Women in Sets

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Women in Sets

Post by Deviant Insider » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:49 pm

With all the marches going on this weekend, I decided it was a good time to look at women showing up in question sets. I looked at two high school sets and did two things:
1) I counted how many times the answer was an actual male and an actual female and compared the two.
2) I made a list of all the answerlines that were related directly to real or imaginary women in any way.

Once again, I don't want to name the sets, because I don't want to turn this into people defending themselves. Also, I freely admit that my method is simplistic and does not give a definitive measure of whether a set is inclusive of women, and there may be some errors. If you are thinking of changing a Beloved tossup into a Toni Morrison tossup because I made this forum post counting names of real women, just don't.

The collegiate part of this forum has a subforum on women in quizbowl that deals more with the experiences of women at quizbowl tournaments. It's a good subforum, and I'll let the mods decide whether this thread belongs there.

I did not look at the ATHENA Set, though I applaud that work.

Set A:
Name a man tossups: 78
Name a woman tossups: 4 (4.9%)
Name a man bonus parts: 200
Name a woman bonus parts: 10 (4.8%)
Current Events: Brazil/Lula/Rousseff, 2015 Paris attacks/Hollande/Merkel, Myanmar/Aung San Suu Kyi/Rohingyas
Fine Arts: Man, Controller of the Universe/Rivera/Kahlo, Braque/Picasso/Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
History: Blair Mountain/Homestead Strike/Triangle Shirtwaist, Rosenbergs/Manhattan Project/Oppenheimer, Enlightenment/Catherine the Great/Orlov, Roe v. Wade
Literature: Toni Morrison, Rodolphe Boulanger/Madame Bovary/Flaubert, Rosa del Valle/House of the Spirits/Chile, Northanger Abbey/Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility, Petrarch/Laura/Ventoux, Hope is the Thing with Feathers/I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died/Emily Dickinson, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Claudius/Ophelia/Yorick, Eyes of God/Handmaid’s Tale/Atwood, To Kill a Mockingbird, Kate Chopin, Wuthering Heights, Nadine Gordimer, Jude the Obscure/Hardy/Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tale of Genji/Shikibu/Vanished into the Clouds, Brave New World/Linda/Huxley, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Cry the Beloved Country/Gertrude/Paton, Taming of the Shrew/Merry Wives of Windsor/Coriolanus, Death Comes for the Archbishop/Oh Pioneers/Cather, Euripides/Medea/Bacchae, Winesburg Ohio/Kate Swift/Sherwood Anderson, Pale Fire/Lolita/Nabokov
Pop Culture: Taylor Swift, Dory, tuna/Calvin and Hobbes/Rosalyn, Kramer/Seinfeld/Susan Ross, Parks and Recreation
RMP: bad faith/Sartre/Simone de Beauvoir, Poseidon/Medusa/Chrysaor, Odin/Yggdrasil/Norns, Atalanta, Divali/Holi/Navaratri, Amaterasu/Izanagi/Japan, Green Knight/Gawain/Morgan le Fay, Persephone/Castor and Pollux/Leda, Ragnarok/Fenrir/Lif and Lifthrasir, Dido/Aeneas/Anchises, Artemis, Helios/Thrinacia/Scylla and Charybdis, Vanir/Njord/Freyja
Science: nondisjunction/Down’s syndrome/Turner syndrome, DDT/bald eagle/biomagnification (clues from Rachel Carson)
Set B:
Name a man tossups: 70
Name a woman tossups: 10 (12.5%)
Name a man bonus parts: 179
Name a woman bonus parts: 23 (11.4%)
Current Events: Theresa May, Ivanka Trump, Park Geun-hye/Sewol ferry sinking/Ban Ki-moon, One child policy/Antinatalism/Infanticide, The Gambia/Yahya Jammeh/female genital mutilation
Fine Arts: Georgia O’Keeffe, ballet/Balanchine/Stravinsky (clued Martha Graham), Romeo and Juliet/Prokofiev/Tchaikovsky, Little Dance of 14 Years/Degas/Impressionism, flamenco/Chabrier/Carmen, Neoclassicism/Angelica Kauffman/Oath of the Horatii, Turandot, Frida Kahlo/Dorothy Hale/Mexico, The Bartered Bride/Smetana/Moldau, Roy Lichtenstein/Yayoi Kusama/pointillism, Venus of Urbino/Titian/Praxiteles, Statue of Liberty/Bartholdi/Libertas
History: Liliuokalani/Dole/McKinley, Elizabeth II/Sweden/Beatrix, pardon/Gerald Ford/Patty Hearst, York/Margaret of Anjou/Bosworth Field, Hammurabi/eye for an eye/divorce, Aztec/Cortes/Malinche
Literature: Jane Austen, Rape of the Lock/Pope/Dryden, And Then There Were None/Christie/Anthony Marston, Anna Karenina/hit by train/Serbia, The Color Purple, Esmerelda/Hugo/Toilers of the Sea, Rand/objectivism/Robert Nozick, Willa Cather, Bronte, Lolita, Byron/She Walks in Beauty/Ada Lovelace, Bell Jar/Plath/avocados, To the Lighthouse, Phillis Wheatley, Harper Lee, Scheherezade/Ali Baba/Morgiana, Handmaid’s Tale, Lady Chatterley’s Lover/DH Lawrence/playwright, sonnet/EB Browning/How Do I Love Thee, Clarissa/Richardson/Pamela, Uncle Tom’s Cabin/Beloved/Confessions of Nat Turner, Mysteries of Udolpho/Ann Radcliffe/Pyrenees, Zola/J’Accuse/Therese Raquin, Ethan Frome/Edith Wharton/Mrs. Hale, The Faerie Queene/Spenser/lion, The Awakening
Pop Culture: Al Pacino/Godfather/Diane Keaton, Beach Boys/California Sound/Surfer Girl, Chance the Rapper/Life of Pablo/Sia, Kellyanne Conway/Conway’s Game of Life/Will Conway
RMP: Nut/Hathor/Bastet, Grendel’s mother/Beowulf/Wiglaf, voodoo/Hounfour/Mambo, Hannah Arendt, Isis, Persephone/pomegranate/Pirithous, blood sacrifice/menstruation/Noah, Wicca/Gardner/Horned God
Science: pregnancy test/Chorionic Villus Sampling/Apgar, environmentalism/Rachel Carson/deep ecology
Social Science: Margaret Mead, feminism/Beauvoir/Second Sex, Broken Windows/Giuliani/abortion
Unlike last time, I noticed a big difference between the sets I looked at. One set had more questions asking to name a woman and fewer questions asking to name a man than the other.

