28 March 2012

Gender Bias in Development Commentary

The following post is by Taylor Ball-Brown* from her blog Bell Tolling. I was happy she picked up the gender and development blogging conversation and wanted to share it here to keep it going.

Today I read a very interesting post by Tom Murphy of A View from the Cave. It was about gender bias in his ABBAs awards and in the development commentary community generally. I highly recommend reviewing it and (if you are a woman) speaking louder from now on.

One snippet from Murphy’s post that I found particularly thought-provoking was a comment by Jennifer Lenter, stating that, “In the U.S., 80-90% of OpEd pages are written by men, 84% of guests on Sunday morning political talk shows are men, and 85% of Hollywood producers and directors are men. In short, despite advances in the women’s movement, public conversations exclude many people.”

After reading this quote, I had to ask myself, “Are these public conversations always excluding women, or are we [women] just not stepping into an open ring?” In other words, is the lack of women in commentary due to external prohibitions, or internal inhibitions? It is surely due to both, but with women now exceeding men in years formal education, it seems intuitive that the balance of academic and political commentary should soon even out. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to ask ourselves why not–honestly.

Now, this is not to diminish the still very present and very active sexism that exists (consciously and subconsciously) in the world today. I know that sexism’s influence is yet felt far, wide and deeply. However, my point is simply to ask if we [as women] are making any excuses to pacify our existence as second class and/or silent bodies in the pews. We shouldn’t be afraid to head to the pulpit and speak loudly–and we definitely shouldn’t be afraid to make a blog comment.

*Taylor Ball-Brown studied evidence-based social intervention at the University of Oxford and recently moved to Washington for work. Academically and professionally I focus on the intersection of human rights and development--particularly in relation to women. I have lived an worked throughout the US and abroad.

Bell Tolling was started a recently as a means to introduce others to social issues in an educated but accessible manner. I strive to consider, and invite others to consider, multiple perspectives before forming opinions.