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Women in Archaeology.

`Repent, male chauvinists, your world is coming to an end', proclaimed placards waved at a gathering in 1970 in honour of Susan B. Anthony (Hewlett 1986: 141). The political activism of the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s, while not leading to the death of sexism, exposed pervasive discrimination in the workplace and androcentrism in academic discourse. Focused primarily on issues of equal rights and sexual freedom in the United States, and family support legislation in Europe, the feminist platform effected enormous change in western society, the ripples from which are at last washing over archaeology. In increasing numbers, feminist archaeologists have begun to challenge the androcentric viewpoint that informs our interpretations of the past, recognizing gender as a fundamental structuring principle of virtually all known societies - and a plausible subject of archaeological inquiry (e.g. Gero & Conkey 1991). Much of this scholarship is by women, their own experiences confirming Simone de Beauvoir's observation that woman is made, not born (1952: 249).

The volumes under review here explore equity issues within the profession of archaeology, and seek to restore balance to our disciplinary histories. The agenda is explicitly political and activist: by documenting the inequities and bias in the practice and presentation of archaeology today, the authors hope to effect change - in education, the job market, the workplace, and most of all in our consciousness. The arena is anthropological archaeology, primarily as practised in North America, but with a look also at Europe, South America, and Australia.

Equity issues for women in archeology grew out of a round-table discussion on women's issues organized by Alison Wylie and Diane Gifford-Gonzalez at the American Anthropological Association meetings in 1991. The papers build on two decades of work by the AAA's Committee on the Status of Women in Archaeology (COSWA) and the more recent contributions of similar committees organized by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) and the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA). Despite the editors' efforts to include a broad spectrum of ethnic and minority voices, `the demography of contributors to this volume, and of the subjects they describe, reflects the discipline as a whole: white, middle class, heterosexual, First World, and able-bodied' (xi). Nonetheless, the book presents a fascinating and sobering account of the position of women in our discipline.

The 30 articles in Equity issues approach the subject from many angles, grouped loosely in four sections, and framed with an Introduction by Wylie and a Conclusion by Nelson & Nelson. Several of the papers have been previously published but in relatively inaccessible newsletters or conference proceedings. Section I, Early Surveys establishes a base-line against which we can measure the results of more recent studies. Wildesen reports the results of a COSWA questionnaire distributed in 1979, and Kramer & Stark examine the structure of anthropology departments and the awarding of research grants in archaeology from 1976 to 1986. Included in the first section is also an overview of archaeological research on women (Levine) and the grimly humorous 'Female anthropologist's guide to academic pitfalls' (Anonymous).

Section II explores Themes of Diversity and Commonality: the privileging of fieldwork in archaeology, imbued with masculinist ideals, and the channelling of women into laboratory work and the study of finds (Gero); men and women's differing perceptions of their graduate education and support (Goulding & Buckley); the disjunction between graduate training and placement of women (Kelley & Hill); and the additional restrictions faced by archaeologists who choose to marry archaeologists (Nelson & Crooks). Yellen's analysis of women's variable success at obtaining National Science Foundation grants is reprinted here, and three papers address the subtle discrimination that women still face in the workplace when the formal barriers to employment and advancement have been removed - the so-called chilly climate (Wylie; Parezo & Bender; and Reyman).

Section III is entitled Comparisons: Nations and Subfields, and addresses equity issues in Britain (Cane et al.), Australia (Beck; Hope; and Smith & du Cros), Spain (Diaz-Andreu & Gallego), Argentina (Bellelli et al.) and Norway (Engelstad et al.). Other articles highlight the position of women in Mesoamerican archaeology (Ford & Hundt), zooarchaeology (Gifford-Gonzalez) and archaeology as practised in Arizona (Whittlesey) and in Asia and the Pacific (Nelson). Section IV concludes with Reports and Recommendations, ranging from a survey of publication patterns among AAA members (Bradley & Dahl) to extracts from a report on women in British archaeology produced by the Institute of Field Archaeologists (Morris), and three papers on the roles of women in historical archaeology in the United States (Chester et al.; Spencer-Wood; and Beaudry).

