An appointment committee is meeting to vote on which candidates will be invited to an interview, including a mock lecture and talk, for a vacant professorship. As part of the process, each candidate has sent in an application which is the basis for the decision of who to ask for an interview. I, a female research assistant, am on the committee. The applications are discussed individually. Ms. Y, who is the only professor in the field in which the new professorship will be located, discredits the research achievements of all female applicants. Her arguments are unobjective attributions based on evaluations that cannot be derived from the documents. My male colleague, who is also a research assistant, and I have read all applications very carefully. Based on our careful reading, we counter the constant denigration of the female candidates. The situation is very tense and delicate for me: Professor Y is my superior.
Unexpectedly, a majority, the mid-level representatives, the student representatives, and some professors, votes to invite three women and three men for the interviews.
After the committee meeting, Professor Y and I happen to meet the female secretary in the hallway. She asks how it went. Professor Y explains that it went very well and that there are even three women on the invitation list. She makes it sound as if she has made a determined effort on behalf of the female applicants against the predominantly male commission members. I’m confused. How and where did the connection between before and now break? What is the connection between the exercise of power behind closed doors and the staged solidarity in the publicity of the hallway? What constructions of reality allow one to reconcile one’s misogynistic actions with one’s self-assessment of standing up for fellow women in academia?