Philobiblon: Perplexia to gender

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Perplexia to gender

My final post (for the moment anyway) on gender and blogging, currently debated, well just about everywhere, but you could start with my last post here.

I finally got around to starting N. Katherine Hayles Writing Machines, which, she says, "aims to explore what the print book can be in the digital age". This requires consideration, she says, not only of "the theories, concepts and examples", the visual design of the book itself, "the people initiating change and resisting it, writing books and creating digital environments, struggling to see what electronic literature means and ignoring its existence altogether," but also "narrative chapters interrogating the author's position, her background and experiences, and especially the community of writers, theorists, critics, teachers, and students in which she moves". (p. 9)

She says this has forced her to "become an autobiographer almost against my will".

"I am reminded of Henry Adam's satiric admiration of Rousseau's determination in the Confessions that he will reveal everything about his life ... If Rousseau ranks as a ten in self-display and Adams a one, I come in somewhere around three ... Although there will be biographical elements in the persona who will be written in these narrative chapters, no one should confuse her with me. To mark that crucial difference,she needs a name related to mine but not the same. I will call her -- Kaye." (p. 10)

This struck me as in some ways analogous to what has been described as the "typical female academic blog" - pseudonymous, containing a large amount of personal stuff, including material about friends and colleagues.

It touches on something that I feel is some often lacking in all forms of scholarship - in the humanities and sciences - a preparedness to acknowledge where the scholar is coming from, why s/he is addressing these questions in these ways. Also lacking often is a preparedness to acknowledge that any work of scholarship is inevitably collaborative, and the nature of that collaboration will effect the result.

My reading and experience suggests that female scholars are more often prepared to these facts than male, and fields in which women are prominent are more aware of the necessity of this - perhaps women are socialised to be more aware of their own biases and weaknesses, and to be more ready to acknowledge them, and conversely, men are more often socialised to flex their egos.

Would a "male" Hayles, if this could be imagined, have thought the biographical outline important? I suspect not. And if "he" had, would it have been diluted by the persona overlay?

In many areas of academia exploration of anything "personal" is still likely to be penalised, particularly for women, these suspicious interlopers in the ivory tower. So women academic bloggers want to explore these issues - they realise it is an essential part of scholarship and life in the academe -- but often they can only safely do so pseudonymously.

P.S. As I expected, the book is brilliant. I'll post more tomorrow, and also explain the title of this post.

Additional note. I just found that CultureCat has made a collection of links to blog posts on this issue.

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