Midwest Junto for the History of Science Recap

Lady Science presented a process paper at the 2016 meeting of Midwest Junto for the History of Science at the University of Oklahoma. Junto is a small, informal conference for historians of science, technology and medicine who don’t live near either coast, and a great place for grad students to test out material before submitting to the large disciplinary conferences.

Instead of presenting original research, like we did at PCA/ACA, we talked about the nuts and bolts of running Lady Science, what we’ve learned about writing women’s history, and doing history in public. We gave a brief description of the publication and its components and noted some of our growth milestones over the last year. We discussed our style and content standards, and talked about the importance of being a generalist when writing for the public.

One reason we chose to do a process paper instead of original research was to talk about our experiences as women, writing about women, on the open web. Many of our academic colleagues were surprised and dismayed to hear that we have received harassment on social media related to our work. Both of us have been trolled and harassed, received gendered insults and threats of violence, and we were even (falsely) accused of “railroading” Tim Hunt. We believe it is important to talk openly about the dark side of writing on the web, especially now that we see how many of our academic colleagues are unaware of it. We do the same kind of feminist criticism that you will find in academic journals, but our public platform makes us much more vulnerable to harassment.

As with PCA/ACA we made an effort at Junto to distribute postcards and zines to keep our name and project fresh in attendees’ minds. This strategy gave us a noticeable bump in subscribers and anthology downloads after PCA/ACA.

In general we received a lot of support and good feedback, amidst a little bit of confusion. Presenters at Junto are usually giving traditional research papers, so this is perhaps understandable. Both of our mentors were able to attend and offered excellent feedback and suggestions. We bonded with the representatives from The Linda Hall Library, who are both excellent and interesting (and interested in us!).

Upon reflection, we’re still not sure what makes (IRL) people uncomfortable about this work. We assume a good portion of it comes from our criticism of academic publishing, which is of course the lifeblood of most of the audience we spoke to at Junto. We didn’t get any questions or responses that indicated discomfort with either our unapologetic feminist and activist politics or….you know, the gender stuff.