The picture that emerges from the myriad of detail is disquietingly consistent. Although women comprised over 50% of the American workforce in 1978-79, and earned 30% of anthropology Ph.Ds, only 5% of the Ph.D recipients listed in the AAA Guide to departments of anthropology were women (Wildesen, p. 15). For the decade 1976-86, women in the United States were awarded 36% of the doctorates in archaeology, yet never filled more than 15% of archaeology faculty positions at major research universities (Kramer & Stark, p. 21). By the 1990s, broadening the sample to include colleges, the proportion approaches 24% (Beck, p. 101), but concentrated in the lower ranks. The pattem holds, or worsens, for women in European institutions. Gilchrist and O'Sullivan report in 1991, for example, that women comprised only 17% of archaeology faculty in Britain, with bleak prospects of promotion (pp. 93, 95). Similarly, while men and women are granted affiliate membership (the lowest category) in the Institute of Field Archaeologists in relatively even numbers, the male:female ratio for full members is roughly 5:1, comparable to that of the prestigious Society of Antiquaries (O'Sullivan, p. 95). In Australia, many women have moved into government positions of cultural resource management, yet Hope describes the marginal position of cultural heritage there, the relative powerlessness of these women and the infighting resulting from their marginalization.

Despite the increased number of women attaining Ph.Ds and entry-level positions in archaeology, their status in academia has not commensurately improved: women are more often employed in part-time or affiliate positions, concentrated in less prestigious universities and colleges without graduate programmes; advancement is slow, attrition high, and salaries are lower than those of men in comparable positions. These patterns are of course not unique to archaeology. Women in the US workforce today still earn on average only 60% of male earnings. Through the 1980s, the proportion of women receiving tenure in North America was 48%, while for men the figure was 68%, and the representation of women in senior ranks has changed very little from the early 1950s: only about 10% of full professors are women (Wylie, pp. 65-6).

In archaeology, women's failure to compete successfully for upper-level positions can be attributed to many factors. Family responsibilities and the need for flexible schedules in which to fit child-care undoubtedly influence many women to step out of the mainstream. A lack of self-confidence and a tendency to undervalue their own work may also play a role (Goulding & Buckley; Cane et al.). Subtle practices of exclusion and stereotyping in the work environment, to say nothing of sexual harassment, can effectively isolate and disadvantage women, and surely contribute to their high attrition rate (Wylie; Parezo & Bender). A strong publication record and the ability to attract large grants (the two are of course related) are essential to promotion and tenure. For fiscal years 1980-86, National Science Foundation grants were awarded to 28% of male post-doctoral applicants, but to only 19% of female applicants, a discrepancy reflecting in part the greater value placed on proposals featuring fieldwork, submitted by many more men than women. For the same period, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded 9.3% of its grants in archaeology to women, and the National Geographic Society 10.5% (Kramer & Stark, p. 20). Yellen points out that women compete well for NSF pre-doctoral awards, submitting roughly the same number of proposals as men, and succeeding at the same rate; when he turn post-doctoral grants, however, a radically divergent pattern appears, with women submitting only 15% of the applications in the financial year '79-80, and 26% in '89 (pp. 53-4).

Women also publish less than men, especially books, and submit fewer manuscripts for consideration (Bradley & Dahl; Chester et al.). Less than a quarter of articles published in British archaeological journals are written by women (O'Sullivan, p. 95). For 1967-1990, only 17% of Historical Archaeology articles were by women (despite the perception that historical archaeology is mostly practised by women), and 11% in American Antiquity, figures far below those of female membership in SHA and SAA (Beaudry, p. 226; Victor & Beaudry 1992: 14). Comparable percentages are reported for the Spanish periodical Zephyrus (Diaz-Andreu & Gallego, p. 125). These patterns in academic publishing and grant distribution are conditioned by many factors, including the disproportionate representation of women faculty in teaching colleges, where time and support for research are notoriously scarce (Yellen, p. 54).

