July
7th 2010
Women’s historian attends West Point Summer Seminar! (Alert the MPs.)

Posted under: American history, Gender, jobs, weirdness, women's history

Gee, I wish we were relevant!

A young, dissertating historian of the integration of the U.S. military, Tanya L. Roth, attended the West Point Summer Seminar in Military History this year, and has written a three-part series in which she describes some of her experiences, and discusses the tensions between “traditional” (e.g. strategy/operations/tactics) historians, and the “war and society”-typesIn part III, she offers some thoughts on being what she calls the “token ‘Where are the Women?’ person.”  One of the West Point Seminar’s great features is that the students get out of the classroom and take some tours of Eastern battlefields:

As we concluded our staff ride of Gettysburg about halfway through the seminar, the program leaders asked us each to share how we thought the staff ride experiences could help us in our teaching and research. When it was my turn, I broke it into two parts: as an American historian, I said, I thought there were a lot of things I could incorporate into my teaching, whether in surveys or upper-level classes. I think that this intensive study of a specific battle adds something to the experience of learning about big wars in American history.

But as a women’s historian, I continued, the staff ride experience had seemed utterly useless. After all, we dealt with only combatants’ experiences – and unless you want to talk about cross-dressing women serving as soldiers, then we’re essentially dealing with male experiences in the staff ride environment. All of the women were either in Gettysburg or behind the Confederate and Union lines as camp followers – and those were experiences we largely ignored, aside from a brief discussion of the impact of the battle on the local Gettysburg environs and people (in the aftermath).

I was pretty blunt. Note that I did not say that I found the experience completely useless – simply that from a women’s history perspective, the staff ride (as it had been conducted) was useless. Sure, I was going for impact with that statement. My main point was that gender was never a category of analysis during the staff ride, despite what I saw as a number of opportunities we had to discuss gender – not to mention the fact that when you’re talking about combat, gender analysis is always a useful tool (in my opinion).

Roth continues:

What I realized by that weekend was that the topic of gender and women in particular made people fairly uncomfortable. 

In many ways, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn this. After all, I’m one of about two or three graduate students in my department who study gender seriously. It’s not like I’ve never encountered hostility to my subject matter before. But after five years in my department, a place where I know every grad student and they all know me fairly well, it’s become a bit of a comfort zone. Sure, I may be the token “where are the women” person (in other people’s words, not mine) – but at my institution, I’ve earned some respect in that position. It’s quite different to find yourself cast as that person in a group where you’re an unknown entity, where everyone brings in their own preconceived notions about various things – including the application of gender as a category of analysis.

I was mostly frustrated and bothered by what I saw as a complete sidestepping of gender as an issue. Obviously, gender – and women’s experiences in particular – is central to my own dissertation project: I tend not to read anything related to my dissertation without applying gender analysis to it – how is it relevant to my dissertation, etc. And that’s how I approached much of the reading for the Summer Seminar.  Perhaps, in part, then, my frustration stems from being unable to understand why anyone would purposely ignore or avoid a methodology that could offer very rich possibilities for historical study.

Now, I’m not going to offer a Whig interpretation of history here and reassure Roth that “things are bound to get better!  You just keep researching and writing, and eventually military history and women’s history won’t seem like such an odd pairing!”  In fact, I think it’s worse now than it was at the beginning of my career (about 15 years ago.)  At least in the 1990s with the Kulturkampf raging, people would argue with you.  For example, I remember being lectured in a job interview about how I needed to read Abigail Adams’s letters, because she loved her husband, and her letters proved that patriarchy was a benign force in the eighteenth century.  Never mind that I was writing about the seventeenth century at the time–according to this d00d’s brain stem, Abigail Adams proved that patriarchy wasn’t ever historically a problem because one woman loved her husband.  (Did I mention that I didn’t get offered that job?) 

