On speaking up or not

I have always loved the DHd conferences, but this year’s is even better. It’s organized by people that are uniquely dear to my heart, and they have done an amazing job organizing this (now fully online) conference. They have even managed to bring together a long paper session with people who attended the workshop I was giving yesterday, and to make me chair of this session, where all papers were related to topics I am most interested in. Couldn’t imagine a better setting.

But then in the last presentation, something made me very, very uncomfortable. The point of the talk was to present an algorithm and a webpage, both of which have been given female first names. I felt weird reading about it in the program to begin with, but I literally couldn’t believe my ears when they said “*Female first name 1* is available for free”, and then “*Female first name 2* is also available online” during the talk. I was stunned and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t do anything, and I still don’t know what I should have done, hence this post.

Tweeting is out of the question because it could degenerate, and risk to overshadow the overall success of the conference (and what I really want is for the whole world to know how awesome this conference is). Another problem I have with this situation is that we all know each other pretty well in this research community, and this is not about dealing with a personal issue. Plus, it was not the PIs who gave the presentation, it was the project staff.

But I was session chair. If anyone could have said something, then me. I can do it now in form of a discrete e-mail to all those involved in the project, for sure (all men, by the way). But even so, I’ll still feel like I have let down half of the world’s population this morning…

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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