Although these arguments are broadly addressed through empirical and literature-based research in the forthcoming, The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Presentations and Perceptions of Information Work, with ACRL Press, I would like to take a moment to deconstruct them here. Mob mentalities, especially when lead by people who won’t be upfront about their actual identity, are not very successful at promoting productive discourse.
The argument(s), are essentially that: articles like the Slate feature, blogs like Librarian Wardrobe, or specific individuals, showing how librarians look (*especially* if they’re one of them “hipsters”) are ruining librarianship:
This argument is hypocritical
This argument posits that these avenues claim librarianship has to look a certain way (no they don’t), and that is bad. But the very fact of saying people who look like x (hipsters, sexy, frumpy) are bad and shouldn’t represent librarianship, claims that librarianship has to look a certain way.
This argument resembles feminism’s damaging in-fighting
Feminism has already done this and hurt itself. If you wear lipstick or dress “sexy,” then you’re not a feminist, or if you decide to not work and instead have children, you’re ruining feminism for all women. The whole point of feminism’s struggles was that women could make their own choices and not be sequestered into the home, but also not sequestered into the office. Why are we taking choice out of the equation for how librarians, a profession made of 80-90% women, get to look? If someone wants to look like a “hipster,” that should be their choice, and should be taken just as seriously for their work and passion as someone who chooses to look another way. By focusing on the mechanics of “looking,” this argument in effect makes everything all about how we look.
This argument subsequently reinforces all of our negative stereotypes
Due to the way in which some individuals on social media have chosen to articulate themselves (name calling, personal attacks on librarians photographed, etc.), it shows the public that librarians may very well be judgmental, ornery, and just straight up mean. Why does it seem to be so difficult for us to support each other and be positive?
This argument conflicts with diversity
Again, if we claim librarians cannot look certain ways, that harms efforts for greater diversity. The whole point of diversity is, uh, being diverse and existing/choosing to exist in a variety of ways. Likewise, showing librarians can be a wide-ranging group encourages greater diversity.
Because we all went into librarianship for the money. This argument makes no sense. Complaining that blogs or other venues like Librarian Wardrobe promote a culture of expensive fashion, and that you can’t submit a picture because you just can’t keep up with the Joneses is ridiculous. We have had a few posts previously on how to find good/fun/whatever clothes on the cheap, because hardly any of us are making bank. Take a look through the pictures, some of the items are handmade, thrifted, bought at Target, hand-me-downs, owned for years and years. This one is just bizarre.
We (LW) are happy to engage in these discussions, in fact the reason Librarian Wardrobe exists is to do just that (along with having fun showing what librarians actually look like on a day-to-day basis), but come on, we are educated professionals, let’s act like it.
Also see responses LW loves:
Our very own Ingrid Abrams on Magpie Librarian: http://magpielibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/slates-this-is-what-a-librarian-looks-like-this-is-why-we-cant-have-nice-things/
Kyle Cassidy’s reflection (the photographer): http://kylecassidy.livejournal.com/781095.html
JP Porcaro on Every Library: http://everylibrary.org/small-steps-make-happen/
Andy Woodworth on Agnostic, Maybe: http://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/this-is-what-a-blog-post-about-what-librarians-look-like-looks-like/
Sarah Houghton on The Librarian in Black: http://librarianinblack.net/librarianinblack/2014/02/quiet.html
Casondra Brewster (not a librarian): http://www.casondrabrewster.com/?p=1637
And (another one of our very own) Annie Pho’s response in the previous post: http://librarianwardrobe.com/post/77747735850/can-we-just-stop-with-the-cool-librarian
*Annie is also an author in the forthcoming LW book, see more of what she has to say in her chapter with Turner Masland
**See more writing with research to back it up when the book hits the shelves