Nowadays, I think women’s historians just get politely heard and then are just as politely ignored.  I participated in a seminar last year in which I was the “token ‘Where are the women?’” person.  At one point, I gave a comment that went something like this:  “The colonization of the Americas is built on the exploitation of the labor and bodies of black and brown women!  Rape!  Torture!  Abuse!  That’s how these clinical terms like “creolization” and “hybridization” happen in most places!  Wake up!!!”  (And then I did my best Howard Dean impression, and ended with a frightening yawp!)

Well, not really.  Everyone nodded politely, and then went back to talking about what they wanted to talk about.  (And it wasn’t the rape and exploitation of women, that’s for sure.)

What do the rest of you think?  Is it getting easier, or more difficult, to continue to talk about women and/or gender?  Do some of you find yourselves reduced to tokens because of your intellectual interests?

(A note on the poster above:  Yes, I know it’s a Navy recruitment poster, and I know the difference between Annapolis and West Point.  But, this is one I have in my office, and I just find the woman in the sailor suit adorable!)

15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Women’s historian attends West Point Summer Seminar! (Alert the MPs.)

  1. Perpetua on 07 Jul 2010 at 10:13 am #

    In my subfield it’s pretty easy to talk about women, but in the larger field it can still be a challenge. I taught my first grad seminar a couple of years ago and was horrified to discover that *none* of these students had any understanding of or knowledge about women’s or gender history, its historiography, methodology, theoretical components, etc. Since then I’ve compiled a grad reading list with a women section and a gender/sexuality section, and *always* ask it on the writtens (if they don’t answer the written question, I ask them to answer it at orals), because I’ve decided that YOU JUST HAVE TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT WOMEN’S HISTORY, the same way I make them know something about religious, political, social history, etc. And because I had a military historian in my next grad seminar, I made sure he read Women and the Social History of the Military (not a real book title) precisely so he would be forced into thinking about it. I love freaking out my grad students by forcing them to read outside their box.

    But I have definitely been “tokenized”. I don’t really do women’s history in my own research, though gender is a component and a woman an important historical actor in my book, but in my *department* I’m teaching women’s history ’cause I’m the woman and no one else will do it. I’m getting pretty tired of that. (Ie women are only interested in women’s history because it’s only important to women, therefore none of the menz can be bothered to teach it, etc.)

  2. Historiann on 07 Jul 2010 at 10:20 am #

    I’ve run into that idea that women’s history or feminist service in the uni isn’t “real” scholarship or service, it’s “self-service.” Ugh. (Not recently, though. And I get the impression that many of my men colleagues teach women’s/gender stuff at all levels of the curriculum, just like I teach all kinds of stuff I don’t have a research interest in because it’s nevertheless important.)

    Are there no women’s historians in your field to teach the women’s history? I hear you on the frustration of being tokenized/burdened with the task, but in the end, it’s probably better that you do it instead of not do it, right? You just might open some minds and plant some seeds at least. And if even one of those students ends up in a work environment or with a research topics that demand some knowledge of women’s and gender history, then you’re more than justified. Few of us know exactly where we’ll be 10 or 20 or 30 years post-Ph.D., or what we’ll care about researching.

  3. Susan on 07 Jul 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Historiann, every few years I find myself at what I think of as a “guy” conference in my field, and I still — especially with the Brits — have occasionally had to do my “Ahem, gender is a category of analysis that might be helpful here”. The last time I did it, the very lefty/ Labor (party) historian who prompted it admitted that for HIM, class was the important category, because there he was disempowered while with gender….

    At least he was honest about it. But I get bored, and I boycott the boys for a while.

  4. Historiann on 07 Jul 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Ahem: intersectionality, much? (It ain’t just about race, friends.) Here’s where we’re at a disadvantage: we admit that there are other useful lenses for analysis. Feminists would never (not these days, anyway) stand up and say, “well, for me it’s all about gender, so religion, class, race, and all those other things are totally irrelevant here.” Roth, in her various posts, is deeply respectful of military history and appreciative of the new ideas and perspectives she learned at the West Point seminar. But her colleagues there don’t feel the same way about women’s history, clearly.

