Misogynist activist at the University of Waterloo hates scientist Marie Curie and women.

In The Fourteen Not Forgotten and Sexist Posters at Waterloo, Christine Cheng discusses a misogynist activist at the University of Waterloo who put up fourteen posters last month (February 2011) vilifying scientist Marie Curie and women in general. (Her post is also cross-posted at the Geek Feminism Blog.)

A photograph of Marie Curie has an image of a mushroom cloud next to it. It is titled 'The Truth'. The caption at the bottom of the poster says, ''The brightest Woman this Earth ever created was Marie Curie. The Mother of the Nuclear Bomb. You tell me if the plan of Women leading Men is still a good idea !'

The incident reminds many of us of the École Polytechnique Massacre. Both the University of Waterloo and l’École Polytechnique de Montréal focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) fields, and female students are a minority. Both schools are located in Canada. Both misogynists appear to be angry that women are attending university and are being educated in male-dominated fields.

The Marie-Curie-hating misogynist at Waterloo has also sent out a misogynist e-mail pretending to be the university’s president, and has created a Facebook page with similar misogynist rantings. The university’s Women’s Centre and LGBT student centre have closed due to safety concerns.

A male undergraduate at the University of Waterloo made this ridiculous—yet typical male-privileged—comment before taking down his post:

Yes, it is wrong, yes, it is inappropriate, but get a life if you are going to fuss and cry over stupid shit like this. Because if you do, you must be living in a sheltered bubble.

A commenter at hook & eye named bakka111 responds to this reaction:

The “Sheltered bubble” comment from Bill’s portfolio is particularly ironic. Just who lives in a sheltered bubble? Those who fear the messages because they have experienced the mundane-threats a patriarchal culture issues to women, or those who have never experienced such threats. Oh the irony.


Further Reading:

The Paternalistic Academic-Industrial-Complex of Feminism

Here are some excerpts from Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, edited by Jessica Yee. (Excerpts via Racialicious):

Jessica Yee: “Introduction”

[W]e’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism” so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a woman based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, and not your own. We are not equal when initatives to support gender equality have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become it’s own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it?

Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian Black History Month teaches us that Canada is “not racist”.

In Why I am Skipping Black History Month Renee of Womanist Musings writes:

When I was a child, Black history month consisted of the traditional lecture on Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, because heaven forbid we actually admit that as an English colony, Canada had slavery [too].  Many Canadians grow to adulthood and never realize this historical truth.  Because the underground railroad has become such a fixation, it has allowed many to have the false belief, that unlike our American cousins, that we were far to civilized to engage in this great crime against humanity. Instead, we will focus on the fact that Harriet Tubman’s church still stands in St. Catherine’s.  We don’t want to talk about the fact that White Supremacist Canada was hardly welcoming to escaped slaves, or that our Prime Minsters were not fans of people of colour.  Instead, we will wag our fingers and scowl about American founding fathers owning slaves.

Not only do many falsely believe that slavery did not happen in Canada, far too many are unaware that Jim Crow laws existed here as well.  In 1946, Viola Desmond was arrested for daring to sit in the White section of a movie house.  She was dragged out of the theater by two men, injuring her knee in the process.  To further shame Desmond, after her arrest, she was held in a male cell block.  Eventually, she was charged with tax evasion because of the difference in price between White seats and Blacks seats.  It was a difference of one cent.  With the help of the NSACCP (The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), Desmond would take her fight to the supreme court of Nova Scotia.  Desmond was a trailblazer and instead of being recognized as such, the Canadian government recently sought to pardon her, as though her arrest was actually a stain on her life, instead of the government itself.

Growing up and attending Canadian schools, I never learned a single word about Desmond and I believe that this was to continue the indoctrination that Canada is a tolerant, racially just society.  I did not learn about the porters strike.  I most certainly did not learn about the destruction of Africville.  As a child, it forced me to look southward to find examples of people of the African diaspora to function as role models, rather than in my own country.  I would continue to live in ignorance, had I not made a great effort to look beyond the lack of education I had been given in schools.

Read the whole thing.

Link: Why I am Skipping Black History Month

Myths about Girls, Math, and Science

Top 5 Myths About Girls, Math and Science (LiveScience 2007):

Myth 1: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.

Reality: In elementary school about as many girls as boys have positive attitudes toward science. A recent study of fourth graders showed that 66 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys reported liking science. But something else starts happening in elementary school. By second grade, when students (both boys and girls) are asked to draw a scientist, most portray a white male in a lab coat. Any woman scientist they draw looks severe and not very happy. The persistence of the stereotypes start to turn girls off, and by eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers as girls are. The female attrition continues throughout high school, college and even the work force. Women with STEM higher education degrees are twice as likely to leave a scientific or engineering job as men with comparable STEM degrees.

