Fasting from voices like mine
My Lenten discipline this year will be fasting, as far as I can, from voices like mine (white, male, Western, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered).
The idea came talking to a colleague about the problem of gender imbalance on our reading lists. She (rightly, of course) stressed intentionality, which got me thinking about process. If I am writing an entire new module, I will think intentionally about reading lists, but I’ve done that once in the last three years. Far more often—like, more weeks than not—I give ad hoc advice. A student or colleague asks ‘what’s good on X?’; I reply with stuff that’s in my head. Most of the time, the authors I mention are all white, male, Western, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered (Can I offend against all aesthetic judgement and use ‘wmWsac’ as an acronym here?)
That’s easy to explain. Perhaps 80-90% of the books published by major academic presses in the disciplines I work in are, still, by wmWsac authors. If I read at random from the major presses, 80-90% of what I read will be wmWsac; and so a chance list of books from my head on a given subject will in all probability all be by wmWsac authors. How, I wondered, do I break this circle?
The answer, obviously, is to be intentional in reading authors who are not like me, to deliberately expose myself to voices not like mine. I need to work on this for all of life, but for now, it will be my discipline this Lent.
It will not be total: I will mark students’ work in a timely fashion, even if they are like me, and read what I need to for the writing deadlines coming up. But beyond that I will deliberately hear different voices—and, I hope, I will be able to offer better and broader reading lists in those chance conversations as a result.