Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Who Tells your Story?

Recently, there's been a lot of twitter discussion on the negative experiences of women in academia, and follow-up discussions on the experiences of POC and WOC in science.

These discussions dovetail with my current research, as well as recent research published by members of my lab.

Women in science experience biasdiscrimination, and harassment, and these experiences are intensified for women of color.  Many of us know this personally or anecdotally. But we're at the stage where more of those experiences are being shared openly, and some personal and anecdotal information (which is so easily dismissed or denied by others who haven't experienced it) is being codified in peer-reviewed data.

But I have mixed emotions as I read others responses, and grapple with my own analysis of qualitative data on women of color's experiences. It's INCREDIBLY important that people contribute to these discussions. But in response to the concern that people might not want to share openly, there was an anonymous survey posted, so that those responses could be shared on Twitter. And something about that made me uncomfortable.

Often, we can only share those stories anonymously, because of the discomfort of bringing attention to our own experiences, or the fear of negative reprisals. BUT, I worry that when we report those eexperiences anonymously to others, we give away the power to tell our own stories. Storytelling has power, and those stories have power regardless of who's telling them. But I'm reluctant to tell my own stories in an anonymous way, because I don't want to give away agency over my own story.

This puts pressure on me to consider the way I report the qualitative data I've gathered from participants. Other people have entrusted me with their stories. How do I report on the emerging themes from those accounts while giving them full agency over their own experiences? This is a question I'm going to have to keep thinking about as I move forward in analysis and writing.

 But for my own stories I'm not ready to share many of my experiences openly on Twitter, nor do I want them to give them away to be told anonymously. I want to maintain agency over my own story, so that I can tell it on my own terms.

I highly recommend reading Ambika Kamath's perspective, I Have Forgotten. Also, in case you were under the impression that only underrepresented minorities experience discrimination in science, read RajLab's Anti-Asian Bias in Science.

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