Dr. Lucy Jackson
Our star baker talks gendered politics, continuous projects and being nosy.
'I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat' - Rebecca West
This quote continues to inspire me but also represents my attitude as a feminist academic. Too often, feminism is/has been seen as a dirty word and I have (too often) found myself having to justify my outlook on the world, arguing that ‘feminism isn’t just about women, it's about equality and justice for all’.
Describe your job in three words
Challenging, stimulating, fun - most of the time!
How long have you worked for The University of Sheffield?
I have been with the SMI since October 2017. I previously worked at the University of Sheffield as a post-doctorate research associate from 2012-2015, working with the geography department.
What research are you working on now?
Right at this moment, I am working on a few ‘projects’, the first of which is a paper on gender equality and the gender pay gap in Higher Education. I have a PhD student also working in this area, conducting research into laddism, sexism, and the culture of banter in further education spaces. I am also writing up research conducted in Northern Ireland around reproductive rights - I have recently submitted a paper about the notion of trauma and tragedy and how these are used within discourses of rights around the body and am also working on the theme of reproductive rights and its association with class discourses. Further, I continue to work (mostly in the background) on broader questions of everyday political rights, though I guess my focus at present is more on gendered politics.
What would you like to be the ultimate outcome of your research?
With regards to my research on reproductive justice, I would like to see true justice in respect of the ethos of feminism. In this respect, I would like to see real choice, freedom and lack of stigma, for all women in the world and their decision-making capabilities around their own bodies, lives, destinies. I would like for women (and all!) to be respected and treated equally, and for ‘difference’ in terms of someone’s identity, their appearance, their outlook on life not just to be tolerated but to be respected and celebrated. I know it sounds a big ask but I fundamentally believe in the principles of feminist thought about equality, choice and freedom for all, in all aspects of their lives. Why, for example, should a person be stigmatised because of their decisions whether or not to have children, or whether or not to follow a particular religion? Why do we judge people because of what they choose to wear or how they choose to represent their identity?
What legislation would you change to improve how science in your field is done?
As a social scientist, I think this is quite a difficult question to answer. I believe in intellectual freedom more broadly. I believe that scientific language and questions of ‘rigour’ and objective research often means that qualitative, arts and practice-based research is often viewed negatively (ie not taken ‘seriously’). I would like there to be more respect for research that does not involve numbers but is instead focused on experiential and emotional elements of the world.
What kind of response have you gotten to your research/findings?
For a long time I have been ‘that academic at conferences who talks about abortion’ which was initially both exciting and draining- I always had lots of questions and people were always very engaged with the topic. Now that more people are doing research around reproductive rights, and activism around the topic is much more prominent in mainstream media I feel less alone. It also means I have fantastic people to engage with my research which can only be a good thing.
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
I love that I get to do research about something that I am passionate about and that this can directly inform my teaching. Whilst academic writing is not necessarily my favourite part of the job (sorry!) I love that I am able to communicate about my research in different ways. Being an academic I am, of course, nosy and intrinsically curious about the world. I think that’s what makes my job special.
What is currently on your bedside table?
I am currently reading a book by Kelly Baker, “Sexism ed: Essays on gender and labor in academia”. Whilst this book is more ‘for work’ than pleasure, the stories that Baker tells are very close to my own heart and represent the, perhaps somewhat, dissatisfaction with the HE sector. Baker writes as a former academic who struggled as a postdoctoral/ early career researcher- the struggle not nominally associated with the ‘usual’ battles for tenure/ longevity and increasing pressures around funding and publishing but also a fight to be taken seriously as a woman in an academic context. As an academic, a feminist, and a mother, I feel like these stories are deeply personal but also reflect some of the spaces for hope in moving forwards towards a more equal ‘system’ for everyone.
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