SATCTM* practice: Know your Bradshaws

(*Sex and the City:  The Movie)

Carrie Bradshaw?







Or Terry Bradshaw?

I know it’s so confusing!  They’re both such good-natured, self-effacing Bradshaws, and they were both on buddy-shows on the TV.  For both of them, hair is not their best feature.  (Sorry, Carrie and Terry!)

However, there is the not inconsequential matter of a 200- pound weight differential.  One was a famous fictional New Yorker, the other a famous actual Pittsburgher.

Listen to this analysis of the “narcissist” Bradshaw from NPR’s Morning Edition.  (That seems like a dubious hook for the story–wev.  Good thing they have an authoritative male analyst handy to lecture us on how Carrie Bradshaw is merely doing what men have done for centuries!)

Russert and Goodwin and Olbermann–Oh My!

That’s right, ass-wipe! Nothing but misogynists! ”  (Bob Somerby to Timmy Russert, 5/29/08)

Also on the Timmy hour last Sunday, “viewers were forced to absorb the platitudes of the bowl of mush, Doris Kearns Goodwin.”  Oh, snnnnnaaap!  Oh, no you di’nt, Bob!

Just wait ’till you hear what he said about Keith Olbermann!  KO will want to take Bob into a back room, and only Olbermann comes out.

Schmucks.  (And I don’t mean you, Bob!)

Dr. Mommie Dearest

This is something of a follow-up to the recent discussion about partner/spousal hires, in that both this post and that are about academia and family life.  In a recent article at Inside Higher Ed called “Does Acadme Hinder Parenthood,” the data suggest that yes indeedy, academic men and women have fewer children than people with other advanced degrees, and that women with Ph.D.’s are the least likely professionals to have children.  (Historiann started to write a post on that article alone, but all I could come up with was a link and a headline that read “Duh!,” but it didn’t hold up to my usual high standards of snappy writing and trenchant observations.)  The new blog called “Mama Ph.D.:  Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics,” at IHE took on some of the dumber comments in response to the article, the dumbest of which were clueless, or sexist, or cluelessly sexist, in a solid post by Libby Gruner.  The blog was started earlier this month by a group of women who were also contributors to a forthcoming book called Mama Ph.D.:  Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers University Press, 2008)

However, Historiann wonders why the only blog at IHE that features women writers is about motherhood, as though 1) only women academics think about or deal with parenting issues, or should be the only ones who do,  2) there are no child-free women academics, and 3) the major concern of women academics is motherhood, not pay equity, the job market, faculty life, teaching, grantsmanship, or other professional issues?  (People interested in the issues outlined in #3 know where to go–!  Hey IHE:  hands off my readers!  And in all fairness, IHE blogger Dean Dad of “Confessions of a Community College Deanalso commented on the article, and as his name implies, he also writes about his family life occasionally.  But, the focus of his blog is on his life as an administrator.)    After all, as the original article about parenthood and academe pointed out, women with Ph.D.’s are the least likeliest professional women to reproduce, so motherhood is not a shared concern of all faculty women.  I tried to get a discussion going over there (see the first comment), but without success–one commenter agreed with my point, but no one seemed interested enough to really pick up the discussion.  I understand the blog is linked to a book–but the bigger question (to me) is why the gendered divsion of labor?

The people at “Mama Ph.D.” can blog about whatever they like, and it’s a good thing to have a blog there that talks about work-family issues in academia.  But–why the effective ghettoization of women writers?  This is not an argument for the blog to enlist male writers, nor am I inviting people to spank IHE.  (Regular readers know that it’s on my blogroll, I rely on their wide reporting, and I really admire their coverage of controversies in higher ed., especially their willingness to cover bad behavior by university administrators.  Their coverage of issues appears to be fair, and their coverage of gender issues in the academy seems to be motivated by feminist questions and assumptions.)  Rather, my concern is that if it’s only motherhood and family issues that women are invited to comment on at IHE, this tends to reinforce stereotypes about women (and about mothers in academia, in particular).  As the one commenter who agreed with me said, “[i]t would be different, perhaps, if women wrote a reasonable proportion of blogs, news stories and opinions at IHE, but look at the bylines — they are overwhelmingly male.”  Anecdotally, this observation appears to hold up.  (UPDATE:  See Susan’s comment below, and my apology.  University Diaries is written by a woman.  My mistake!  I checked for bylines, but obviously, not closely enough!)