[…]

Myth 3: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.

Reality: In fact, biases are persistent, and teachers often interact more with boys than with girls in science and math. A teacher will often help a boy do an experiment by explaining how to do it, while when a girl asks for assistance the teacher will often simply do the experiment, leaving the girl to watch rather than do. Research shows that when teachers are deliberate about taking steps to involve the female students, everyone winds up benefiting. This may mean making sure everyone in the class is called on over the course of a particular lesson, or asking a question and waiting 10 seconds before calling on anyone. Good math and science teachers also recognize that when instruction is inquiry-based and hands-on, and students engage in problem solving as cooperative teams, both boys and girls are motivated to pursue STEM activities, education and careers.


Related post:

White males blame Asians and women for attending universities intended for white males.

In When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) Sarah Ghabrial writes:

Meritocracy forgets privilege, and the fact that folks from marginalized groups have to work a hell of a lot harder for the same reward as their more upwardly mobile counterparts. By the logic of meritocracy, the cream would rise naturally to the top, regardless of status or association, and yet generations passed wherein the “cream” remained almost consistently white and male… that is, until just recently, when the world woke up to the news that minorities were not just gratefully accepting the token slots assigned them, but slowly and surely invading campuses in force, dramatically shifting the demographic away from the white, male, middle-class face of higher education. Meritocracy was somehow, if unevenly, coming through on its promise of diversity. Calamity ensued.

Let’s start with women and the “pussification” of schools. Rant after rant, each less coherent than the last, has blamed the increasing enrollment of women in higher education for all kinds of “male afflictions” (likened by one commentator to a “plague”): a mass exodus of boys from schools at all levels, suddenly put off by title pages and hand raising; dateless young women reduced to hyper-educated spinsters at the tender age of 23; and what about “the family” (where all anti-feminist roads end), ever at the point of demise? Never mind that the education system as it exists and operates today is no more estrogen-riddled than it ever was — teaching has always been a feminized occupation — or that, historically, wherever girls have been admitted, they have outpaced boys, just not outnumbered them. Forget, as well, that the regimentation and “sit still and behave” pedagogical norm is not a recent phenomenon, but the vestige of 19th-century British education reforms by which military-and factory-drawn models of discipline and hierarchy were applied to private and semi-public schools — whose clients were then exclusively boys.

[…]

Herein lies the paradox to this whole story that is mind bending, though maybe not surprising to meritocracy’s skeptics. The excellence of individuals other than middle-class white males within an education system designed for and by the latter has aroused a mass panic and sense of social crisis — the blame for which is placed not on the system, but those excelling individuals. Meanwhile, though the ideal of meritocracy remains intact, elements of “affirmative action” are insinuated into university acceptance processes, not in the service of historically excluded groups, but rather, it seems, to soothe the self-esteem of the privileged.

Though these are separate issues, the same kind of language permeates both sets of complaints. Both women and Asians (I can only imagine the threat posed by an Asian woman) are perceived to have adapted almost too well to the disciplinary expectations of public and higher education: in classes, girls are too competent, too malleable, too disciplined, too obedient. In the Maclean’s article, Asian students are described as hyper-studious, almost machine-like in their drive and focus, sacrificing food, sleep, even booze, to maintain their GPA. Suddenly, the terms of merit that are supposed to earn individuals success are re-scripted as faults, even disadvantages (though whether to themselves or others is not always clear).

Read the whole thing.

Link: When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) (via Racialicious)

Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” is xenophobic; Margaret Wente’s defence is obfuscation.

In Too Brazen: Maclean’s, Margaret Wente, and the Canadian media’s inarticulacy about race, Jeet Heer writes:

The problems with the Maclean’s article are many and systematic. I’ve already discussed them here and here. Briefly, the article leaves a bad aftertaste because:

1. The word “Asian” is used in a very broad way to encompass both foreign-born exchange students (who are in Canada temporarily) and Canadians who have ancestors in countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. By this usage, David Suzuki, Olivia Chow, Adrienne Clarkson, and Sook-Yin Lee are all notable Asians, rather than notable Canadians or notable Asian-Canadians. Moreover the distinct problems faced by exchange students (linguistic hurdles, social isolation) are quite different from the experiences of Asian-Canadians. How could Chinese-Canadian kids who read the article not feel like foreigners in their native land?

2. The article stereotypes both white Canadian students and “Asian” students. White Canadians students are portrayed as privileged preppies who are more interested in partying and drinking than studying. “Asian” students are portrayed as socially dysfunctional nerds who lack any sense of fun, virtual robots who are programmed by their parents to study.

