This is a really important post by Eric Grollman that has helped me rethink a part of Social Media for Academics that I was struggling with. The systematic generation of imposter syndrome within the academy is a crucial mechanism through which the costs involved in digital engagement come to be distributed unevenly:
I will grant that self-doubt is not unique to scholars from oppressed communities. But, that is where the commonalities with our privileged colleagues end. For working-class scholars, scholars of color, women scholars, LGBTQ scholars, scholars with disabilities, immigrant and international scholars, and fat scholars, our personal bouts with impostor syndrome — feeling as though we do not belong and/or are not as good as our privileged colleagues — are a symptom of systems of oppression that operate through academia, just as they do through every other important social institution. We cannot help but feel as though we do not belong because academia was not built by us or for us. We had to fight to be let in the front door (and still do), and continue to fight to be included fully; when we do get in, subtle and explicit efforts are made to undermine us at every corner.
This is compounded by the disproportionate risks entailed by digital engagement for the groups Grollman cites. Though this is a subject for another post. Both factors make a requirement for digital engagement, tacit or otherwise, additionally problematic. But Grollman offers a really inspiring account of political agency in relation to these systemic constraints, something which I’ll cite in relation to digital engagement for Social Media for Academics but obviously applies much more broadly:
I push myself because the impostor syndrome that I experience is the same symptom of oppression that my fellow marginalized scholars experience. I push myself because every time I decline an invitation, there is a good chance another person like me may not be invited in my place or also will not accept the invitation; when this occurs repeatedly, we are complicit in the systematic exclusion of the voices of marginalized scholars. I push myself because I cannot afford to turn down the few opportunities that come my way in light of the infinite opportunities that are denied to me because of my identities and politics. I push myself because this job will never be easy; academia is a difficult profession by design, and can be deadly for marginalized scholars.
When marginalized scholars self-promote and speak out, we make space for other marginalized scholars, or at least inspire bravery in others. I simply cannot imagine where I would be if W. E. B. Du Bois, Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, and the editors of Presumed Incompetent had not dared to speak out and promote their own work and perspectives! I doubt sexualities would be the theme of the upcoming annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) if sexuality scholars (including ASA President Paula England) were too afraid to promote their work as a legitimate and important area of study. Each time I promote my work and voice, I hope that I, too, am having the same positive influence on others.
Allowingforcing ourselves to be heard and visible in academic spaces benefits our privileged colleagues, as well. By daring to promote our work and to speak up, we contribute to disrupting our own systemic exclusion. We challenge the perspective and scholarship of white heterosexual middle-class “normal weight” cis men without disabilities as the default or standard. We force our colleagues to take us seriously and see the importance of our work and our perspectives. Hopefully, we also influence our privileged colleagues to prioritize our voices when citing scholarship, choosing panels and committees, and assigning readings in their courses. To put it bluntly, the exclusion and invisibility of unique perspectives is bad for science and bad for higher education; in this way, we all benefit from diversity and full inclusion