You never can tell

Barbara Bradley Hagerty had a commentary on NPR last night about one of her professors who recently died, and her acquaintance with him over the years after she graduated.  Fred Stocking was a legendary Shakespeare scholar at Williams College; he died in July at the age of 94, 29 years after his retirement.  Just listen, or read here.  Pass the tissues!

Most of our students don’t care that much about our classes–and that’s probably the natural order of things.  But you never know how or why you might be important to a student.  Continue reading

How not to apply to grad school part II: STEMs and seeds edition

Female Science Professor had an interesting post yesterday about mentoring undergraduate students through the graduate school application process.  In a contrast with a student she dubs “Student 1,” who is smart, displays initiative, doesn’t have to be told things twice, and (perhaps most importantly) has somehow perfectly absorbed and assimilated the professional culture of hir chosen field.  Student 2, on the other hand, “tends applicationto focus on the immediate task at hand. S2 does best when told very specifically what to do and doesn’t seem to be able to handle a lot of information at once. If general advice is given to S2 in advance of a specific task, it needs to be given again when directly relevant.”  She then reports a conversation with S2:

S2: I’ve decided to apply to 6 graduate programs and was wondering if you would write me a letter of reference for my applications.

SP: Yes, of course. What are the 6 places?

S2: Do I have to tell you?  Continue reading

Motherhood and the construction of women's athletic talent, part II: U.S. Open edition

clijstersOh, yeah!  You know that babies are like catnip to the international media, especially when their mothers are winning, world-class athletes! 

Last year during the Olympics, regarding the spate of stories about Darra Torres and other women athletes with children, I wrote about my bafflement about the ways in which women athletes who are mothers are represented in the media.  I asked, “Why does anyone think that motherhood necessarily erodes or competes with athletic talent?  Of course, not every mother physically gives birth to her children, but even for those who do, childbirth and its aftermath doesn’t necessarily alter the body in ways that would affect athletic performance.”  Well, the Mother-Athlete of the Year has to be Kim Clijsters, whose surprise upset (on faults) at the U.S. Open against Serena Williams has put her in the spotlight.  Once again, the English-language media find it utterly amazing that a 26-year old (26!) who has given birth can win the U.S. Open.

None of the broadcast or print media stories I’ve seen about Clijsters has failed to note that 1) she’s “a mom!” (or “mum!”), and 2) she had retired from tennis to focus on getting married and having a family.  (Never mind that that’s what a lot of people do, in addition to their day jobs, and that male athletes seem to manage getting married and having lots of children without “taking time off”–like Clijsters’s husband, Bryan Lynch!)  I understand the attraction of a comeback story, but this article from the Australian News really takes the cake.  It doesn’t even mention Williams’s name, let alone anything about Clijsters’s victorious match against her.  Check it out:

SUPER-mum Kim Clijsters hopes to complete some unfinished business in Australia after crowning her amazing comeback with a spectacular US Open triumph.

While unsure exactly how long her second career will last, Clijsters says a return to Melbourne Park in January for the 2010 Australian Open is definitely on her jam-packed agenda.

“I mean, my sister is about to have a baby in a couple of weeks and those are really important moments that I want to be home for,” the bubbly Belgian said.  Continue reading

Since when did "breeder" become an insult?

I always really liked them–one of my favorite bands evah!  Oh, how I wish I were a Breeder!  But, I never got around to it–and now sadly, I think it might be too late!  With all of the college and grad school and job- and tenure-seeking in my teens, 20s, and 30s, I never made it a priority to have guitar or drum lessons.  Of course, at the time, I wasn’t that interested in having them–and I always thought there would be plenty of time if I changed my mind.  (Plus, I never really liked couch surfing or smoky bars or staying up late all that much anyway.  Not to mention drugs.)  But now that I’ve entered my 40s, I’m wondering:  has my life been wasted as a professional historian?  Wouldn’t my life’s work have so much more meaning if I had gone the Breeder route? 

Dig that flashback to 1993:  “I’m just looking for one divine hammer–I’d bang it all day!”  Continue reading

Professors behaving badly! Fer sure.

That's some tricky moves, Dr. Crazy!

