For me, this initiative is an absolutely critical activist intervention as part of the global #MeToo movement. I took part in the initiative on sexism in Danish academia because I believe that raising awareness of the ongoing inequalities that are part of our professional community is the first step toward changing those attitudes and practices that invalidate women and non-binary people as workers and students in the academy. Although I am American with my all my degrees from the US, I have been a researcher in Denmark for over 20 years. By now, as I once explained to a friend, I ‘am’ Danish because I live a Danish life (I cycle to work, feed my kids chocolate on rye bread and pay my union dues and taxes without complaint). After all this time, my experiences with sexism in the Danish academy have been many, differing in nature and severity, and have affected both myself, my colleagues and my students. And yes, this has unfortunately been directed mostly at women, but also at men and non-binary people. And no, it’s not only a Danish problem or only an academic problem. But it is ours and we must deal with it. The time for this is now.
One thing that surprised me about how some colleagues received this initiative was to confront me saying, ‘How can you be involved in this, it’s not valid research?’ They went on to question the methodology which lacks a statistically-representative sampling method, or the presentation of both experiences that people have had and those that they have seen take place with other people. They point out a disproportionate bias toward women. Most of us are white. These things are true, and actually speak to the institutionalized sexism that limits the success of Black and brown women, as well as keeping men silent on their experiences of patriarchy. These are real problems that require intersectional feminism as a broad-coalition of people of all genders, classes and races who join with the immodest ambition of dismantling patriarchy.
At this stage of my career, the last thing I wanted to do is to look back and feel, literally feel in the pit of my stomach, the times I have been invalidated, spoken-over, talked to like a child, and worse. No one wants to be a victim. It feels shitty. But we must stand together to tell our stories and to support others because we cannot let individual women, or men, become the problem in Danish academia because we articulate the problem. So I’m in and you are welcome to talk to me.
I disagree with my interlocutors’ insistence on a rather narrow rationalist interpretation of what social science must do to be accepted as a ‘true’ presentation of reality. This handbook documents an awareness-raising activist initiative for all of us. Read these stories. They are hard. Each one has a context that we do not know, but their cumulative weight shows us an overarching world of sexism in Danish academia that we do know. We who have written here know this very well. We know it in our bodies. We know it in our classrooms. We know it in our uncomfortable shrugging off of your ‘joke.’ Read this work, listen to these voices, talk to us about this and about how to change the structures of sexism, both implicit and explicit, that affect us. Sexism is bad for women, it is bad for men and it is bad for knowledge production and social engagement of universities. Don’t pretend you don’t know that this is, still, a problem in Danish academia.