Finally, one more question:  why does “Mama Ph.D.” feature mostly contributors who are no longer “inside higher education” because they chose to leave academia to be full-time parents and/or pursue other careers (six out of nine, as far as I can tell from their brief biographies)?  They’re no longer trying to “balace parenthood and academics,” so their concerns are by and large not those of women who are working academics, who I assume are in the majority of IHE’s female readers.  In fact, a recent post suggests strongly that dual-career academic couples are ruining the planet with their selfish pursuit of two tenure-track jobs!  It’s not just couples with lengthy, jet-fueled commutes who are guilty:  “in order to maximize the work day, the extra half hour saved by driving kids to the daycare instead of walking can be vital,” the implication being that working parents can’t possibly spare that hour per day, so someone should quit hir job to save the Earth.  Ahem:  the child-free among us might with equal moral certainty point out that by producing one, two, or more U.S. American children who will own their own cars and refrigerators and fly on planes, even parents who have one-career, one-Prius families have much larger carbon footprints!

I think the mommy wars are largely media hype, and I thought long and hard before posting this.  (Lord knows we fembloggers get beaten up enough by anonymous misogynists on-line!)  However, I’m not sold on the relevance of “Mama Ph.D.” to people who are working, um, “inside higher education.”  As the only dedicated space for women writers at IHE, It appears to replicate many of the hierarchies that women faculty, staff, students, and administrators inside higher education are working against.  (OK–now let me have it.) 

"Sex" jumps fashion shark?

Very frequently, I have to wonder: is that so fashion-forward it’s ahead of its time, or is that just butt-ugly?

The Denver Post yesterday featured an article about the fashion in Sex and the City:  the Movie.  I have to say, based on the hints in this article, I am not impressed.  For example:  the outfits on the right.  (Click on the article above, and then click on the photo there for a larger image.)  Charlotte’s dress in wearable, but bland (although at least appropriate to the character.)  Miranda’s metallic dress (for daywear?) washes her out and makes her look like a Sci-Fi glamazon, and Samantha’s red suit (with the peplum jacket). . .do not want.  It’s aging and unflattering, and not even Samantha’s outsized personality can pull it off.  Finally, Annie Hall Carrie:  every five or six years, the fashion gods announce that the menswear look is back.  And it’s always a bad idea, every time.  (Isn’t Carrie old enough to have figured that out by now?)

I would rather wear Carrie’s famous “naked dress” every day for a month than wear that white menswear getup.  (Are those pleated pants, which are even unflattering on Size 0 SJP???  Lady, please.)

(Sorry for the two posts in a row on fashion–please continue the discussion about partner/spousal hires below…)

If you didn't like those t-shirts…

from this post (remember?), go vote for your favorite t-shirt design here.

I voted for the one on the right:  a little humor, along with an “everywoman” and “everyman” theme.  I liked the other designs–let’s just say, there wasn’t a “Celine Dion” in the mix.  I kind of liked the Andy Warhol inspired one, but the slogan at the bottom wasn’t clever and/or wasn’t a campaign slogan or theme.  This one seemed like the design and message were all one.

What to think about spousal/partner hires?


That is the question for today, children.  What do we think?  Are we pro-spousal/partner hires?  Do we resent them, or merely envy them?  (Who other than superstars can bargain for a spousal accommodation now, anyway?  A friend of mine commented recently, “we talk about them all the time, but I don’t know anyone who got one.”)  Are they an urban legend, like the story about the peculiar-looking ravenous stray dog who turned out to be an enormous rat eating a family out of house and home?  (You know the one–you heard that story in college, too, didn’t you?)