    Yes, that’s my pattern too, Susan. Engage, then disengage for a while, and engage again. It just feels like they keep hoping we’ll stay disengaged (or at least shut the heck up.)

  5. notabattlechick on 07 Jul 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    I enter this conversation from a slightly different perspective. Full disclosure: I self-identify as a military historian; I am a woman; My research does not deal with women or gender; I attended the WP Summer Seminar in 2008; I have met Tanya this summer, though we didn’t get to talk as much as I would have liked; and I now work at West Point in the (military) history department. (There, it should not be hard to figure out who I am now. . . )

    I should begin by saying that this [West Point] is a strange, strange world. It doesn’t operate like any other academic institution I’ve encountered or heard of (even when compared to the other service academies, it’s strange). The levels of bureaucracy and hierarchy, and the patriarchal norms that usually follow those, are truly mind-boggling sometime. I came here at least knowing the institution that I study, meaning in some sense that I could reliably read uniforms, know rank structures, tell the difference between a brigade and a battalion; use the endless acronyms and initialisms; and be able to identify some weapons. . . and to some extent, I “got” the culture, too. And still, I can only describe my first couple of months here as culture shock. I can only begin to imagine what a civilian unfamiliar with military protocol, etc. would think after coming here to teach, say, Spanish. My current take on things is undoubtedly colored by my institutional context.

    Am I a token? Within the military history community? probably. As a graduate student, at an early gathering of military historians, I was asked whose wife I was because clearly women didn’t *do* military history. I also frequently fielded questions about why I didn’t study women in the military–again, as if my own gender dictated that I *must* study women. And now, I do stick out here – in our department of almost 50, there are seven women. Female cadets make up just about 15% of the Corps (roughly the same as the army writ large. Civilians make up roughly 20% of the faculty here. Last year, teaching the core course in Military History, I was the only woman teaching the course. At the most recent Society for Military History Conference, there were only a handful of women, and precious few papers/panels that engaged gender as a category of analysis.

    Does my research align nicely with that of “the Department”? not really. my research focus, very explicitly, is on cultural approaches to the study of war and militaries. My dissertation/first book is about military chaplains and religion during the Vietnam War. It’s not always a comfortable place, but I think it’s valuable–I know it has been for me, and I hope I’ve been able to contribute something to the department as well.

    I lobby (usually unsuccessfully) for more class time to be spent on things like culture, gender, race, and class, so I bring it in on my own when I can. I call students on sexist and homophobic language in class and I make them talk about rape and “collateral damage” in the context of the course. I’m all for freaking cadets out.

    (In this vein, I would also suggest that other historians should be forced to read (real/serious/good) military history scholarship; In my other-than-military-history grad seminars, I was often surprised not only by my colleagues’ ignorance of all things military, but the fact they were proud of it. I found it unsettling that in the general Readings in American History to 1865 course, one syllabus had precisely 0 books about war. . .) And, yes, I occasionally get cranky when I’m *constantly* exhorted by other-sorts-of-historians to expand my horizons and go read other stuff (which, 1) I do already, and 2) don’t need to be told) when suggesting that someone might gain something by doing the same is somehow different.

    Tanya, rightly, I think, sees some discomfort between the fields of military history and women’s history, and I would simply say it’s not all that uncommon. I see many of the same issues in trying to integrate military history with the history of religion. They are two communities that don’t talk much, but should, because there are so many fruitful and interesting avenues of inquiry. For me, vocabulary was a major hurdle–I found myself needing to explain, for readers from Religious Studies, what a Corps Tactical Zone was, and for my military history readers, what I meant by eschatology and sacraments. Too often, I think, we simply assume that people who enter our scholarly world will simply “get” it if we just say it enough. But telling military historians that they need to understand “gender as a category of analysis” doesn’t actually help that much if they don’t know *how* to do it.

