A Cesspool of Misogyny

I spent my first Economics job market in my hometown of Denver, running from interview to interview, trying to meet the Becker student who wrote a similar job paper to mine, networking with colleagues, and looking around corners, highly suspicious that every man I met had been one of those who hurled tens, if not hundreds (I permanently logged off before I could see whether there could be hundreds), of misogynistic and violent comments at me via an online forum for economists the week before.

It’s not an ideal way to look for a job, to be sure.

Alice Wu, an undergrad at Berkeley and future Harvard grad student, has now confirmed what all the women in my field already know, that Econ Job Rumors (I’m not even going to link to it, you can feel free to google it if you are so inclined) is a “cesspool of misogyny” (thank you, David Romer, for the concise description).

I made the mistake of going online before the job market thinking I would get information. I didn’t yet understand the intricacies of the timing of the job market, of who contacts whom and when, and I’d had luck getting telemark skiing advice online, why not some job-seeking advice? It was a mistake to start, it was a bigger mistake to try to engage the commenters in the “who is the hottest job market candidate?” thread.

Yes, that’s a real thing.

The worst men seem to get from that site is “regression monkey,” but women are “sluts,” “prostitutes,” “hot,” “lesbians,” “feminazis,” and I don’t want to go on. NYT has a fuller list.

A few weeks ago, I was on a date with a management professor. We easily fell into stimulating conversation about about research and teaching and the bureaucracy of universities, but, incredibly, he kept coming back to the fact that I, as a woman, was a victim of economics’ toxic environment for women.

I get it; I was there. I left, remember? It was not the whole reason for my leaving academia, but it certainly played a part.

I left despite the fact that I have benefited enormously from the groundbreaking of women who went before me, from the mentorship and support of many successful women in my field, including advisors Terra McKinnish and Ann Carlos; CU professors Francisca Antman, Tania Barham, and Carol Shiue; senior colleagues Jean Fletcher, Susan Averett, Laura Argys, and Eileen Stillwaggon; post-doc supervisor Rohini Pande and others on her team like Rema Hanna, Lena Edlund, and Erica Field; junior colleagues Lena Ogrokhina, Mandy Pallais, Simone Schaner, and Amber Peterman; and women from my PhD cohort, Yiqing Xie, Debbie Baker, and Shatanjaya Dasgupta; and program, Lauren Calimeris, Mariya Burdina, and Christina Peters. Outside my field but still within academia, I found Betsy Levy Paluck and Katina Rogers and Jeannie Annan and Stephanie Schwartz and Zoe Marks and Ruth Carlitz and damn, am I lucky.

I’ve also been the recipient of advice and mentorship from wonderfully supportive men in my field including, Ed Tower, Alan Kelley, Tom Nechyba, and Charlie Becker at Duke; Randy Walsh, Murat Iyigun, Edward Morey, and Jeff Zax at CU; Ed Gamber at Lafayette; Ryan Dodd and Rim Baltaduonis at Gettysburg; and Michael Callen at Harvard. I could not have gotten to where I am without my once-twitter now-real-life friends, Marc Bellemare and Seth Gitter, or my economics writing mentors, Francisco Toro and Toby Bottome.

But for each of them, there was a man who told me I wasn’t cut out for graduate school. A man who thought I disrespected him. A man who demeaned me in front of colleagues. A man who thought it was okay to follow me back to my conference hotel room uninvited. A man who yelled at me in front of students. A man whose “question” following my conference presentation included a sexist joke. A man who decided my hesitancy to take on independent study students was disqualifying. A man who told me that coauthoring with women was a crutch and would get me nowhere. A man who thought I was too uppity. A man who thought I was too emotional. A man who told me that what I study is not economics. Actually, there are lots of men who tell me that I what I study is not economics. And there are plenty of men who go online to say things they wouldn’t dare say to my face.

This is not an easy time to play the victim. I’m still white and I still benefit from that enormous privilege. There aren’t men chanting in the streets with tiki torches that I should go back to where I belong or that they want to cleanse my kind so they can have a homeland or calling me names.

But they are doing it online. And ultimately, it sucks for the field of economics. It makes our ranks weaker when we weed out intelligent, thoughtful women and people of color with fresh ideas and perspectives and the ability to ensure that economics stays relevant, inclusive, and useful. Women continue to fall off the academic ladder at much greater rates than men in economics, and many departments are known as particularly unfriendly to women. Online harassment is perhaps not the cause, but it is a symptom, and it has very real consequences.

After my first year of teaching at Gettysburg, I was congratulated and told that more women had signed up for the major than in years past. I can’t claim strong causal identification of course, but hearing that made me feel proud, that my presence and my teaching could open up the field to more women. In leaving academia, I fear that I have failed to deliver on that continued promise of presenting an approachable female economist role model, that young women could see themselves in me and want to pursue more study in the field.

I commend my colleagues still leading that charge. What you feel is real–we now have the evidence in case you were doubting–and I’m here if you want to rage about it.

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Author: ekfletch

I am an independent researcher on issues of gender, labor, violence, education, and children.

2 thoughts on “A Cesspool of Misogyny”

  1. Agree with all of your conclusions. The only thing I would point out is that men are not only called “regression monkeys”. I have never had anybody tell me I was too anything.

    The Wu paper revealed many homophobic insults (another bias) being used far more for men relative to women.
    This includes
    homo
    homosexual
    fieckers (a substitute for the f-bomb)

    A casual look at the forum this week (in response to the wu article , I lurked a bit to see what they said) reveals
    Aspie
    Virgin
    Douchebag.

    Among other insults males used more males more relative to females.

    The fact that the first I highlighted above those were the most common insults for men also highlights homophobia in the profession in addition to the gender bias.

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