There is a gendered force to the format of academic writing which is too frequently overlooked; one which favours and reifies a certain rather masculine logic. It is a logic which is rational, in favour of lists, a lover of things which are numbered and particularly structured, something which reads like an instruction manual; a form with little room for manoeuvre and one that you should not deviate from aesthetically, stylistically, or linguistically. If you break in substance, do not also do so in form. Probably best not to deviate too much methodologically either. We already know which methods are best for studying the world. They have been tested and proven by generations of social scientists so let us not be so brash as to take risk and innovate too much. What are those natural scientists thinking of? With theory you may have more room for leeway; it is a bit easier to sneak in strange bits of thought that probably get skimmed over anyhow. Language is to be concise and objectively scientific, with scant place for the intuitive and feminine. Make sure there are as many sources as possible, more is better and you must be able to convey that you have read more than you certainly have; and that you have read the right things.
I think there is a certain problem still to be overcome regarding gender equality. Women are still forced into a very masculine way of viewing and communicating the world. We fail to see sometimes why gender equality is important. Focus is placed so often upon the idea that equality is important because it is just something which is morally right. We attempt to avoid all male panels or committees because that is right. But perhaps what is lacking in the mind is why this balance is important. Women have something to contribute: difference. This balance is crucial because women have something different to offer: a different way of seeing and being in the world. Of course, the very same could be said of any dimension of difference which is not white and male. But the system does not allow for difference, does not want difference; but rather assimilation into a very prescribed, very specific way of being in the world. Women are allowed to join the club, but please follow the rules, put on your pant suits and talk as loud as you can if you want to compete for the air and the space in the room. This has ramifications for us all.
Academic rigour is questioned when writing styles do not mesh with dominant ways of understanding and writing the world. Let us make some lists, number things, measure stuff: the bigger, the better, etcetera. So it begs to ask, when just as many women as men submit papers to academic journals, why is it that men persistently dominate publications and citations? Is it truly our academic rigour that is the issue? Or perhaps is it something else? That we are working within a system so clearly conceived with male logic: metrics, harsh criticisms, impersonal language, a suppression of the emotional, and a very clear favouring of the sharp and seemingly objective rational mind over the intuitive. Science is all about intuition. Yet, writing about science is all about hiding that intuition, finding a way to communicate that no, it was not an actual person that did this work, that filtered knowledge through their lifetime of experience and living, but rather some distanced object of rational thought. I spent an entire secondary, upper secondary, undergraduate, and graduate education in the sciences loathing the “I”, learning that the first person should not matter. And I have spent my time since then learning that, actually, yes I do matter.
I think perhaps this may be a moment where we need to reconsider the subjective. Not to view it as narcissist and indulgent to situate one’s self within the narrative of our research, and to occasionally reveal that self to the reader. I want to produce beautiful science, develop new theory, advance methodology; and I want to do this in new ways. To show a generation of students and young scholars that we do not have to be stuck and staid within this system which perpetuates inequality, within this worldview that is so alienating and individualist yet so frightened of the individual. We can be like philosophers and theorists and the scientists of the past, who could write both on religion or love and the realities of the world without fearing rejection of peer review because love has no place in science. And we can do these with new freedoms and new technologies that those past generations never had.
All the above images are from my first winter in Norway when I lived near Sognsvann when the first snow and frost blanketed the lake. These were some of the first photographs I took with my dSLR, Oslo (2013).