I am interested if anyone has ideas on how many questions there should be about women. (Any guideline would not use my percentages, since it would count books by women as being about women and books by men as being about men.) That could be a guideline writers use when writing sets or a guideline that comes from elsewhere in academia about how much women should be included in academic content.

I am also interested if people notice differences in the amount of female content in sets and if that impacts their experience of a tournament. Is there a sense that this is something quizbowl overall does well or does poorly?
David Reinstein
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:27 pm

Some of this is probably a bias of sorts on the writers/editors part.

Some of this is an academic bias, in which, say, some female writers/artists what have you aren't taught or studied enough as they should, so they are "less famous."

Some of this is the world's bias--as Virginia Woolf pointed out, it was a lot harder to be a female author in Shakespeare's day, so there isn't the female equivalent playwright to Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, etc.

This is not intended to be glib, but simply point out that there are a lot of issues to focus on when we think about this question.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by alexdz » Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:37 am

Mike is absolutely right. Insofar as quizbowl is a game about naming other things, any bias in what other things have common/famous names will invariably show up here as well. This is not to say that there's nothing we can do about it, because we have the luxury of being able to talk about things that aren't "famous enough" to be answers on their own.

For example, even questions with men as their answers can refer to the women in their life as clues. Questions on books by men can be themed around female characters. Male artists are well known for painting many female subjects, and many social scientists/religious scholars/philosophers have studied gender. Any or all of these can and should be possible clues.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Dominator » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:57 am

I think Mike's and Alex's posts give valid reasons to expect that the man-question-to-woman-question ratio is higher than 1:1, but I don't think they explain the 8:1 or 20:1 ratios seen in these sets.

Take a look, for example, at the disparity between the history answer lines and literature answer lines in the second set David mentioned. I think that indicates that the history editor may not be exploring the full depth and breadth of history. Certainly any proponent of Great Man History or military history will have a higher man-to-woman question quotient, but I would (and have, in specific cases) encourage that history editor to broaden horizons. Social history offers a great new perspective for greater involvement, although I think there are other avenues as well.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:37 pm

I'll try to bring this thread back from the dead.

I agree with what Noah says above. My goal in posting this wasn't to say that women should be 50% of the answerlines in a set. Sets have to ask about famous/convertible things, and for a variety of reasons there are more famous men than women, especially if you look back in time as quizbowl does. This is especially true in some parts of the distribution, such as classical music.

That being said, I think that making sure the contributions and lives of people who aren't white cis males are recognized should be one of the goals of a set. Diversity is already one of the goals of set writers and editors--people already make decisions to make sure that lots of time periods, countries, and answer line types are in their sets as a matter of course. People should also make sure that their sets balance races and genders. I'll add sexual orientation to that, though given the way the quizbowl distribution is structured I think we are talking about a smaller number of questions there.