    (I recall, for example, a colleague from graduate school, an AD Air Force Lt. Col., who was writing his dissertation about the organizational culture of Strategic Air Command. And we kept insisting that he couldn’t seriously write it without looking at gender and masculinity–I mean, come on, there were cockpits and “sacumcizing” and phallic bombers all over the place–but he didn’t know *how*. So he had to learn it, and that took some sympathetic colleagues and readers to help him sort through an entirely unfamiliar literature. Had they (we?) just left it at “you need to do this” – he would have been lost, and I imagine none of it would have actually made it into the dissertation.)

    So, one observation re: “the field” of military history in particular. “We” have been doing “new military history” for a long time now. Does the “old,” battle-and-campaign-drum-and-bugle-hagiography-of-great-generals stuff still dominate popular military history? Absolutely. Is it still a very-present and vital part of the field? Again, yes. Is there room for other stuff? From my perspective, yes. I have almost no desire to actually write “old” sorts of military history (hence my username), but they remain critical for me to do the sort of work I want to do. The people who do it well (and that’s a major hurdle) are masters at archival work, piecing together fragmented evidence, reading between the lines, and spinning a good tale. That sort of work allows others to make sense of the same documents and events in different ways–applying different analytical categories and such. I am frequently encouraged by the current work I see coming from military historians and military-history-oriented presses. There’s really good stuff out there. Are there still chronically underrepresented areas? no doubt. But there are people who just won’t shut up about the things we find important. And, my hunch is that there are more of us than you might first suspect.

    And, finally, I’ll close with an observation/reflection on the Summer Seminar itself, having now seen it as a participant, and now from the “other side.” The goal, I think, IS (very purposefully, I might add), to focus on the more traditional side of military history. This is, I think, for two reasons: 1) it is clearly where West Point’s comparative advantage lies and 2) You can (and will) find the “new” military history stuff (i.e. social and cultural approaches/topics) elsewhere. There are only a handful of PhD programs that allow explicit specialization in military history, and the best do an excellent job of integrating the study of war with the study of societies and culture (in my own program, for example, those of us who identified as military historians were also required to take classes and the full series of Comprehensive Exams in another primary field–US, European, Global, Women’s, etc.). Other graduate programs, where you may have people writing on military topics, tend to do a better job at the “new” stuff–training people in women’s history or Colonial American history, say. The WP Seminar, then, assumes that you’ve got the “soft” side down, and it seeks to give people the tools they might need to think about the more traditional side. I think it was probably good for them to hear that the staff ride wouldn’t be all that useful in teaching women’s history. (But that seems OK – not all things will be useful in all cases. . . ) It took me a while to come to this conclusion. I remember leaving the seminar (before I started working here) thinking how much better it had been if we had talked more about war and culture. But I don’t think I would have learned as much. Doing it this way challenged me to engage in a type of military history that I don’t myself do, but which I think my understanding of makes my own work stronger.

    And to be fair, I do not know how Tanya’s co-seminarians approached these issues or what her specific interactions with faculty were. I can only recall my experience with the seminar and my experiences, now, with faculty here. On the whole, I’ve found myself sort of enjoying my position that straddles insider and outsider (in so many ways). It’s easier to cause trouble that way.

    (I am afraid this went on far longer than I anticipated, clearly a sign that I am not eager to do boring administrative prep for this fall’s classes.)

  6. Rad Readr on 07 Jul 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Historiann, you raise an excellent point about possible problems with “creolization” and “hybridity” and I would throw in “borderlands” and “contact zones.” Violence is an important component — violence that affects women — which is why I always scoffed at the comparison of the classroom to a “contact zone.” And your invoking physical violence (rape) also precludes the litcrit type of slippage in which verbal “violence” floats around with other types of violence on a chain of equivalences. Gotta go, just felt an earthquake (really).

