On Men Citing Men


I'm reading a book called Reflexive Methodology. It's mandatory reading on one of the courses I'm doing in my doctoral studies, and basically goes through different methods of qualitative research. The book is written by two Swedish dudes in 2000 and, like a huge number of similar books written by men, likes to cite men. I don't know why this started to annoy me so much when reading this specific volume, but it did. So I opened the list of references in order to do a quick count of how many women there were. The task proved to be more difficult than expected, since they don't include the first names! For instance, author "Burawoy, M." has produced the lovely volume Manufacturing Consent. Why I spent my Sunday evening with this instead of having an actual life we will not pause to consider - but in any case I decided to find out the genders of the authors. I fired up google and got to work.

As I went through the list, it became obvious pretty quickly that there is an overwhelming majority of male authors cited, and most of the women are cited within a gendered context. Here's what I found:

  • Authors under letters A, B and C have a total of 121 listed citations
  • Including the names of co-authors, there are 76 men and 16 women
  • Most women work with other women or alone - women-men -pairings or groups are exceedingly rare
  • Many men have multiple works cited, but only very few women do
  • If we count the number of articles written by women, there are 17 articles in total (which includes two co-authored with a man), compared to 104 written by men
  • Majority of the articles written by women have to do with gender or feminism. Over half of them mention the words feminism or gender in their headline, and only 3 appear to be wholly unrelated to either
  • Almost none of the articles written by men mention either of those words
  • One of the women's books cited is an "illustrated encyclopaedia"
  • The stuff written by men include such humble titles as "A History of Western Philosophy"

So. I would just like to ask why is this the case? Are all the women researchers in the world really doing gender studies and lovely illustrations? How can the academia still be So Very Obviously gendered? I know that digging up and counting these names can be said to be a massive waste of a Sunday evening, but at the same time this is the essential thing; I keep bumping into the fact over and over again that women are seriously underrepresented in all kinds of places without any good reason that I can think of. (If you know good reasons, I'd be curious to hear them!) (No, not really. I don't think you have any.)

In this particular book one could argue that gender is irrelevant, and that is why the reference list only states the first letters of the first names, hiding the genders. But I'd like to ask whether it actually is quite important to note that the authors seem to be citing women almost solely on gender-related topics. Could there be a pattern of reference-selection that reveals a gendered bias the authors are unaware of? (I refuse to consider that they cited misogynistically on purpose.) Would it have been more obvious to the authors themselves had they written down the full names of the people they cited? And don't we all tend to imagine that the universal gender-neutral researcher is a man, if we're completely honest about it? I mean, if you saw this list of last names and had to guess how many of the people were women, would you guess the ratio to be 50-50? If you had to bet money on it, what would you say?

Sara Ahmed has written that "feminism is at stake in how we generate knowledge; in how we write, in who we cite". I have never believed in that statement more than I do now. We need to acknowledge that gender is still an issue in so many ways, and that there's still so much work to do. Also we need to cite more women. Come on, world.