Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Open Letter to Male Librarians

Sorrynotsorry for the profanity.**
Dear fellow men who work in libraries,

Cut that shit out. You know what I'm talking about*. Stop making women feel less human, less valued, than their male counterparts in the profession. In any profession. In any interaction. It's bad enough there's a hegemonic discourse out there that tells women to "be nice" or to apologize in situations in which they shouldn't. It's bad enough that women make up over eighty percent of librarians, but a lower percentage of directors (note: data is woefully out of date and disputed); just like how mom makes everything better when you're sick, but more doctors are men. Or how women cook more at home, but  there are more male chefs.

Lest you think this is just some blog post designed to capitalize on an issue that's in the news in librarianship, here's an email I sent to a male librarian in June of 2012. I will call you out on this. Trust.
You send out things like this  
[redacted tweet] 
And then you wonder why you're blocked. As I'm typing this [redacted twitter user] is sending out a few more examples. I can't speak to a conversation you did or did not butt in on between two women, but I assume your audience, like mine, is made up of many librarians. More librarians are women than men. And so here we are. Tweets like the examples given above, and I'm sure others, come off as creepy, and I'm using this word in particular because it's the one that, based on your blog post, bothers you the most. The tweets that are or contain sexual overtures, even if you think those are just witty banter: please don't send them, don't retweet them. Or, go ahead, but don't be surprised if you get blocked and/or labeled a creep.  
The blog post overall features an apology, but the tone of the post also sounds like you feel victimized. No doubt you are frustrated by getting unfollowed without some sort of tweeted explanation, but twitter isn't real life where we're owed that. People come and go, some of them come back, and I've accepted that. I urge you to as well. The "lol" and whatnot responses to some of the tweets may not really be people laughing out loud, they could just be humoring you, trying to deflect/redirect/absorb the awkwardness. There's a tendency to not confront people when offended, whether it's face to face or online.   
You say that you're "here to joke," but your joke becomes harassment to someone as soon as that someone feels harassed. It's not about your intent. You seem to understand this towards the end of your blog post, which I think is a good thing.   
So, that's my two cents on the issue. If there's something I could make clearer, please let me know.  
Jake (@jacobsberg)
Here are (other?) interesting, non-troglodyte, takes on this from men.

* It shouldn't have to take me three minutes of googling to get all those links.
** I know why people are treating other people this way. Power imbalances, the hegemony of sexism, people being assholes...

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to guess I'm the redacted user who told the person in your email the litany of tweets of why he's subhuman. Now seeing him interact in other social areas and women openly praise him makes my skin crawl, but that's neither here nor there.

    I also responded to Tennant's piece, first on his blog and when I couldn't make it clear enough (apparently) he was disparaging the very group he was trying to help, I wrote up my own piece that got high circulated, tweeted, and quoted.

    As it is just as important for men to speak up against this kind of behavior, we also need to let it be known that women have every right to do the same, because I genuinely do not think many get that.