July 20, 2019
It’s not just Sarah Milov. Female academics aren’t credited in media ‘all the time.’Breaking News
tags: Female Historians
“Among female historians, there is a whisper network … You hear these kinds of stories,” said Emily Prifogle, co-founder of Women Also Know History, an organization dedicated to promoting the work of female historians. Last Sunday, when The Lily broke a story about historian Sarah Milov, whose book provided all the material for a recent episode of NPR’s Here & Now but who was never mentioned on the segment, many female historians began speaking up on Twitter.
“There were so many retweets from other women, telling their version of [Milov’s] story,” said Prifogle. Of course, the same thing sometimes happens to white, male scholars, said Karin Wulf, another co-founder of Women Also Know History. But groups underrepresented in academia — people of color, LGBT people and women — “get dissed much more often.” For this article, I spoke to five female academics who recounted near-identical experiences: A media organization drew directly from their work but did not give them credit.
The omission of female experts in the media almost certainly isn’t intentional, said Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of comparative literature and German studies at the University of Michigan. After NPR’s All Things Considered credited only her male co-author in a segment last summer, Weineck penned a viral essay about the incident for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The problem is particularly acute for black women, said Christen Smith, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and founder of the Cite Black Women Collective, an organization that promotes the citation of black women in academia. “Women in general don’t get quoted, but black women experience it threefold. We get it from all sides,” said Smith, who started the collective after a colleague paraphrased whole sections of her book in a conference presentation without any citation. Black women, Smith said, are far less likely to be seen as “experts” by the media, and are therefore less likely to be approached for an interview in the first place.
This kind of thing never feels good, said Joan Cashin, a professor of history at Ohio State University. When she heard a male scholar reading passages from her book, “verbatim,” on a public radio station, she said, she had to pull her car over on the side of the road.
“I recognized my own prose immediately,” Cashin said. He was quoting from “First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’ Civil War,” she said, her book released the previous year. “I remember it vividly: the shock of it.” Cashin never called up the station to complain, she said. By that point, the book had already received a good amount of publicity.
“I decided to just let it go.”
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