The terrible descriptive statistics of women's exclusion' (Gero, p. 37) are further elaborated in Cheryl Claassen's Women in archaeology, along with several biographical sketches of women active in the field in the earlier part of this century. Historiography is highly selective, and women's contributions have largely been ignored in histories of archaeology (Levine, p. 9). The lives of 41 women are considered in this volume, most of whom worked in Americanist archaeology, in Louisiana (Wurtzburg), the southeast (White et al.; Sullivan), the northeast (Bender) and the southwest (Preucel). Bolger also tells the remarkable story of Harriet Boyd Hawes' and Edith Hall's expeditions to Crete at the turn of the century. Only 10 of the women discussed ever held an academic post; the majority devised alternative niches and strategies, working in museums (or, as in the case of Anna Shepard, out of her home), holding research associateships, or writing for the public (Levine). The consequent marginalization and professional invisibility that often followed are poignantly explored in Joyce's portrait of Dorothy Popenoe, whose writings on Honduran archaeology are `layered over by other, more authoritative tones' (p. 53), such as George Vaillant, who in endorsing and presenting Popenoe's work came to be identified with it. Without formal training or affiliation, Popenoe is forced to the margins of the discipline, and her substantial contributions to early ceramic classification are attributed to Vaillant in Willey & Sabloff's History of American archaeology.

As in any edited collection, these essays are uneven in their effectiveness, and few explicitly probe the social and political context in which their subjects move. Joyce's sketch of Popenoe is unique for its reflexivity; the author realizes that writing a woman's life is not a straightforward task, and that she herself has imposed another voice, another view point - her own - upon the historical traces of her subject. Nevertheless, the stories of all these women do illustrate not only the diversity and enormity of their participation in archaeology, but also their exclusion from the production of archaeological knowledge. Many worked in relative isolation, unaffiliated with academic institutions, and rarely with students to influence. The restrictions, family pressures, and academic discouragement they experienced give an immediacy to the surveys of gender equity that follow.

Several authors of papers in Equity issues also appear in Claassen's volume. Ford again asks why `the best men are winning' in Mesoamerican archaeology, then demonstrates incisively why with statistics of discrimination familiar from Equity issues. Alternatives to academic employment are also explored in this half of the book. Several authors focus on women's position in cultural research management, in Arizona (Whittlesey), Australia (Beck), and in a large US contract firm, Garrow & Associates (Carrow et al.). Sweely presents anecdotal evidence for sexism in fieldwork, and Beaudry and White systematically analyse women's publication record in historical archaelogy, looking at authorship patterns, topics of study, and - a critical measure of professional standing - citation. Their findings are cause for optimism and worry. Although the percentage of articles published by women has increased dramatically, women submit manuscripts far less often than their male colleagues, and thus are published (and cited) less often.

Women in archaeology is professionally produced, with a single bibliography and an index, in distinct contrast to Equity issues, which has multiple (and repetitive) reference lists, no index, and many typographical errors, misspellings (Virginia Wolf!), and incorrect citations; one of the contributors (Wildesen) is left off both cover and title page. Such carelessness, particularly in a volume dominated by statistical presentations, only undermines confidence in the authors' credibility. The disparate contents of these books, and the many approaches taken - anecdotal, biographical, sociological, political, statistical, comparative, even allegorical - contribute to a certain incoherence not fully overcome by the editors' introductions. But there is a power to such presentations as well, as so many voices combine. The tone is remarkably hopeful. The authors recommend not revolution, but further fact-finding, education and communication.

Read these books. They begin to illuminate the gender politics of our discipline - the assumptions underlying contemporary sex roles, the exclusionary practices that follow, and their effect on the production and presentation of archaeological knowledge. Progress is charted, in the ever-increasing numbers of women who attain higher degrees, find work, and publish in archaeology. Gender equity, however, is another matter. The disadvantaged status of women is made resoundingly clear, a part of the larger phenomenon of western patriarchy, but also perpetuated by the structure and values of archaeology itself. The rarity of women in our disciplinary histories, and in the higher ranks of academia, museums, and contract firms, should worry men as well as women, as the different view points and experiences of women can only enrich the practice of archaeology.


de Beauvoir, S. 1952. The second sex. New York (NY): Alfred A. Knopf. Gero, J.M. & M.W. Conkey (ed.). 1991. Engendering archaeology: women and prehistory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hewlett, S.A. 1986. A lesser life: the myth of women's liberation in America. Now York (NY): Warner Books. Victor, K.L. & M.C. Beaudry. 1992. Women's participation in American prehistoric and historic archaeology: a comparative look at the journals American Antiquity and Historical Archaeology, in C. Claassen (ed.), Exploring gender through archaeology: selected papers from the 1991 Boone Conference: 11-21. Madison (WI): Prehistory Press.
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Author:Cullen, Tracey
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1995
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