14. Heroic Women in Psychology, OR, $%&* Male “Eminence”

It’s been a rough go for psychology, these past few weeks. Trump’s election  has created a measurable depression in the field. PsychMAP was a virtual ghost-town for more than a few days. Many of us were desperate for something–anything–to give us a reason to not despair for the many types of people who will inevitably suffer under the Trump administration.

Enter: the Association for Psychological Science, to give us a reason to feel hopeful about the state of diversity in our field. Oh wait. My bad. That was in some other universe.

Instead, following the election of a world-class sexist (and many other “ists”) buffoon of mind-boggling proportions, APS, via Perspectives on Psychological Science (PoPS), gave us a special symposium of “merit” in the field of psychology, consisting of articles written by 8 men to 1 woman*. Are you $%&*ing kidding me? Really!?!? In 2016!?!? Right after Trump!?!?!? ldflksjflsjflkadsflkasdfkldsjflksj

I need a drink.

My history with discussions of gender, power, and politics is a complicated one, and not one I feel ready to fully share yet. But the Coles Notes version of it is that I came to my undergraduate institution with hate to spare for everyone (e.g., men, women, myself), which lead to a twisting ideological journey through “Men’s Rights Activism”, Feminism, apathy, conflicting values, and whatever the hell I am now. In the last few years, though, my perspectives has stabilized (with much help/discussion/compassion/patience from a couple of amazing feminist-friends, Sarah and Jessica), and now, I see sexist bullshit everywhere in the field, all the time, and at every level. I know that it shouldn’t blow my mind, but it does, and I’m truly sorry to be so late to the “party”.

It’s stunning that PoPSone of the elite journals in our field– has decided to reinforce the stereotype that eminence in psychology looks male (Alice Eagly, who is legendary and awesome, notwithstanding). Some apologies have been made, and invitations for others to participate in the symposium have since been extended,* but Nick Brown’s observation has kind of eviscerated those apologies, for me.

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So, beyond calling a sexist-bullshit-spade a spade, what can I do? In “real”-life, I hope to do a lot. But through social media, I thought I could publicly ooze awe about the amazing women I have encountered in the course of my professional development. Many of these women are the only reason I am still in the field today. Without their brilliance, encouragement, and generosity, I would have been long-gone.

So with that…

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Robin Milhausen (University of Guelph)

Okay, so Robin is a sex researcher, but her background is in psychology! Robin is simply an incredible human being. I met Robin in the second year of my undergraduate degree, when I was floundering about. I was entirely apathetic about my professional future, but lucky for me, I took a class with her: quite possibly the most passionate and inspiring instructor I have ever encountered. Even more fortunate, despite chasing tenure and having a young family, Robin wanted to spend her “free” time helping and entire group of undergraduates learn how to do their own research–not her own. Imagine that. Nearly 10 years later, Robin still has a tireless mentorship-motor, despite reaching an insane level of scholastic productivity, and you will not find a better ambassador to excite young professionals about research, in any field. I have never known someone to whom so many young professionals (myself included) feel indebted, for the mark she has left on  their careers.

 

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Monica Biernat (University of Kansas)

I owe Monica Biernat a life-debt: I could never have kept going, during my toughest moments of grad school (and there were a couple of doozies), without her. But more than being an infinitely supportive person, Monica is an intellectual inspiration. I have never had my brain stretched as much, working with others, as I have working with her. The most incredible thing about Monica’s mind is that the scholarly topic doesn’t really affect her; she’s the one at KU that everyone knows will have the toughest, brain-wracking questions about your research, that are always on point, regardless of what you’re talking about. Almost everything I have learned about what makes for a good idea, and what kind of graduate advisor I want to be, I have learned from Monica.

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Emily Impett (University of Toronto Mississauga)

No one has made a bigger impact on my professional life in such a short period of time than Emily Impett. Emily was my postdoctoral advisor, and I doubt I will ever encounter someone who is as talented of a writer, as gifted at fostering positive academic community, as open-minded and responsive, and as patient and generous as she is. I’ve learned a staggering amount from her, and I kind of want to stay in her lab forever. Somehow, she always seems to be able to bring out collaborators’ “best”. A year-and-a-half into our working relationship, and I still wake up feeling dizzily fortunate to be a part of her crew.

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Amy Muise (York University)

Amy is my academic big-sister; she was a doctoral student at Guelph when I was an undergrad, and was Emily’s head Post Doc when I joined her lab. My head explodes a bit, when I think of how much Amy has accomplished: she’s published more than 40 articles, has netted more than a million dollars in grant funding and fellowships, and all of this before starting her first assistant professor job. In my head, it’s already a certainty that Amy is going to win all the big awards in her field over the course of her career, and I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more than her. If I wasn’t already a grown-up (ostensibly), I would be saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a social-psychologist like Amy.”

