I have been involved in a gender pilot program in a union recently, this has crystallised some thoughts for me that I thought I would try to share, also in light of the Trump phenomenon and how we might learn from this.
My take on recent politics is that identity politics has suffered a backlash and that groups that could have and should have stood in solidarity with each other, either fractured or did not have effective and solid foundations together. While Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Women's rights advocates, Immigrant Rights advocates, environmentalists, workers' rights advocates, and others have been standing together, we see that we need meaningful coalitions for building a consensus on social transformations and social welfare.
Why this matters to our discussion of gender in the academy is that the current interventions are speaking about women and a greater role and equitable engagement for them in our tourism academy. While we clearly need more women occupying positions of authority and leadership (such as conference keynotes and speakers), that is not sufficient to address the multiple challenges our community, both within tourism and beyond, is facing. These are dangerous times and we need dangerous ideas to confront them and to build futures that are liveable. If we only champion women's place within the academy, there is a danger that when women occupy the sites of authority and power they will only replicate the current power structures and processes. While women's voices matter and women's experiences will bring new insights into tourism and its management, women should be speaking up for other marginalised voices to join them in the academy to have cacophonous conversations about possibilities and pathways. I will list a few of these: Indigenous people, people of the developing world, people of colour (to use US language), precarious workers on casual and fixed term contracts in the tourism academy, people with disabilities, precarious workers in tourism and the wider economy, working class representatives being undone by the current economy, the un/under-employed, young people, etc.. As I said before a diversity of diversities. The worst thing we can do is have the usual suspects occupy all sites of authority which works to restrict our horizons and our dynamism. It is clear that the old guard of tourism are invited to undertake a variety of roles year after year because they offer the pathways to journal access, grants and other lucrative and sought after opportunities; what we miss out on with this hierarchical structure is dynamism and creativity. The truth we all know is that like leisure before it, the tourism academy is under threat in current times and needs to be responsive to a rapidly changing and possibly hostile environment in a number of countries where it has previously thrived.
I was particularly disappointed that when gender was taken up by the tourism academy, it prioritised the story of women within the academy rather than the most marginalised and vulnerable women that are in our sphere of influence: the people dispossessed by tourism developments, the people trafficked for tourism, the people whose culture is commodified for tourism without their permission. There are many sites of oppression within our academy and I recommend we tackle this through the intersectionalities rather than on one base of identity politics alone, women. We will gain rich and rewarding insights when we open ourselves up to the variety of experiences and perspectives that come from such diverse positionalities.
I acknowledge that a small number of conference organisers are beginning to open up their programmes to diversity and I congratulate them on that. I just urge us all to step outside of our comfort zone and talk to those who are not like us, listen to the voices of the impacted by tourism and the less privileged and seek ways we can build foundations of solidarity across the divides that we now confront. Respectfully.
In closing I will share with you one work that shook my views which some might find of interest: Prof Aileen Moreton-Robinson's Talkin' up to the white woman: Aboriginal women and feminism (2000). Google books describes it as a: "provocative interrogation of feminism in representation and practice. As a Geonpul woman and an academic, she provides a unique cultural standpoint and a compelling analysis of the whiteness of Australian feminism and its effect on Indigenous women. Through an extensive range of articles by non-white scholars and activists, she demonstrates the ways whiteness dominates from a position of power and privilege as an invisible and unchallenged practice"
(Originally posted on TRINET)