  7. thefrogprincess on 07 Jul 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    It strikes me that the “new military history” with its focus on war and society and the gendered analysis that Roth is calling for is vital to combating the way the military is currently sequestered from American life. What’s that statistic, less than 2% of Americans have had any contact with the military? As somebody who grew up in a place that was all military all the time, I find that fact astounding but likely true. One of the most disorienting things about college was living in a world where nobody ever really talked about the military. (A friend of mine had the reverse experience when he went to college in the area I grew up and was stunned by how ever present the military is there.)

    What troubles me about this, though, is that I think this lack of familiarity with military life and the demands of military service makes us as a nation as well as our government much more cavalier about where we’re sending people and the demands we place on them: I’m thinking here obviously about our presence in Iraq but also about the insane deployments and redeployments that our servicewomen and men are subjected to and how the families left behind deal with the absence and then the return of profoundly changed loved ones.

    I think to some degree a more integrated historical approach to the military might alleviate this somewhat, at least for those who are in these classes in college.

    On another note, however, although I certainly understand the vital importance of focusing on military battles and campaigns in our service academies and ROTC programs, aren’t our current Middle East commitments so problematic precisely because we assumed that waging war there would look like war did before 1950? That there would be decisive victories and that people would be happy to see us? It strikes me that such a heavy battle focused curriculum needs some tweaking since war looks different and is unlikely to go back to the old model.

  8. notabattlechick on 07 Jul 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    to thefrogprincess’s point: “although I certainly understand the vital importance of focusing on military battles and campaigns in our service academies and ROTC programs, aren’t our current Middle East commitments so problematic precisely because we assumed that waging war there would look like war did before 1950? That there would be decisive victories and that people would be happy to see us? It strikes me that such a heavy battle focused curriculum needs some tweaking since war looks different and is unlikely to go back to the old model.”

    Yes, and no.

    On one hand, war does look awfully different than when it did in 1945 – and the particular question of defining victory and understanding “decisiveness” is actually something “we”–especially at the military academy–talk about quite a bit. And COIN (Counter-Insurgency), or Low-Intensity Conflict, or Full Spectrum Warfare, or whatever you want to call it – has actually commanded the military’s attention–both its official history component and its doctrinal development–for a long while. (Note, studying it for a long time doesn’t mean they got it right. . . )

    There were a whole shit-ton (a technical term, of course) of problems in Iraq and Afghanistan–many of which should have been foreseeable, if not preventable (leaving aside, for now, the question of the choice to intervene in the first place)–but my own assessment, and that of most of my colleagues–is that these were *primarily* failures in planning and not with having a too-old-school and outdated understanding of Vietnam. The General Officer corps in command now came of age just after the Vietnam War, an era in which the US military desperately wanted to go back to WWII-style warfare, but when it became increasingly obvious that this was not to be. They are also in a cadre of officers who made it through some of the most stringent RIFs in history, and they have, collectively, a remarkable amount of experience in unconventional fighting. (Again, that’s not to say they got it right, but with VERY few exceptions, today’s army hasn’t fought large-scale infantry, tank, and artillery combined arms battles in a terribly long time.)

    Second, there’s the question of what cadets should be learning… and this is, as you might imagine, is where the real nasty fighting begins. There are a many (social science, especially, and departments directly involved military training)who argue for a very COIN-centric, unconventional warfare focus, claiming that contemporary wars are unlike anything we’ve seen before. Then, there are those who argue for a much broader scope–and the historians (individually and collectively, at least as far as I can tell) are, unsurprisingly, I think, in this camp. It’s not actually that most people think cadets knowing the exact movement of units at Gettysburg, or understanding the ins-and-outs of island hopping in the Pacific themselves will make them better officers. We tend to think that the value of history, of learning those things, has more to do with *how* they think – so you’ll find lots of discussion about problem solving and decision making and complexity. More than anything else, I want my cadets to glimpse the complexity, to help them see that what they’re going out to do may be different tactically, they use different weapons, there are different cultural considerations – but that there are some things that remain–that fog and friction (those lovely Clausewitzian principles) exist across time and space; that individual actions and decisions matter; that soldiers’ motivations matter; that national politics and will affect the outcomes of war; that the civil-military relationship is critically important; that everything that came before 9/11 wasn’t easy and everything after difficult. And I think looking closely at the strategy, operations, and tactics of past wars is a helpful tool here.