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Charlene Muehlenhard (University of Kansas)

I started grad school in a Clinical program, and Charlene was my initial supervisor; I had to “give her up” when I switched to Social Psychology. I don’t think anyone has made a bigger impact on my attention to conceptual details than she did–in many ways, she fundamentally changed the way I think about psychological measurement. Moreover, though I still probably “move” too fast throughout the research process, Charlene taught me the value in slowing down, thinking out-loud with the help of colleagues, and being willing to reinvent the wheel when its current shape doesn’t suit your research needs.

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Simine Vazire (UC Davis)

Little does she know, but Simine has been a professional role-model for me (and I suspect many), for a couple of years now. Simine has shouldered a tremendous amount of the burden of bringing the “battle” for open and replicable science to the masses, through her talks, journal/society involvement, and the creation of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science. It’s a gargantuan task,  and yet, she never seems phased by it all. She’s also perhaps the most persuasive, and well-reasoned  person I’ve ever heard speak–on matters of open science or otherwise. She’s now someone that I am turning to more and more for professional guidance (lucky me, less lucky her :P), and I have a sneaky suspicion that, in 40 years, when I look back on my career, I’ll be telling my students stories about how I knew the Simine Vazire, when she helped to change the field of psychology forever.

I may add to the list in this post, but these six are a good start. With Trump, and the PoPS symposium debacle, I don’t want to sugar coat it anymore: fuck male eminence in psychology (and elsewhere). It’s women who are my academic heroes. It’s women who have inspired me. It’s women who have made me smarter. It’s women who have made me a better academic community member. I don’t want to end up some dude, waxing on about my own magnificence to my other dude-buds. I want to be like Robin, Monica, Emily, Amy, Charlene, and Simine. They are the kinds of incredible scholars who I want to be getting the awards, and leading journals and professional organizations.

It’s important to add that the voices of women were not the only ones excluded in the initial PoPS Merit Symposium–the group of authors would fail virtually any other type of minimal diversity-check on the basis of race/sexual orientation/gender-identity/relationship-orientation/intersectional identities/etc. I’ve elected to focus on the exclusion of women, specifically, but there are other voices that should be heard in discussions of what makes for a good psychologist. So in response to the PoPS Merit Symposium, I invite you to share your feelings of admiration for #HeroesOfPsychology, who might look a *little* different than the demographic makeup of this particular group of authors. I’d love to hear about who inspires you.

*Other hetero/cis/white dudes: I invite you to join me in passing on the invitation for more  contributions to the PoPS Merit Symposium–I think the voices from our demographic are more than amply represented in the articles that have already been released.

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2 thoughts on “14. Heroic Women in Psychology, OR, $%&* Male “Eminence”

  1. Although I agree with your general point, I don’t see how you think that statements such as “fuck male eminence in psychology (and elsewhere)” are ok to make. Also, when I read statemens such as “now, I see sexist bullshit everywhere in the field, all the time, and at every level.” it does sound a lot like you are overcompensating and/or trying to make things “problematic” that really aren’t.
    Finally, I am curious: you say “minimal diversity-check on the basis of race/sexual orientation/gender-identity/relationship-orientation/intersectional identities/etc.”. Where does one draw the line? When is a symposium, list of authors etc. “diverse” enough? Can I still submit a symposium even when if I don’t have at least one bigenderfluid, chinese transperson?

    Anyway, nice virtue signalling. Good on you.

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    • Hi, “hmmmm”. I suspect we might have quite a difference of opinion on this matter; I’m not sure that we do agree on the general point, and your inquiries make me wonder what you thought my general was.

      Why is it not okay to say “fuck male eminence”? Is it because it will hurt eminent men’s feelings? Is it because male eminence is desirable? Is it because you don’t like the work “fuck”?

      Also, you seem to be suggesting that the idea of frequent sexism in the academy is a gross exaggeration? Why is it that suggesting it is a thing is “problematic”? I don’t really know what to say to this. Look into gender gaps in: salary, awards, (self) citation rates, prestigious appointments. Evidence for this shit is not hard to find. And you could also talk to female colleagues about their experiences–I’m sure more than a few will have stories that will blow your mind, if you’re prepared to listen.

      And finally, I think the “can i submit a symposium even when I don’t have at lease one bigenderfluid, chinese transperson?” inquiry is a pretty ridiculous strawman characterization of my argument. My point is that it doesn’t require a herculean effort to organize a panel that is not, effectively, all white dudes. Increasing *any* element of diversity would be a good start. There are tons of talented women/PoC/queer scholars, and in the year 2016, it shouldn’t require a collective intervention for someone to look beyond their own demographic when talking about what makes for good psychology. But if you have a bigenderfluid, chinese transperson in your field, you should totally invite them aboard your symposium submission.

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