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Gendered power relations and sexual harassment in Antarctic science and remote fieldwork in the age of #MeToo


Nash, M and Nielsen, H, Gendered power relations and sexual harassment in Antarctic science and remote fieldwork in the age of #MeToo, Proceedings of Gender and Sexuality at Work: A Multidisciplinary Research and Engagement Conference, 18 February 2020, University of Melbourne, pp. 54-58. (2020) [Refereed Conference Paper]


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Antarctica is a remote, historically masculine place. It is also a workplace, and the human interactions there are connected to power structures and gendered expectations. Today, nearly 60% of early career polar researchers are women (Strugnell et al. 2016). However, women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) are 3.5 times more likely than men to experience sexual harassment during fieldwork (Clancy et al. 2014) making questions of safety, power, and harassment pertinent. Gender equity initiatives coupled with #MeToo have provided new platforms for reporting sexual harassment and challenging problematic research cultures which position science as meritocratic and gender-neutral. Yet, the impact of #MeToo in Antarctic science is uneven. The termination of Prof. David Marchant is widely cited as evidence that #MeToo is positively affecting Antarctic science. We argue it is problematic to focus on individual cases at the expense of the wider culture. We examine the complex historical (e.g. gendered interactions with the Antarctic landscape), cultural (e.g. identity politics), and relational (e.g. gendered power dynamics) tensions underpinning recent #MeToo revelations in Antarctic science with a view to providing more nuanced approaches to structural change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:antarctica, fieldwork, polar, women, gender, #MeToo
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Social change
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Nash, M (Associate Professor Meredith Nash)
UTAS Author:Nielsen, H (Dr Hanne Nielsen)
ID Code:139587
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2020-06-23
Last Modified:2022-09-05
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