Genderizing Digital Humanities

During our class on Digital Humanities, Politics and Gender we discussed diversity related issues. I would like to start by quoting the definition of diversity:

The condition or quality of being diverse, different, or varied; difference, unlikeness.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

However, diversity can be better understood in terms of intersectionality, which has moved beyond the race-class-gender relationship as described by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw (Crenshaw, 1991), now also including what Roopika Risam specifies as “additional axes of difference including sexuality and ability”. Risam also adds that “as a lens for scholarship [in the digital humanities], intersectionality resists binary logic, encourages complex analysis, and foregrounds difference” (Risam, 2015).

Since I am mostly interested in the gender equity problem, without ignoring the other aspects of intersectionality, I would like to go into detail on society’s ever persistent binary logic when it comes to gender. First, let’s take a look at the psychological and sociological use of the term gender I am referring to, which originated in the United States.

The state of being male or female as expressed by social or cultural distinctions and differences, rather than biological ones; the collective attributes of traits associated with a particular sex; or determined as a result of one’s sex. Also: a (male or female) group characterized in this way.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

Even within this very considerate definition, the binary persists. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is either male or female, not even including “other” and still very much linked to an individuals biological sex, which (just so you know) can also differ from male or female. As a psychologist, Rose Marie Hoffman moves away from this definition of gender as collective attributes, instead discussing Gender Self-Definition and Gender Self-Acceptance (Hoffman, 2006).

Hoffman describes the stages of the Feminist Identity Model (Downing and Roush, 1985) based on Cross’s Black Identity Development Model (Cross Jr, 1971) as:

(a) unawareness of inequity and discrimination through
(b) experience of crises that force one to confront such inequities to
(c) an immersion and identification with one’s own group that provide opportunities for
reflection and exploration to
(d) integration of one’s experiences around the area of
oppression and a concomitant achievement of balance (i.e., able to evaluate people
as individuals instead of only as group members) and, finally, to
(e) a commitment to meaningful action toward eliminating the ism involved.
(Hoffman, 2006).

This Feminist Identity Development also shows some similarities with the sex role transcendence theory by Rebecca et al., which falls into three phases: a lack of awareness of gender roles, a polarization stage, and the transcendence of gender role stereotypes (Rebecca et al., 1976). The womanist position differs from the feminist position in that it
recognizes “poverty, racism, and ethnocentrism as equal concerns with sexism” (Henley
et al., 1998).

Where does Digital Humanities come in, you might ask yourself. I would like to refer to Nickoal Eichmann, Jeana Jorgensen, and Scott B. Weingarts’ study of fifteen years of DH conferences (2000-2015). They did so

(1) to call out the biases and lack of diversity at ADHO conferences in the earnest hope it will help improve future years’ conferences, and (2) to show that simplistic, reductive quantitative methods can be applied critically, and need not feed into techno-utopic fantasies or an unwavering acceptance of proxies as a direct line to Truth.
(Eichmann et al., 2016)

However, in order to study the lack of diversity, in the name of data quality, they acknowledge “the gross and problematic simplifications involved in this process of gendering authors without their consent or input” (Eichmann et al., 2016). In their own defense they state that “with regards to gender bias, showing whether reviewers are less likely to accept papers from authors who appear to be women can reveal entrenched biases, whether or not the author actually identifies as a women” (Eichmann et al., 2016). I can, to a certain extent, agree that gender bias stems from the perception of a person’s gender, rather than the gender they identify with. The question remains however, whether you can assume others to identify authors as male, female, or unknown/other.

There are several tools to test your own bias, such as https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html, and http://www.lookdifferent.org/what-can-i-do/implicit-association-test. Fortunately, and probably after working on my master thesis considering the gender balance in both Computer Science and Digital Humanities for a year, my result suggests “little to no association between female and male and science and liberal arts”. This test again demonstrates a binary definition of gender, confirming my main concern.

Bibliography

Kimberle Crenshaw. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence
against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6):1241–1299, 1991. ISSN
00389765. URL http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229039.

Roopika Risam. Beyond the margins: Intersectionality and the digital humanities. DHQ:
Digital Humanities Quarterly, Volume 9, Number 2, 2015.

Rose M. Hoffman. Gender self-definition and gender self-acceptance in women: Intersections
with feminist, womanist, and ethnic identities. Journal of Counseling and
Development : JCD, 84(3):358–372, Summer 2006. URL http://search.proquest. com/docview/219028098?accountid=17215.

Nancy E. Downing and Kristin L. Roush. From passive acceptance to active commitment:
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William E Cross Jr. The negro-to-black conversion experience. Black world, 20(9):
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Meda Rebecca, Robert Hefner, and Barbara Oleshansky. A model of sex-role transcendence.
Journal of Social Issues, 32(3):197–206, 1976.

Nancy M Henley, Karen Meng, Delores O’Brien, William J McCarthy, and Robert J
Sockloskie. Developing a scale to measure the diversity of feminist attitudes. Psychology
of Women Quarterly, 22(3):317–348, 1998.

Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, Jeana Jorgensen, and Scott Weingart. Representation at
Digital Humanities Conferences (2000-2015). prepublished, 3 2016. URL 10.6084/ m9.figshare.3120610.v1.