Mighty tricky moves, Dr. Crazy!

I know–you’re shocked, shocked to find bad behavior here, right?  Here’s the dish:

First, Dr. Crazy tells a great story about her first post-tenure extra-departmental meeting, and revels in a bit of “D!ck Slapping.”  Hillarious!  (And inspirational.)  She writes:

So here I am, in the meeting of d00ds, and about 15 minutes in it becomes apparent that they think I’m a non-entity. And I notice their shock when I don’t accept that. I notice that they are actively surprised that I’m advocating for not only my position within the group but also for the position of my discipline and larger area.

I think the moment that I really realized what I was up against was when I challenged one of the committee members about an item of a proposal, and he had the gall to offer a rejoinder that ended, “So I just want you to understand that this is what you’re saying when you make this objection.” As if I don’t freaking understand what I’m saying! As if I don’t understand consequences! As if I’m I clueless little girl who needs to be schooled!

Never fear–there’s a happy ending to this story.  And maybe a lesson or two? 

Our second example of bad behavior comes to us from Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar, who engages in a little covert slapfest of her own with a missive to some jerk in her field.  Continue reading

Romanoff to challenge Bennet for Colorado Senate in 2010

wonka_gold_ticketWell, it looks like I won’t have to be the one to spark a Colorado Democratic primary fight after all:  Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has filed papers to challenge our appointed U.S. Senator, “just one vote” Michael  Bennet. 

The two of them are both straight, white, male, Wonder Bread twins–neither of them could win a one-man charm contest.  Romanoff will have to run to Bennet’s left, which will be a good thing.  (And there’s plenty of room to swim around in over there!)  Romanoff’s background isn’t quite as posh as Bennet’s, and he has the advantage of having run and won several elections.  Accordingly, Romanoff has statewide connections with labor, Latinos, and the Dem machine–none of which Bennet had until last January, or has in any depth now.  (Most of his money has come from out-of-state–Daddy’s rich friends and the Old School Ties presumably swung into action for him, to the tune of $900,000!)  Continue reading

On patriarchy

thelmalouiseSquadratomagico has an interesting post (and discussion in the comments) about patriarchy:  What is it?  Where does it come from?  And perhaps most urgently, who’s enforcing it?  She writes:

What is at stake when a rhetorical dichotomy between “patriarchy” and “women” is posited? The way this opposition is used seems to me to suggest the following things:

1. If “patriarchy” and “women” are on opposite sides of a dichotomy, then patriarchy must be an all-male thing.

2. Thus, women are not a part of patriarchy, but fall somewhere outside it. Women may be acted upon by patriarchy in ways that either victimize or benefit them (depending on the women’s status and position vis-a-vis particular men), but they do not themselves perpetuate patriarchy, participate in it, or drive it.

3. If a woman suggests that women sometimes do perpetuate, participate within, or drive patriarchy, then she herself is acting as an agent of patriarchy by blaming women and undermining female solidarity, rather than attacking the real enemy, patriarchy, which is composed of men only. Oh, but wait: huh? Please review the tendentious aspects of this reasoning. I think it boils down to this: women are not part of patriarchy, except when the commenter disagrees with said women. In that case, indignantly accusing your opponent of being an agent of patriarchy, or of “blaming women,” is a convenient means of bludgeoning them into silence while declaiming your own impeccable feminist credentials as a supporter of women. Hence, the tactic poses a false dichotomy between “blaming women” versus “supporting women,” while simultaneously defining debate itself as inherently divisive.

4. Following upon the previous point: feminist politics, for these commenters, appears to be predicated upon strict solidarity for both sexes. The feminist first principle is for women to stick together without dissension or debate, in order to best advance their own collective interests, which are presumed to be self-evident. Feminism thus conceived constitutes a neat counterpoint to patriarchy which, as we already have seen, is presented as an all-male formation existing to best advance men’s collective interests.

I especially like that point in #2:  talking about patriarchy this way erases the complexity of patriarchy (and not incidentally, women’s agency too).  We don’t think this way about other systems–capitalism, or colonialism, and divide the entire world arbitrarily into either victims or agents thereof.  Why do this with patriarchy?  Continue reading