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Public Forum

ASA Candidates: Reply to Deflem

Mathieu Deflem, in the May/June 2006 issue of Footnotes (p. 12), expressed surprise—after he became a candidate for ASA Council—to have received a questionnaire from the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS). SWS has a 24-year history of sending this short and simple questionnaire to candidates seeking ASA elected office. Because this is such a long-established practice, we were taken-aback by his lack of awareness of the questionnaire prior to his becoming a candidate for an ASA office. The title of his letter to the editor (“Single-issue Voting Tactic?”) suggests he is concerned that SWS members vote for ASA candidates based solely on issues related to gender equality, and he expresses concern that the results of the SWS survey are used to prepare a “voting strategy” for our members.

All members of the ASA, including those who belong to other related organizations, are free to contact candidates about their opinions on whatever issues concern them, and we do not think that our practice needs justification. Nonetheless, we take this brief opportunity to clarify that SWS does not repeat the same sorts of questions that the ASA asks of candidates and publishes in Footnotes, because there is no need for information redundancy—our members read Footnotes. And, like the ASA, SWS shares the candidates’ verbatim responses with our members, letting them decide for themselves if any of the information is relevant to their vote, and we make no effort to predigest candidate responses for our readers. We feel that the candidates’ statements (or lack of responses) speak for themselves.

Christine E. Bose, University at Albany- SUNY, President, Sociologists for Women in Society Catherine Zimmer, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Vice President and Membership Chair, Sociologists for Women in Society

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Response to SWS

Although the title of my May/June Footnotes letter to the editor (“Single-issue Voting Tactic?”) was provided by the Footnotes managing editor, it reflects my main concern about the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) survey well—a concern that has been expressed in the pages of this newsletter by other ASA members in at least the past 14 years (and in near identical terms). The very name, bylaws, and stated goals of SWS betray the organization’s activist motives and the desired effect its survey is intended to have. Inasmuch as this goal is narrowly perceived in terms of the number of females elected to ASA positions, the SWS survey is at best obsolete, at worst a litmus test.

I should be taken-aback by the implication that I would not be fit to run for an ASA office because I was unaware of a practice that is not part of ASA procedures but is instituted by an external organization. Candidates for ASA Council have a duty to reply to any query from ASA members, be it individually or collectively organized within the ASA, but they need feel no such responsibility when questions come from outside our Association. Even the overlap between the memberships of the organizations does not deny the fact that SWS is not a constituency within the ASA and, therefore, cannot claim to represent the ASA electorate or any part thereof. Not even the interlocking directorates that currently exist between SWS and the ASA Executive Office and Council can alter this fact.

Of the five candidates who did not respond to the SWS survey this year, two were female. Should SWS members really heed the call to have these nonresponses speak for themselves, these candidates should not be receiving SWS support. That is very unlikely, however, as the SWS platform is not defined as promoting gender diversity but as maximizing the professional opportunities for women in sociology. More broadly, I find it a tragic shame that SWS appears to have turned from the progressive Committee of the Status of Women in Sociology, which promoted equality, to a conservative force that opposes inclusiveness and resorts to sterile gender-based voting. Such a practice I find objectionable most of all in view of all candidates running for ASA offices deserving the right to be treated on the basis of their professional qualifications.

Mathieu Deflem, University of South Carolina, deflem@sc.edu