Reasons to embrace partner/spousal hires:

  1. How the heck else can you lure decent faculty to Waco, Texas, Kearny, Nebraska, Oxford, Ohio, or (for that matter) Fort Collins, Colorado, and keep them there?  If job candidates are married to other academics, institutions should see spousal hires as part of their strategic plan to recruit and retain quality faculty.  And considering that much of the top talent comes either from the two coasts or Chicago, or a few top-notch university towns elsewhere, for universities located in (shall we say?) charmingly pastoral and quiet out-of-the-way towns, you have to figure that you’d dramatically lower your chances of doing a given search over again in 3 years if you can help the successful candidate avoid a lifetime of commuting in-between Bloomington and Philadelphia (for example).
  2. It’s an opportunity to increase the number of tenure lines in your department.  If the Dean is offering you a tenure line, take the money and run.  Unless you find the prospective new colleague truly unprepared, incapable of the job, or profoundly objectionable, how does it hurt your department to play ball with the Dean’s office? 
  3. If you play ball with the Dean, it might be a favor that is returned to your department.  You never know!
  4. It helps with recruiting women faculty especially, since there are still (unfortunately) many more wives who follow their husbands’ careers than husbands who will relocate for their wives’ job opportunities.
  5. (Your turn!)

Reasonable reasons to resent or resist partner/spousal hires:

  1. They’re just another kind of favoritism that heterosexuals enjoy and gay faculty don’t.  While there are some institutions that offer partner hires, anecdotally I hear that if you’re gay, you have to be a super-duper-superstar to get one (as opposed to the mere superstars that heteros must be.)
  2. They’re just another kind of favoritism that partnered people enjoy that single faculty don’t.  (Since the widespread assumption is that unmarried/unpartnered faculty have no personal lives or any need whatsoever for time away from their wonderful colleagues or beloved students, they already get saddled with more than their share of after-hours service, like running the Trivial Pursuit marathon for the History Club.  Hiring more married or partnered people by design will only exacerbate this injustice!)
  3. Departments should decide their hiring priorities, not other departments or the Dean’s office.  A common objection raised against spousal hires is that they will “take up” a tenure-track line that a department would otherwise have been able to define as they choose.
  4. (Your turn!)

Unreasonable reasons (according to Historiann only) to object to partner/spousal hires:

  1. No one ever did anything for your partner/spouse, so you don’t feel inclined to stick your neck out for anyone else.
  2. People are responsible for their own personal lives.  Why should a workplace have to come up with two jobs for one family, when there are so many deserving job candidates desperate for just ONE job offer?  Either take the job, or don’t.  Suck it up, or move on. 
  3. The reputation of our department will suffer if we hire someone who didn’t survive the rigors of a national or international open search.
  4. (Your turn–to agree, disagree, or add to this list.)

UPDATE, later this morning:  Uncharacteristically, I forgot to mention that we’ve got a session that will I’m sure discuss partner and spousal hires at the upcoming Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which meets this June 12-15 at the University of Minnesota.  (Details here, and program here.)  The roundtable is called “DUAL CAREERS IN ACADEMIA: CHALLENGES, EXPERIENCES, AND STRATEGIES,” and features Laura L. Lovett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “A Campus of One’s Own: The Costs and Benefits of Dual Careers;” Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University, on “Two Historians in the Family;” Eve Weinbaum, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “Union Responses to Work and Family Issues;” and Andrea Davies Henderson, Stanford University, on “Dual-Career Academic Couples.”  Come on down and join the party in Minneapolis, if you can!

Memorial Day, Jungle OR edition

While out running yesterday afternoon, I chanced to hear the first hour of Bob Edwards Weekend, which featured stories from the fortieth reunion of the Navy’s Third Medical Battalion in Vietnam.  What great luck–two of my personal and professional interests (war and medicine) in a modern history context.  These guys lived a kind of daily horror that was played for laughs by M.A.S.H.  This audio documentary is definitely not the sitcom version, so be forewarned.  The story of twentieth-century warfare really is a Spy Vs. Spy drama, in which scientists and engineers devise better and more efficient ways of killing people, while at the same time scientists and physicians devise better and more efficient ways of saving people’s lives.

Don’t miss the story about the homemade defibrillator, depicted at right.  Wowza!  You can download the weekend podcast for free here.  See the photo gallery here, with photos from Dong Ha and China Beach, as well as pictures from the fortieth reunion in Charleston, S.C. earlier this month.  The men in these stories did incredible, lifesaving work in an impossibly deadly war zone, and they speak frankly about the dissociative mental state they had to cultivate in order to do their work.  The freshness of this audio documentary is in part due to the fact that these men haven’t discussed these events or told these stories until now, forty years later.