Last Tuesday I started a morning scroll through my Twitter feed, albeit with a bit of reluctance. I love how connecting with people, especially other historians, on the social media platform has often sparked new ideas and ways of thinking, both personally and professionally. At the same time, I am often hesitant to open the app or point my browser to the site for fear of an onslaught of negativity and the subsequent wrath it might have on my productivity for the day.
With all the political debates, the woes of working in academia, and the unfortunate trolling, heading over to Twitter can be a right downer. But Tuesday, ah Tuesday! I discovered the most encouraging glimmer of light emanating from a group of awesome historians who gathered over the previous weekend for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians‘ triennial meeting.
This year’s “Big Berks” conference was held at Hofstra University with the theme “Difficult Conversations: Thinking and Talking about Women, Genders, and Sexualities Inside and Outside the Academy”. As usual, the conference program was jam-packed with quality scholarship on women’s history from across geographical and temporal fields (see a glimpse into the weekend by scrolling through the hashtag #berks2017). This year’s conference also sparked a new movement–one to combat the continued underrepresentation of women in the historical profession.
Back to Tuesday morning. As I log into Twitter over coffee, tweet after tweet with photos of women historians popped into my feed with the hashtag #ILookLikeAHistorian. Drawing from the success of the movement initiated by a group of women political scientists over at Women Also Know Stuff (@womenalsoknow), the Berkshire Conference birthed @womenknowhistory and the related #ILookLikeAHistorian hashtag to bring attention to and connect women working in the field of history.
Why is this needed? One rarely needs to go far into the conversations of #twitterstorians to see how deep-seated the bias is towards men in the workplace, and especially, in academia. Even a quick Google Images search regurgitates a rather homogenous set of results that nowhere near reflects the diversity of the field.
Seeing this hashtag and the overwhelmingly positive tweets that came about as a result gave me a bit of hope in the face of the challenges that I have seen others tackle and have myself experienced over the course of my career. Naturally, I contributed to the growing thread and have spent quite a while scrolling through the empowering images other women have contributed. I look forward to see how this new project develops!