Weekend roundup: Operation crashdown edition

Bottoms up!

Howdy, howdy, howdy!  I’m posting from my not-so-undisclosed ski holiday location this morning.  I fell down a lot yesterday, which I’m choosing to interpret as a sign of my increasing confidence.  I’m much less afraid to fall than I was in the past, and putting yourself in conditions in which you might fail is the only way to learn new skills, right?  I’m thinking that there’s a lesson for my professional life in all of this. . . .

You may not believe me–I wish I had a video to prove it–but I went down a ski cross course yesterday, and I only fell down once or twice!  It’s true.  Ski cross was my favorite Olympic sport last year–it’s the one in which four to six skiers race down a steep, twisty course with all kinds of jumps on it–it’s pretty much Roller Derby downhill on skis.  Now, I’m not saying that this ski cross course was at all like the one in the Olympics or the X Games, and I never caught big air (or any air at all), but it was a ski cross course!  I went up a big bump, and down; up a big bump, and down (still upright); up a big bump and down (still upright!); up a big bump and then omigodthere’sasteepsharprightturninthetrack so I intentionally put myself down to the left into a comfy snow drift.  Ahhhh!

In case you can’t remember exactly what ski cross–also called skiier cross–is, here’s a reminder.

I continued to fall down a lot yesterday, especially after lunch, but it was good:  I learned to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again, all by myself!  That’s actually a pretty big deal for me, because unlike most other skiers at my level, I weigh more than 40 or 50 pounds and have a lower center of gravity than most grade-school children.

Since this is a roundup, I’ve got some linky goodness for you all.  Here are some interesting articles for your sleepy Sunday afternoon reading pleasure:

  • Katherine Wentworth Rinne writes about her decision in 1992 to leave academia behind for a life as an independent scholar (h/t to reader and commenter Indyanna for this one.)  She doesn’t describe the “push” factors in her choice to resign a faculty position at the University of Arkansas, just the “pull” factors, so we can’t say that her position was either stable or personally and professionally supportive.  Rinne is quite up front about the financial consequences for her independent life–and they’re not happy in my view.  In the end, I can’t help thinking that she would have published her book (just out last month at Yale University Press) faster had she stayed in academia (if that were an option for her–we don’t know.)  In other words, for all but a few superstar public intellectuals, institutional affiliation (not to mention a salary, health insurance, and TIAA-CREF) woud seem to be a good thing.  I don’t believe that we have to quit our day jobs in order to reach audiences interested in our scholarship–and in our day jobs, we are educating part of that audience to appreciate our research.
  • Dr. Crazy has a nice recent post on the rhetoric of budget austerity:  “The money does have to come from somewhere.  We all know that.  But let’s not pretend that belt-tightening in itself is a moral good, that fiscal conservatism is the path to heaven, that budgetary decisions are not motivated by ideology.  Let’s not pretend that conservatism equals realism and liberalism equals magical thinking. Let’s not pretend that we won’t get exactly what we pay for if we continue down this path at the federal and state levels.”  Another thing that I notice about this world in which raising taxes is verboten:  those of us who are public employees are always discussed as though we are not taxpayers and citizens too.  We’ve been rhetorically reduced to “welfare queens” sucking at the public teat” as though our work has no value, as though we’re not paying our freight, and as though we are not citizens of the body politic. 
  • I’ve read through this article by Frances Kissling twice about what the pro-choice movement needs to do in order to save itself, but 1) I can’t see where her prescriptions are likely to help save our reproductive rights, and 2) her call to ask the state to do more for pregnant women and mothers is coming at exactly the wrong moment in our history.  (Talk about a pipe dream–that’s a hash pipe dream, friends.)  Don’t get me wrong here–Kissling is right that the professional pro-choicers are on the wrong track, but it’s not for the reasons she suggests.  Please tell me if I’m missing something important, but I just don’t think that saying that late term abortions are bad bad tragic awful and horrible and should never happen is a winning message.  (Evidence, please?)

Here’s my idea for pro-choicers:  what worked for the movement to decriminalize abortion in the 1960s were appeals to emotion based on real women’s experiences.  For too long, the professional pro-choicers have thought abortion advocacy is an intellectual proposition rather than an emotional one, and for too long, women have been acquiescent in our silence while the forced pregnancy crowd has effectively and freely used emotion to erase the human incubators of fetuses to make abortion all about the murder of cuddly little babies.  Telling stories like U.S. Reps Gwen Moore and Jackie Speier did on the floor of the House of Representatives last Thursday night, in newspapers and magazines, on television and blogs, etc., is a lot likelier to move the needle on reproductive choice. 

Think about it:  Abolitionists wrote tirelessly about the injustice of slavery and the evils it perpetuated among white and black Americans alike, but Harriet Beecher Stowe’s dramatic rendering of Eliza’s escape with little Harry across the semi-frozen Ohio River did a lot more to put free readers in the mind of the enslaved mother and her heroic determination not to let her master sell her little boy away from her.  I think some ugly stories about women bleeding out and nearly (or actually) dying as their physicians sought a non-Catholic hospital, and stories about women forced to endure a stillbirth or horrific, life-threatening late-term miscarriage (for example) might wake people up to the stupidity of permitting state control over our lives and bodies.  Because the truth is that if you are a heterosexual woman, it really could happen to you, too.