    We also do talk at some length about historical “unconventional” wars that aren’t so focused around battles – the South in the American Revolution, Napoleon in Spain, the Vietnam War, Bosnia, Somalia, the Soviet-Afghan War, etc.

    Is it perfect? goodness no. I, for example, simply loathe teaching so many lessons on Napoleon. It’s just one damn battle after another, and I just stop caring about halfway through. I wish we talked more about race and gender. I wish we talked more about politics and the homefront. I wish we made more explicit the goals as I’ve outlined above. And there are changes; they are slow, but there are real, serious historians and teachers who talk about this stuff pretty constantly.

  9. Isabattleguy on 08 Jul 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Great posts, Notabattlechick.

    For other readers of this interesting discussion, FWIW: as a mostly old-school military historian (though I’ve certainly written a fair amount of “new” military history/war and society/social history of armies) I’m surprised by– though not doubtful of– the comments suggesting some social/gender historians feel like outsiders in their departments, or like they think their area is not taken seriously. (E.g. Historiann’s “Nowadays, I think women’s historians just get politely heard and then are just as politely ignored.”)

    After all, most history departments now have several gender historians, and often no military or diplomatic historians. At a big multi-disciplinary conference I go to, on the registration form you have to check boxes re what your interests are. Under “Academic Discipline” the choices include “History: Institutional”; “History: Social/Economic” (which would subsume gender history); and “History: Intellectual”– but there’s no “History: Political” (which would subsume military). Then under “Areas of Specialization” there are boxes for BOTH “Women’s Studies” AND “Gender Studies,” but not one for “War and Society” or anything (except geographical designators) related to what I do. And I once had a senior historian of the Reformation say, when she found out I was a military historian, “Oh, well, I’m a reglious historian so you can see why I don’t have much interest in war.” (Again: a _Reformation_ historian!)

    What’s my point here? That if military historians sometimes seem a bit cool to gender issues, bear in mind that they may not think gender history is unimportant, but rather they may feel defensive about the importance of their own field, and that gender-oriented history, while important, is _over_-represented in job hires, publication of articles in American Historical Review or the Journal of Modern History, etc.

  10. Historiann on 08 Jul 2010 at 7:11 am #

    Thanks for the comments while I was out, everyone. I appreciate Notabatttlechick’s insider intel on the USMA and the teaching she’s doing there. I think this is especially well-put: “there are some things that remain–that fog and friction (those lovely Clausewitzian principles) exist across time and space; that individual actions and decisions matter; that soldiers’ motivations matter; that national politics and will affect the outcomes of war; that the civil-military relationship is critically important; that everything that came before 9/11 wasn’t easy and everything after difficult. And I think looking closely at the strategy, operations, and tactics of past wars is a helpful tool here.”

    Indeed. I don’t teach as broadly as you do, but from my vantage, the war of the Revolution and the Civil War offer plenty of lessons that make these points quite nicely.

    Isabattleguy–I absolutely hear you on the marginalization of military history. My point wasn’t so much that military historians politely ignore gender, but that everyone does. And because social history (of various stripes) dominates the American historical profession these days, it’s other social historians who are the guilty ones here primarily, not the military historians. (The conference I attended last year was not a military history conference–perhaps I should have made that clearer. My experience just jibed with what Tanya Roth reported about her Summer Seminar experience.)

    And, FWIW, as someone who wrote a book subtitled “War and Gender in Colonial New England,” I’ve been a little consternated that my book has been reviewed by military historians more often than women’s/gender historians, whom I perceived as my main audience for the book. But, every review from a military historian has been generous, and they’ve recommended my book as one that other military historians should read precisely because of its engagement with gender and the new perspective they feel it offers. (Let that be a lesson in titling books: if WAR precedes GENDER, the book review editors stop reading after they see WAR and send it on to a military historian!)

