Saturday, September 8, 2012

Whose Missing in the Pipeline?

Growing up in South Los Angeles, I never really felt different. I lived in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, there were 5 other Reyes in my high school class and all of my friends slipped easily between English and Spanish. As high school progressed I began taking honors and advances classes and previously gender neutral classes began to be dominated by women. When I started school at UCLA female dominated classes became the norm but only in my major classes, only in Chicana/o Studies. Now in Law School the opposite has occurred. I realized that in predominantly Latino classes women were over represented but only then. Were have all the Latinos gone?

The Chicano Pipeline is an unfortunate reality that I have seen shuffle friends and family out of higher education. Originally created in the 1990s the pipeline followed 100 students from Los Angeles School District and tracked there progression through the “education pipeline” from high school freshman to graduate students. The results were pretty bleak. A 2004 study shows that while improvement in the pipeline occurs it still is not producing Latinos in higher education to keep pace with increases in the Latino population.

I am one of the 0.3 Latino students from LAUSD who have made it into graduate school. When I think of friends that I grew up with who have managed to make it through to university and for some graduate school they are all women, exclusively. I stop and think about why this is I realize that for me being a woman has placed me at an educational advantage. I did not have the same pressures placed on me because I was not a male.

For most of my male friends and relatives the pressures of gang life began early, around middle school. Girls were allowed to be smart boys however, were not given the same latitude. Latino high school drop out rates are almost twice as high as Latina drop out rates.  In high school I was never approached for gang recruitment which was almost always limited to boys. Being a woman has been a privilege that I did not even knew existed until it was no longer present. This is not to say that being a Latina in the educational pipeline has been a cake walk. It has not been. But the challenges I have faced are shaped by my sex and gender. In ways I was not even really aware of.

Looking back at the men who I grew up with boys who lived up and down the street from me, none have graduate from a four year university. The majority are either still involved in gang life or have joined the military. Latinos make up 18 percent of active US troops in the armed services. Id. Again, my own anecdotal evidence is not fool proof there are Latinos in law school they are my classmates and friends. But Latinas continue to move through the pipeline in larger number than there male counterparts.

I am always so aware of when other have and take advantage of their male privilege, but I realize growing up I had some pretty serious female privilege as well. Now that I am aware of it what do I do?


Patricija said...

Joan Williams, who we read a lot about in our class, is currently looking at the effect the double bind has on women of various minorities. Kimberly Crenshaw and many of the early Critical Race Theorist work under a frame that individuals face an intersection of various identities, that weave together a complex story of subjugation and power. Women that are both a racial minority AND a woman, suffer the negative marginalizing effects from both identities. In fact, many posit that it isn't simply an additive effect, but rather exponential in nature.

But as you noted (and I agree), there are more Latina (AND Black) women then their male counterparts in law school. In response to some of these types of observations, some social psychologist oppose this double blind oversimplification, and argue that in some instances male minorities face the real double bind, especially when they trigger negative status stereotypes (being a minority) with positive power stereotypes (being a man and masculine). In fact, black men with baby faces affect business professional achievement. Professors Livingston and Pierce found that "the more babyfaced the black CEO, the more he was also thought to earn. In terms of real—not just perceived—earnings and achievement, the more babyfaced the black CEO, the more prestigious was the company he actually led, reflected by both Fortune 500 ranking and annual corporate revenue." Professor Livingston goes on to note that in order "[t]o function effectively as an African-American male in the U.S. you must have a disarming mechanism," which disarms the threatened (ie white men in power).

As you mentioned, you feel as if Latino males had this added pressure of being in gangs, of showing their male dominance, to be encouraged to be aggressive and physical, and in essence flex their masculine "power." The effect of flexing their masculine power is very different then when a white male flexes his power. For example, expressing anger by banging the table is seen as appropriately aggressive for a white male while that same action by a Black man would be considered the "stereotypical angry black man" who has a "problem" with anger. This is also particularly troubling when looked in relation to racial profiling and minorities' continuous overrepresented on our prison system.

The following are a few questions your post triggered:
(1) In what ways is the "female privilege" you detailed similar between the various minority groups and in what ways does it differ.
(2) Does this female privilege analysis refer to being biologically female or is it a combination of biological women embracing feminine behavior or something else entirely?
(3) As a follow up to the former, do minority women who are less feminine, and flex their more masculine tendencies, fall into the same societal gaps you mentioned (i.e. more likely to be in gangs, etc) as men?
(4) Lastly, you said your female privilege was somewhat attributed to being "left out" of the pressures of your community (which in turned allowed you to blossom). Is it really privilege if it simply a causal result of being (for lack of better a better word) ignored?

Elizabeth said...

Female privilege is an interesting concept and I think will be increasingly relevant. Females of all ethnicities are outdoing their male peers academically. In our increasingly competitive education machine, girls seem to be coming out on top. This will soon translate to women attaining more and more of the top professional positions because they are simply more qualified. Perhaps this female privilege will really be the thing that breaks the glass ceiling in a lot of fields based purely on the number of qualified women versus the dearth of qualified men.

Your analysis regarding latinas seems pretty correct to me as well. I can see how the pressure to prove your "manliness" could be stronger for boys than the desire to succeed in school. Regardless, it is awful that the statistic is only .3 latino students going onto graduate school.

Patricija said...

"This will soon translate to women attaining more and more of the top professional positions because they are simply more qualified."

Elizabeth, I wish this was true. Women have been equally represented in law school for awhile now, and yet we are still stunted with our representation in the legal field ESPECIALLY in leadership positions. Your argument evokes that of the Atlantic article End of Men ( I have many issues with that article. The one I'll focus on is that while it is true that women are making great strides in education, in many ways surpassing men, this doesn't necessarily translate in the working world.

Joan Williams states "that women have more college degrees than men, that they work in faster-growing industries, that brute strength no longer counts as a skill in a world populated with machines. All of that may be true, but women still earn 77 cents to every man's dollar. Thompson proposes barriers to advancement, family responsibilities (he calls them family choices; not even going to go there, since it feels like I have about a million times already), and sexism as possible explanations for this persistent gap, and then offers two more. One, that women are getting more advanced degrees because they need them to even approach the earning potential of less-educated men, and two, that the jobs that women are occupying in increasing numbers are relatively low-paid."

Patricija said...

That last quote is from Joan Williams' piece in the Huffington Post "How the Gender Wars Become a Class War" (

Sarah said...

Thank you for personalizing this issue. I have personally felt that in many circles it is more accepted for the woman to try harder, care more, reach out for help...but it is always balanced against the pressure to self-deprecate, point to others who helped us or have been more successful, back out of competition, and let our friends/families/parents advocate for recognition of our achievements. This means that even though we are frequently outperforming, it may not lead to commensurate advancement opportunities. Just a thought.

Attisaurus said...

This was a fascinating personal expose, Atzimba! Your accounts of being one of the very few Latina/minority women to make it into graduate and professional education made me reflect on my own status as an Asian-American women in higher education.

I think Asian-American men in the US face some of the same pressures that Latino men endure in high school and adolescence, given the nationwide increase of Asian-American gang violence and recruitment in recent years (probably due in some part to the recession). However, something that I really could not relate to from your post is the concept that being academically driven and ambitious is contrary to masculinity or machismo culture. In my experience with Asian-American culture, intelligence or academic prowess is socially synonymous with power and success and factors that make one more attractive to one's desired sex, but this classification is not a gendered one. It is not "feminine" for one to do well in school.

I'm very curious. Can anyone enlighten me as to the origin of the gender construct of "smart" being synonymous with "feminine"? It's rare that we find that kind of reverse sexism in our favor!