If you are writing and/or editing a set, take a look at the questions and ask yourself whether they exhibit the diversity you want them to exhibit. If it doesn't, that's under your control. If you want help, I'll be happy to send some answerlines your way.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Amiable Vitriol » Fri Jun 22, 2018 3:49 pm

Something that could definitely help address this is promoting more diverse writing staffs. I know that, as a woman, I naturally gravitate towards studying and engaging with woman-produced media. It's not surprising that writing staffs made up almost entirely of men, as is often the case in housewrites and independent sets, are writing about people like them. I strongly encourage anyone considering organizing a housewrite or independent set to assemble as diverse a team as possible— it's got both obvious and more subtle benefits for inclusivity in every sphere of quizbowl.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Fri Jun 22, 2018 11:48 pm

Amiable Vitriol wrote:It's not surprising that writing staffs made up almost entirely of men, as is often the case in housewrites and independent sets, are writing about people like them.
While having more women writing and editing has many positives, I find this claim unconvincing. I think most people in our community enjoy reading and learning about experiences that are otherwise alien to them. I think that's one of the main allures of this game. Many of my favorite writers and artists are neither straight, nor white, nor male.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Deviant Insider » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:35 am

I don't really know if there is much of a disagreement here. Diversity is better than homogeneity when it comes to putting a team together that is supposed to cover a spectrum of topics for a diverse audience (though that can't outweigh the fact that people who are willing and able to write good questions are better than people who aren't), some straight white males are going to write more diverse questions than other straight white males, and it's possible for a team of straight white males to write more diverse questions than a diverse team.

One more thing I want to say that hasn't come up yet in this thread--
There is sometimes an issue with transparency when writing a question about women in categories where they are underrepresented because questions about men often say "he", "his", and "this man", whereas questions about women avoid gender giveaways like that. The best way to avoid that transparency is to write questions about men differently so that you don't use those words early in a tossup. It is not that hard to do. You don't even have to be perfect about it--if there are several questions about men that avoid those gendered terms, then avoiding those gendered terms stops making questions about women transparent.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Cheynem » Sat Jun 23, 2018 9:52 am

In Discord someone (Halle I think) pointed out that things like a Picasso painting of women or a Thomas Hardy book featuring a female character are not really "asking about women." I realize though that David was attempting to be as completist as possible in his original list.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Deviant Insider » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:53 am

The reason I decided to make a list instead of just giving numbers was because at some point there is some nuance. I gave some numbers too, but at some point you run into trouble deciding whether the Rosenbergs or Black Eyed Peas counts as a woman in an answer or whether a movie with a prominent female role counts as something created by women. The intention of having a list is to allow people to see what's there and make decisions about what should be counted and how.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Tess of the d’Urbervilles are portrayals of women that inspired many discussions about women and their role in society, so they do have relevance here. That being said, I agree that portrayals of women created by men are not the same thing as actual women, and it would be legitimate to make lists or counts that don't include those portrayals.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Banana Stand » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:34 pm

On the flipside, a tossup on Martin Guerre on the surface is just “some tossup on a French dude from 500 years ago” but I’d guess that a decent percentage(probably not quite a majority?) would have encountered him while reading/reading about Natalie Zemon Davis and her view of the case through a feminist lens. I think people should just aim to write good questions that form good sets and consciously think about how they’re varying their clues and answerlines. It should never be as cut and dry as “man, we need to get this up to 30% women answerlines”; writers should just be cognizant of it like they’re conscious of geographical representation or time periods.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Deviant Insider » Sun Jun 24, 2018 5:16 pm

If your two options are to be conscious of trying to get varied answer lines or to set a high bar and reach it at all costs, then I agree that the former is the better choice. That being said, there are other options.

You can count how many answers were women/works by women in your set last year and decide to have at least that many this year, or perhaps at least as many plus x, where x is some number that you believe you can hit.
You can count how many answers in your set that were not people/works created by individuals but that have obvious direct relevance to women or people of color as members of those groups, and you can decide to have at least that many this year, or perhaps at least as many plus x, where x is some number that you believe you can hit.

Furthermore, if it's your set and it looks like you are going to have trouble reaching the numbers you set out to reach, then you can decide that you have a strict quota that you will remove good questions in order to reach, or you can decide that you aimed for the stars and landed on a mountaintop.
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Re: Women in Sets

Post by Taper or die. Can you do any less? » Thu Aug 23, 2018 4:42 pm

Amiable Vitriol wrote:Something that could definitely help address this is promoting more diverse writing staffs. I know that, as a woman, I naturally gravitate towards studying and engaging with woman-produced media. It's not surprising that writing staffs made up almost entirely of men, as is often the case in housewrites and independent sets, are writing about people like them. I strongly encourage anyone considering organizing a housewrite or independent set to assemble as diverse a team as possible— it's got both obvious and more subtle benefits for inclusivity in every sphere of quizbowl.
I find this claim completely convincing.
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