Mentored to Perfection: The Masculine Terms of Success in Academia examines how mentoring programs between women tend to replicate the hierarchical relations of patriarchy that they are meant to dismantle. Simone Dennis and Alison Behie argue that, while paradigmatic mentoring programs look like networking support services for neophytes, these mentorships nevertheless replicate the very institutional structures they seek to uproot. The generosity that senior women show to junior women as they share their tips and offer their support ironically obscures participants’ involvement in debt relations and the biases of replicating a particular type of success. This book considers the possibilities for disrupting our tendency to reproduce ourselves in the masculine terms of success.
Simone Dennis is associate dean for Research Engagement, Impact and Innovation in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at Australian National University.
Alison Behie is head of the school of archaeology and anthropology at Australian National University.
Chapter 1. Orienting Concepts and Ideas
Chapter 2. Know Imitate Thine Enemy
Chapter 3. Interlude: A Short Note about Secret Transparencies
Chapter 4. Haunted by the Undead Patriarchy: New Buildings, SWAN Songs, and Secrets
Chapter 5. Payback Does Not Appear to be a Bitch (but It Is)
A challenging and persuasive provocation. The current “neoliberal” university is a patriarchal institution in which success is measured according to an “economy of knowledge” that favours men. What is called for, Simone Dennis and Alison Behie argue, in a lucid analysis closely tied to Australian ethnography, is mentorship as a form of what Roslyn Diprose calls “corporeal generosity,” whereby the mentee does not emulate or imitate the mentor but both open themselves to the radical alterity intrinsic to the embodied identity and capability of each. Through such sharing, the order of the same might be transcended and caring institutional forms introduced in which otherness—of women, of the precariat, of individuality itself—is recognised and respected.
Simone Dennis and Alison Behie’s book documents and describes in detail the workings of women-only mentoring programs in the Western academy. Its central finding is truly shocking. Designed to challenge an entrenched situation of women’s scant representation in leadership roles, by coaching success on the largely male terms that saw the mentors rise to their current positions of eminence, the programs serve to perpetuate traditional gendered hierarchies. More than a matter of sustained inequality, another key effect of this is, as the authors persuasively argue, to deprive the modern university access to the kinds of vital innovations that women can make as leaders. Mentored to perfection: The Masculine Terms of Success in Academia is a scholarly masterpiece whose style is pithy, combative and accessible. It is, in my opinion, one of the very finest examples Applied Anthropology, which should be read throughout the academy and by those charged with making any kind of institution more equitable and successful.