Academics and scholars must be mindful about using research done by only straight, white men, according to two scientists who argued that it oppresses diverse voices and bolsters the status of already privileged and established white male scholars.
Geographers Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne argued in a recent paper that doing so also perpetuates what they call “white heteromasculinism,” which they defined as a “system of oppression” that benefits only those who are “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.” (Cisgendered describes people whose gender identity matches their birth sex.)
Mott, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Cockayne, who teaches at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, argued that scholars or researchers disproportionately cite the work of white men, thereby unfairly adding credence to the body of knowledge they offer while ignoring the voices of other groups, like women and black male academics. Although citation seems like a mundane practice, the feminist professors argue that citing someone's work has implications on his or her ability to be hired, get promoted and obtain tenured status, among others.
“This important research has drawn direct attention to the continued underrepresentation and marginalization of women, people of color. … To cite narrowly, to only cite white men … or to only cite established scholars, does a disservice not only to researchers and writers who are othered by white heteromasculinism …," they wrote in the paper published recently in the journal Gender, Place and Culture.
Mott and Cockayne did not immediately respond to questions from The Washington Post, but Mott told Campus Reform last week that they decided to write about citation practices after observing that research done by white men are relied upon more heavily than those done by experts from other backgrounds.
Work done by women and other minorities have often been overlooked by their peers, hindering their professional advancement and depriving disciplines of diverse perspectives, she argued.
When citations are predominantly those of the work of white, straight males, “this means that the views and knowledge that are represented do not reflect the experience of people from other backgrounds,” she told Campus Reform. “When scholars continue to cite only white men on a given topic, they ignore the broader diversity of voices and researchers that are also doing important work on that topic.”
In their 22-page paper, “Citation matters: mobilizing the politics of citation toward a practice of 'conscientious engagement,'" they explained that their work was motivated by “shared feelings of discomfort, frustration, and anger” over actions of fellow scholars and publication practices.
The authors offer what they describe as practical strategies for fellow geographers who work in a largely male-dominated discipline. According to the American Association of Geographers, men and women account for 62 percent and 38 percent of its members, respectively.
One of them: Scholars should read through their work and count all the citations before submitting their work for publication, and see how many people of diverse backgrounds — women, people of color, early-career scholars, graduate students and non-academics — are cited.
“Today, the field is more diverse, but this diversity is largely represented by earlier career scholars. Citing only tenured, established scholars means that these voices are ignored, especially when it is well-known that today's brutally competitive academic job market continues to privilege the white heteromasculinist body,” they wrote.
Editors and reviewers also can act as watchdogs of sort by scrutinizing a scholar's body of citation, they argued.
A Campus Reform writer said she asked the researchers whether the disparity in citations is simply because there are more men than women in the field of geography. In response, Cockayne said their point is that research done by “marginalized voices” is often ignored.
Mott and Cockayne both describe themselves as feminists and have done research related to feminism.
Mott also focuses her research on race and social justice, among other things. She describes herself as a “feminist political geographer,” who's interested in “how resistance movements mobilize to fight against state-sponsored violence and marginalization.” Cockayne's research and interest are on digital media, entrepreneurship, and gender and sexuality.