  11. Historiann on 08 Jul 2010 at 7:20 am #

    Thefrogprincess makes a good point, too, about how the alienation of the historical profession from military history may be connected to the alienation of most Americans from military service. I think you’re right on in this one. Speaking as a woman whose male peers were never subject to the draft–I rarely if ever had contact with military folks. But, I’m meeting a lot of Vets in my classes these days who have done several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Rad–I hope you survived the earthquake! I haven’t heard on the news that it was a big one. See what happens when you try to talk about rape? (Or, as Notabattlechick notes its euphamism, “collateral damage.”) Borderlands doesn’t allude to reproductive processes the way that hybridity and creolization do, so I’m reluctant to include it in the same way. (As Susan Sleeper-Smith has shown, there were Indian-dominated borderlands that were characterized by peace, farming, and selective intermarriage rather than warfare, violence, and rape.) But, I take your point that it can potentially be used to retrospectively pacify and sanitize an otherwise violent history.

    In my grad class this fall, we’re reading Ned Blackhawk’s Violence over the Land to start us off. We’ll see how that plays–I think it will be well-received, since it de-centers early American history from the Atlantic littoral and re-centers it in the West. (That’s a popular persepctive here.)

  12. Tanya on 10 Jul 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I’m way, way late to the game on commenting – I got my post up Wednesday and then began diving into CHAPTER 6 of my dissertation.

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciated hearing other people’s perspectives on this issue, both Historiann’s post and the comments here.

    The idea that everyone ignores gender history these days makes a lot of sense to me, too. the marginalization of this has definitely been clear in my department in the past few years – at least among the graduate students – but personally I found it getting better (honestly, just for me at least, and probably because I’m now one of the most senior grad students and one with one of the most visible presences – and yet people are still surprised and unsettled when I invoke gender when they workshop dissertation chapters). I just hadn’t felt *that* unsettled – as I did at West Point – in a long time. I think in a lot of ways that that particular experience was really good for me.

  13. SKM on 11 Jul 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    The idea that gender-oriented history is “over-represented in hires and publications” does not seem to jibe with observed ongoing discomfort with even acknowledging gender as an analytical approach. I am not a historian, so I’m confused. Is it that gender-oriented scholars are being actively recruited, hired, published, and then ignored, or is it that such historians are not in fact over-represented and that it just looks that way to people who are used to gender’s complete marginalization? (As in conversation: when women speak for half the time and men for half the time, women are perceived as dominating the conversation. A move from marginalization toward parity can look like unfair favoritism of the marginalized.)

    Or was the claim that gender history is only over-represented in comparison to military history, Isabattleguy?

  14. SKM on 12 Jul 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Oof–rereading my comment above, it looks a bit rude. Sorry; that was not how I meant it. That’s what I get for trying to comment and watch the World Cup Final pre-game show a the same time. Please consider it a good-faith question.

    Viva España! Campeones del mundo!

  15. Historiann on 12 Jul 2010 at 10:49 am #

    SKM–I don’t think your previous question was rude. This is kind of an old thread, so I don’t know who else might be reading it, but I took isabattleguy’s comments to be relative to military history, as you suggest with your last question above. He’s right that there are probably more women’s/gender historians in departments these days than there are traditional military historians.

    But, that doesn’t mean that women who do women’s/gender history aren’t embattled or discriminated against. Just because a Dean or even a critical mass of faculty agree that hiring a women’s/gender historian is a priority doesn’t mean that everyone sees it that way. And even if everyone *agrees*, it’s clear that bias can persist when evaluating women for advancement even in the presence of demonstrated good will. (E.g.: I was once hired to be the U.S. women’s historian for a department that had had a tenure line in that field for 13 years before I arrived. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t treated badly and evaluated unfairly, though! Finally, 24 years after opening the line, they tenured someone in that position. That still doesn’t mean that everything is awesome for her–but at least they can’t bully her as effectively as they might an untenured person.)

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