It’s a dynamic that employers depend upon to continue their unfair treatment. And I understand your position — get out of dysfunctional employment relationships as soon as possible. But then, you end up with this:

I’m resigned to working at a discount. Pay equity won’t happen in my lifetime. Oh, and women in my discipline are expected to do more (and more tedious) committee work than what men have to do.

No, it won’t “happen”. That’s true. Unless you take CPP’s advice:

And by deploying the language of fairness, equity, and decency with an asshole administrator, rather than the language of consequences–good and/or bad–you are giving the green light to the administrator to keep fucking you over.

I’m not trying to blame anybody. I’m trying to make the dynamics at play very clear. And “you are never going to get the cookies” does not illuminate the dynamic or sugggest corrective action so much as it encourages women to settle because, you know, pay equity will never happen, anyway.

There is a chance to get the cookies, if you’re willing to upset the cookie cart.