The nefarious Hermitage apparently coerced me into being on her Wimminz in Academia panel with the promise of Doritos. I must have been asleep when that happened and all I have seen so far is day-glo orange dust that may or may not contain acrylamide. Sigh.
What the hell was this post going to be about?
Oh, the Wimminz in Academia thingy.
So, I’ve been asked to give my answers, thoughts, comments, rants, etc, about four questions that were compiled by H from the masses of questions submitted by various commenters. Keep in mind that the responses given below are solely my own opinion and are not meant to be representative of any/all female junior TT peeps. Thus, without further ado ...
1. How do you command the attention, and respect, of men in academic settings (e.g. classroom, conferences, faculty meetings)?
Interesting question and one that has been asked by some of my students. Personally, I don’t feel as though I’ve ever actually made a concerted effort to “command” attention and/or respect from male colleagues, bosses, students, etc, and, if anything, being pathologically introverted has made it even more challenging (ie impossible) to try to attempt to do this.
So assuming that I have the respect of males in academia, how did/do I manage to achieve this? Honestly, I think my work ethic has a lot to do with it. I am productive, get shit done on time, do it well and am open to constructive criticism, advice and suggestions. That being said, though, I’m no pushover and will stand up and defend my work if I believe the criticisms are unfounded.
I’ve also had two amazing mentors that are both guys and they have been instrumental in helping me negotiate this business. They never treated me any different from my male peers/colleagues just because I have ovaries and I never asked for, nor expected, any special treatment.
In terms of advice for female newbies, I have a couple of simple suggestions: (1) always be professional both in demeanor and dress, (2) be good at what you do, (3) don’t ask for special treatment just coz you’re female*, and (4) don’t try batting your eyelids to impress someone.
2. How should women dealing with a two-body problem handle assumptions that their career is secondary to their partner's?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question as I’m unattached and only ever have to look out for myself when making career decisions. However, being unqualified never prevented me from voicing an opinion on this or any other topic.
Having not been in this situation, my first reaction would be to ask if it really matters what people assume. But I know that is a naive and clueless response as this can have a material impact on one’s career.
Hmmm. I guess I don’t really think I have any advice other than to be totally fucking amazing at the work you do. Let’s face it, as women, we often have to be better than our male peers in order to achieve the same thing so this probably goes double for those with an academic for a partner. And are you advertising yourself as being part of a two-body package? If so, is it crystal clear as to how awesome your achievements are?
Told you I really didn’t have anything to contribute to this one.
3. What would you like to see from tenure-track and not-yet-tenure-track menfolk? How can they pitch in?
What I really want is for male colleagues to treat me as a peer, not as a female peer per se. When I’m at work, I want them to see an accomplished, hardworking, super-smart, kickass professional. Don’t make comments about the lack of a wedding ring on my hand or ask when I’m going to settle down and start a family. If I'm getting annoyed at a meeting, you really don't want to ask if "it's that time of the month". Believe me when I say that the last thing you want to do is piss me off.
I also get cranky when I get comments from reviewers suggesting that I get more senior colleagues to help me with my work. It’s clear from my IRL name that I am female and I’m 99% certain that those comments would not be there if my name was Billy Bob. Don’t assume that I am not competent to carry out the work simply because I have ovaries. Look at my biosketch and judge from that, not the gender associated with the name listed at the top of the page.
Sigh. That’s three from three questions for which I have nothing interesting or constructive to offer.
4. How do you deal with insinuations that you were only chosen for a position/award/etc because of affirmative action?
Haha - I don’t think anyone familiar with my background and/or current position would dare to insinuate that I received accolades or jobs simply because I was a woman. For example: in grad school, I was the only female in my lab and graduated with the most number of publications as first author, published in more respected journals than my peers and won the most number of awards. I am 100% confident that none of the guys in that cohort would ever suggest that I got any of those things because of affirmative action as they all saw the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into my work.
I have also never actively sought awards or opportunities that were restricted to women, mostly because I wanted to avoid the You Only Got This Far Coz You Have Ovaries type of thing. But that’s just me. I don't have a problem with women that do.
Ok, so I think it’s fair to say that I don’t really have anything of any value to say on any of these topics. As other bloggers have opined in far more elegant terms than I ever could, being in academia doesn’t mean you have to lose your femininity or your right to have functioning ovaries. That’s not something you should ever have to sacrifice. Evah. Academia is a career, just like any other. Only it’s gutwrenchingly difficult and incredibly frustrating. Nevertheless, it’s what pays the bills. I love what I do but I don’t live to work. And I just don’t see that my gender has anything to do with my work. I do what I do, I do it well and I don’t need to be identified or classified as a female academic.
Hell, now I’m ranting and completely off-topic. But at least I managed to make sure that this rant contained 100% fewer babies as instructed. Take from it what you will. Or just move on to the next post in your Reader queue as it’s probably of more use than this one.
Damn, I’m tired. Is the end of the semester here yet? Can’t wait for this year to be over.
Now where are those fucking Doritos, Hermitage?
* This post is supposed to be 100% baby-free so I’m not even going near the whole pregnancy, maternity leave, breast feeding, etc, issues. As far as I’m concerned, they are a fundamental right that need to be built into academia. And every other career sector.
/public service announcement