0 thoughts on “Weekend roundup: Operation crashdown edition

  1. Was Katherine Rinne previously an architect? Is that why she is so sure she could have a “high-five- or low- six-figure professional position”? I live in town of 30,000 people; my geographic mobility is limited. Outside of the educational institutions in the area, I don’t really know where, as a Ph.D. in history, I would find a job with that kind of salary. Over fifteen years ago I realized there weren’t any jobs for all the over educated women in the area. I went back to school and became a nurse.


  2. Amy–I don’t know about her background. I think you’re right that without further training/retraining, one’s professional options are pretty limited. (At least, I don’t know of any humanities Ph.D.s who have left academia and are happily pulling down $85-200,000 a year.)


  3. We’ve been rhetorically reduced to ”welfare queens” “sucking at the public teat” as though our work has no value, as though we’re not paying our freight, and as though we are not citizens of the body politic.

    This is very predictable behavior of the greedy ignorant emotional and intellectual slobs exploited by far-right-wing propaganda. The things the government does for *them* and that they can see very clearly with their own eyes despite their gross ignorance and cognitive deficits–such as pave roads, pay for and run police and fire departments, pay for and run the military, etc–are “essential government services” that should never be cut. The things that the government does for *other people*, or whose benefits even to themselves they are too fucken irredeemably pig-ignorant to be aware of (this is where education and research come in), are “sucking at the public teat”.


  4. I do know humanities PhDs who have left academia and make in the low 6 figures … a fancy tech writer is one; another does market research for big firms; the PhD actually did help them get these jobs because of the heavy research skills you do get from being a PhD. One left post tenure, out of desire to live in LA/NY; the other left after getting PhD, went into business in SF out of need to pay student loans and also desire to live in a city. Neither had time to continue with scholarship in the end, although both had intended to.


  5. ??? Her life story sounds very odd. The independent scholar’s, I mean. How did she make so much money at her original job, in Fayetteville, AR? They just don’t pay that well and didn’t in the 90s either. And all that house sitting sounds unpleasant. It seems, too, that the people with jobs she knows are VERY well paid … dreaming of new cars and exotic vacations as opposed to Guggenheims? Professors would be thinking of the Guggenheim…


  6. I agree with you that now is not the time to pussyfoot about why access to abortion and the entire range of reproductive health services matter. And they matter dearly!

    The stories from the representatives that you linked were very intense and affective. I’d like to hope they were also effective but with these ideologues on the opposite side, devoted to thinking of women as chattel? I doubt it.

    Let us remind people how horrific the outcomes were in the days of old and how they still are now since so many American women are effectively without access to reproductive health services and abortions. What affects them also spills over to Canada since we especially rely on the U.S. as a provider of late-term (very specialized) care although we should think about that dangerous dependency!


  7. The perils of losing access to abortion (and according to my news feed, the “forcible” rape distinction is back in the proposed House bill to restrict abortion funding) is not just a heterosexual issue. I’d hate to have to make the decision to have an abortion or not, but just being gay doesn’t mean I wouldn’t ever have to.

    Otherwise, yes, exactly what you said. Dems need to stop letting others frame the story.


  8. Hi, I didn’t realize that my article in the NY Times on being an Independent Scholar had garnered so much interest. I thought I might make a quick response to some points that were brought up.

    1) There were no “push” factors in my decision. I taught architecture full-time at U. of Ark and made about $30,000 a year. I liked them and they like me. Teaching architecture (20 contact hours per week plus all the usual stuff) didn’t allow much time for research.

    2) I needed to live in Rome to do the research – and no school will give a faculty member several years off to do research. I really did need to quit my day job.

    3) I had to learn Italian. Oh, and I don’t have a PhD. Nor do I have a trust fund, etc.

    4) The book is one part of an on-going web project which is a history of water infrastructure and urban development in Rome from Romulus and Remus to the present day. The web project has been public since 1999 by U of Virginia.

    5) It took about 3 years to write the book. I also had to learn how to write well. How many architects know how to do that?

    6) I would love all the perks that come with a real job and I miss not having them.

    7) If I lived in a town of 30,000 (Fayetteville was about 45,000 when I left) I could live on a lot less money. But I would still have to go to Rome to do my research.

    8) Some of my friends are professors and/or architects. Many of the professors actually make more than the architects. I know several former academics who make hefty salaries.

    9) When I teach, I teach my specialty = urban development, urban history, infrastructure history, design studios, etc. Since I don’t have a PhD I can only teach in an architecture school – however I should point out that for about the last 15 years or so most programs only hire Phd’s, for tenure-track positions, even to teach design studio.

    Thanks for your interest. Please look at my book if you are interested in the subject “The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City.” I think my time was well spent.


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