Two scientists recently published an academic journal article in which they argue that scholars who mainly cite the research done by white heterosexual men are perpetuating “white heteromasculinism,” which, in turn, purportedly leads to the oppression of diverse voices.
Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne are geographers and professors who teach at Rutgers University and the University of Waterloo respectively. Mott and Cockayne self-identify as feminists and have expressed concern at the supposed social dominance of men who are “white, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.”
According to the academic duo, straight white male researchers are disproportionately cited in scholarly papers at the expense of, for example, female, black, and LGBTQI intellectual voices. When this happens, they believe, it perpetuates a “system of oppression” which they define as “white heteromasculinism.”
Their paper, titled “Citation Matters: Mobilizing the Politics of Citation Toward a Practice of Conscientious Engagement,” was published in Gender, Place and Culture: A Feminist Journal of Geography. Professors Mott and Cockayne explain that “white heteromasculinism” is a system that is unreasonably geared, in an academic context, toward the promotion of white male research.
— Jess Linz (@jessdlinz) May 20, 2017
In the 1990s, professors of psychology Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto first developed the Social Dominance Theory, which has subsequently been popularized in society as well as academic departments world over.
According to this theory, certain social privileges – such as race, gender, sexuality, class, age, physical ability, etc. – organize humans into a hierarchical order that predominantly benefits straight white men.
This hegemonic social hierarchy allegedly manifests in the way that societal and political institutions and systems are designed, thereby discriminating, to various degrees and on a spectrum, against those who do not benefit from social privileges.
It is the view of Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne that citing the work of a fellow academic has far-reaching effects for the author regarding his or her likelihood of gaining employment, being promoted, or obtaining tenures at institutions of higher learning, as reported by the Washington Post.
Daniel Cockayne is seen in the image below.
— Jessa Loomis (@jessaloomis) April 21, 2015
The two feminist scholars argue that “to cite only white men, or to only cite established scholars, does a disservice to researchers and writers who are othered by white heteromasculinism,” while legitimizing the “intersectional system of oppression” that serves only to “bolster the status of those who are white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.”
Not only is the privilege of white heterosexual men entrenched, they argue, but it also results in the “marginalization of women, people of color, and those othered through white heteromasculine hegemony.”
In an interview with Campus Reform, Mott said the inspiration for her research with Cockayne came when “we started looking into research that had been done in other fields about similar topics, and wanted to write something specifically for Geographers to think about the relationship between knowledge production and identity.”
"White heteromasculinism." https://t.co/SqYWwuGk6t
— Campus Reform (@campusreform) July 14, 2017
Mott is concerned by the lack of interest in research conducted by women, black scholars, and LGBTQI people, among others. In this way, she believes, the valuable contributions made by traditionally marginalized groups are largely overlooked, which ultimately results in the suppression of diverse perspectives offered in any particular academic discipline.
“When it is predominantly white, heteronormative males who are cited, this means that the views and knowledge that are represented do not reflect the experience of people from other backgrounds. 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.”
As a counter-measure to “white heteromasculinism,” Mott and Cockayne propose that by citing those “particular voices and bodies [that] are persistently left out of the conversation altogether,” citations can serve as “a feminist and anti-racist technology of resistance.”
Mott and Cockayne also urge scholars to count the number of citations they have used before they submit their work to see how diverse their choices have been.
They argue that journal editors and peer reviewers can also act as custodians of diversity by monitoring the citation body of each scholar.
During the Campus Reform interview, the journalist asked the authors whether the citation disparities they have discovered in their field could be put down to males being more prevalent in the discipline than females.
Cockayne maintains that such statistics are irrelevant, as they are merely concerned by the fact that “marginalized voices” are frequently ignored.
[Featured Image by J Walters/Shutterstock]