As someone who has done a little teaching and spent far too much time in school, I have to say these two stereotypes are violently at odds with the real diversity of personality types that you find on Canadian campuses, among students of all different races and backgrounds. It’s notable that the Maclean’s article completely erases the existence of working class white Canadian students, many of whom face the same educational problems of balancing work and studying that often bedevil immigrant students. Also ignored is the fact that many “white” students in Canada also come from immigrant backgrounds, notably from Southern and Eastern Europe.

By highlighting race and ignoring class, Maclean’s makes it harder to see the commonalities that many students of diverse backgrounds share. Throughout the article, it is assumed that the experience of upper–middle class white kids is normative — and that every other experience (whether working class white Canadian or “Asian”) has to be defined against that norm.

3. Finally, Maclean’s frames the problem as one that is caused by the mere presence of “Asians” on campus, rather than by the social and cultural barriers that divide students. For example, in the rankings issue’s table of contents, Maclean’s has this headline: “Asian advantage?” The question mark is a typical example of Maclean’s trying to cover an inflammatory statement by qualifying it. However, if you read the article, it becomes clear that the only “advantage” that “Asians” have is that many of them study “hard,” which is what all students should do. The idea that doing homework is an “advantage” is built on the assumption that whites are entitled to university spaces whether they study or not, simply on the basis of their whiteness — or perhaps because they are real Canadians, unlike the “Asians” who happen to live here.

If the Maclean’s article is troublingly xenophobic, then Margaret Wente’s defence is a classic case of obfuscation.

[…]

Of course, the “Asian campus” is only a problem if you believe that Asian-Canadians are not real Canadians. In the United States, there are people like Sarah Palin who make a distinction between “real Americans” (i.e., animal-killing Alaskans) and Americans who are somehow less real (i.e., liberals, New Yorkers, vegetarians). The subtext of both “‘Too Asian?’” and Wente’s defence of it is a similar distinction between Canadians whose presence in universities is natural and those Canadians who, even if they were born in Canada, are seen as alien intruders.

In her column, Wente wrote that “nobody is talking about quotas.” This is flatly untrue. Maclean’s raised the issue of anti-Asian quotas in the United States and offered this slippery statement: “Canadian universities, apart from highly competitive professional programs and faculties, don’t quiz applicants the same way, and rely entirely on transcripts. Likely that is a good thing. And yet, that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.”

I don’t know how this passage can be read as anything except a claim that meritocracy is a provisional (or “likely”) good thing, which might need to be abandoned since it leads to a putatively bad result — i.e., “a concentration of Asian students.” Maclean’s did not advocate quotas, but it has opened the door to the possibility that they might be needed, a likelihood that feels all the more urgent in an article full of scary stories about universities being overstuffed with “Asian” kids.

Read the whole thing. Jeet Heer also addresses the underrepresentation of other racial groups in Canadian universities.

Link: Too Brazen by Jeet Heer (via Knowing Coves)

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Canada’s Maclean’s has a whiteness problem.

“‘Too Asian’?” was not the first racist Maclean’s article lamenting the quantity of racialized people displacing white people and white power.

In 2006, Maclean’s published “The future belongs to Islam” by Mark Steyn, who assumed that Muslims all over the world were primarily focused on a shared goal of imposing Islamic law globally, and tried to bring to everyone’s attention that the birth rates of Muslim-majority countries were higher than the birth rates of European countries. Steyn also pointed out that although “Africa” has a high birth rate, it is “riddled with AIDS” and “as we saw in Rwanda, [Africans’] primary identity is tribal”. Steyn then invoked a white colonialist narrative by describing Muslim-majority areas as “Indian territory”, “lawless fringes of the map”, and “badlands” that needed to be “brought within the bounds of the ordered world”. He waxed nostalgically about “the old Indian territory”, when “no one had to worry about the Sioux riding down Fifth Avenue”, “the white man settled the Indian territory”, and “the Injuns had bows and arrows and the cavalry had rifles.” His complaint was that “today’s Indian territory”—i.e., Muslim-majority countries (!)—now have nuclear weapons, and “the fellow from the badlands” can now ride planes and travel quickly. Later, Steyn recounted a story in which some youths in Belgium assaulted a bus passenger, alleging that it was not at all surprising that the youths were “of Moroccan origin”.

In other words, Maclean’s has already published an extremely racist (and Islamophobic) article in the past. Four years later in 2010, Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” article expresses the same fears about an “Asian invasion” and dismay at the increasing numbers of racialized people in relation to white people within a given population. Not only is Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” a repeat of the W5 “Campus Giveaway” program in 1979 that griped about Asians taking up space in Canadian universities, but it is also a repeat of Maclean’s 2006 article that bemoaned the changing of demographics from white to racialized.

Read the rest of this entry »