Hazard of the border between yesterday and tomorrow

We have known it for a while. We have discussed it. How bad does it look to have six grey-haired men sit and discuss the politics? How bad does it look to have, on the other side, a strictly feminine, 20 years younger organization team? We managed to even things a bit by involving as many of the group members as possible (not the sole organization team) in such things as introducing and chairing the different sessions of the workshop. This was an excellent opportunity to give to see the diversity of persons and institutions represented by the Einstein-Zirkel Digital Humanities.

What could obviously not be smoothened was the male-only podium. On twitter  under #dhb3 as well as in the Tagesspiegel report, the bitterness was palpable. The one woman we had invited had declined the invitation. The invitations we sent were motivated by us wanting to hear from the “top” people how they see on their decision level what we “down” people do. It will come as a surprise to no one to state that it is mostly 50/60 year-old-men who are on these top positions. What is more, when it comes to anything technological such as the implementation of digital methods (be it in the humanities), the tendency to consider men more competent is still strong.

Should we have forced things and deliberately not invited our bosses just in order to be able to invite women? Should we have chosen a woman moderator? I don’t think so. We chose to let the reality of DH in Berlin speak for itself. And just as we can only hope that someday, as was mentioned by the speakers, you will not have to make a difference between “Digital Humanities” and “Humanities”, because the use of digital methods will have become part of the core set of skills of all humanists, maybe one day, you will be able to invite people to a panel for their competence without worrying about gender balance, because the balance will basically be a given.

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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