Lindsay (dragonzuela) wrote,

feminism/misogyny in academia

I recently read a feminist article that powerleca and arxev linked on Facebook, and so naturally today when I was given a 1980's/90's guide for female professors my response was to think about it critically. (The person who gave it to me said it was 20 years old (did housekeeping cost $10-$15/hour in 1989?) and said it was good for a laugh as well as providing useful information.) I apologize for any typos in transcribing it, as I am a bit sleep-deprived.


  1. MENTORS What is most important is that you have someone who will support you. Mentors, if they understand their role, are committed to your success, so choose the most highly respected and compatible mentor you can. You don't need advice as much as you need halltalk that says how good you are.

  2. HALLTALK This is an important part of academia. Halltalk combines the most exciting ideas in one's field with the latest gossip. Up to date information about both is required for success. Do not fail in this important activity. Do not describe your failures, describe your successes or if you do not have any, describe your ideas. One of the most favored topics of hall talk is how some woman is having trouble. Do not provide grist for this mill.

  3. COMMITTEES You may be advised to say no to committee assignments. Wrong. Because you are a woman you may have a wide choice of committees to join. This is good. Do not be insulted if you're the token woman. Take advantage of it. Carefully join committees that do not require too much work, but that interest you.

  4. GRADUATE STUDENTS Do not be concerned about graduate students at first. A successful program attracts the best graduate students so get a good research program off the ground before anything else.

  5. RESEARCH PROGRAM To have a good research program you need focus (no problem), good ideas (no problem), funding (next subject) and good technical assistance (subject after next).

  6. FUNDING USDA and NSF competitive grants are not easily obtained by new faculty. Positions in [College X] were proposed because there was a need, often an industry need. Take advantage of industry funds. Find out what the industry problems are. Select problems that you can solve (this sometimes requires several pilot trials) and write and present grant proposals. Success is especially important at first to make your reputation. I have been told that there are numerous grants and fellowships just for women. Someone should check this out or squelch the rumor.

  7. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE This is the most important factor in your success apart from halltalk. Use any funds you can get to hire smart and loyal help. Treat them as if they were the most valuable part of your program, because they are. They give you the freedom you need to be successful. They are the foundation of you lab group, they set the tone, the work habits et. Do not hire a hand-me-down. Do not compromise. If you funds only allow for a student hourly, hire a student spouse, instead of a student. If you are going to hire a student, hire a work-study student, but competition is stiff so you have to advertise that your lab provides the chance of a lifetime etc. If you are fortunate enough to have funds for more than one person, provide your assistant with help.

  8. COOPERATIVE RESEARCH Do it. You have an expertise your colleagues do not have, otherwise you would not have been hired. Take advantage of your position and collaborate. Whoever writes the paper is the first author. Take advantage of it. Your colleagues do not need papers as badly as you do. In cooperative research, make sure each person's responsibilities are spelled out beforehand and make sure they're spelled out all the way to who writes the paper. Cooperative research can be this wonderful opportunity to efficiently undertake research covering more than one area or it can be a frustrating, halltalk issue. Do not lose interest part way through unless you are prepared to explain yourself.

  9. PUBLICATIONS Nothing new here. The more refereed publications you have the better your chances for tenure. First, publish your dissertation and/or post-doctoral work. Then make a list of the titles of your next 4 papers and work towards it. A list of about 8 should include those in press, those submitted, those being written, those being researched and those just dreamed of. At least once, but no more than 3 times, write an invited chapter or an unrefereed paper that does not serve dual purpose i.e. grant report/pub or lit review/pub. An invited chapter indicates to your peers that you are respected in your field. Actually it indicates that you are willing to pay the dues to be a member of your field.

  10. TEACHING Make it known that you love teaching and then avoid it as long as you can. Choose a course that will be easy for you. Boredom is not an issue in the first decade at [University Y].

  11. BOSSES Your department chair is your boss. He (usually) can tell you what to do and you have little flexibility in response. Arguing that your talents might be better used organizing the department seminar series instead of chairing the Christmas party will not work. Everyone is required to undertake several unpleasant tasks. Delegate as much as possible and smile.

  12. CRYING Do not - in public - unless there has been a death in the family.

  13. FEMALE COLLEAGUES Enjoy your female colleagues and do not backstab. The least we can do for women's rights is to help not hinder each other.

  14. RELATIONSHIPS Some people will like and admire you, others will find you too aggressive or too much of a pushover. There's no pleasing everyone so do not even try. As for dating, flirting, lusting and all that, don't, or do it in private.

  15. SCHEDULE The more hours you work the more successful you will be.

  16. CHILDREN There is never a right time to have children so go ahead and do it whenever you are so blessed. It often puts priorities in order, over and over again.

  17. TENURE This is an old fashioned ritual that has little place in the modern university but no one with tenure is going to vote against it (for good reason). So with luck it will continue another few decades.

  18. WOMEN'S RIGHTS Women have rights just like anyone else. Sometimes we have more rights. A favorite assumption of your male colleagues is that you got the job, tenure, etc. because you are a woman. So you might as well take advantage of these unfair opportunities when (if) they exist.

  19. ORDER OF AUTHORSHIP First author writes the paper. Second and third author did most of the work. Last author did very little but is head of the group, got the money, or encouraged the others (or thinks that the last place is most prestigious and people will think he is head of the group and got the money etc.). Other authors are your friends or people you would like to have as friends. Your position on alphabetizing authorship depends on your name.

  20. DEPARTMENT AND OTHER MEETINGS Do not start every comment with "I may be ignorant but..." or "I really don't know what I'm talking about but..." The major thing to be concerned with at department meeting is, if you do want to add something to the discussion, that you will be heard. Because of our voices (high pitched, whiny and/or schoolmarmish) or because growing up means learning how to tune out your mother's voice, people will tend not to hear you. This can be fun. You propose an idea and then time how long it will take for someone else to say the same thing.

  21. PMS This is a fictional condition. Never admit to it.

  22. MENOPAUSE, OLD AGE, MEMORY LOSS Other fictional conditions.

  23. SECRETARIES This is a difficult subject. I think you have to bring flowers, and Christmas presents to get favors, but secretaries are as diverse as we are (even more so because sometimes they are male) so generalities rarely apply.

  24. ORGANIZATION Keep three files: "Research", "Teaching", and "Service". This is the outline of your tenure document. Fillup the files in order.

  25. HOMEMAKING If you are a lousy housekeeper and need to maintain a positive relationship with a housemate, hire a housekeeper. Many of the most interesting and creative people in [College town Z] do a spell as housekeepers, $10-$15 per hour, before going on to better things. There is even a service in [College town Z] now, sort of like meals-on-wheels, for the working family. $14.00 brings you a delicious healthy meal for two, dropped off at your house in time for dinner.

  26. OTHER RULES Never admit to your male colleagues that some female colleague is driving you crazy. They expect women to have trouble getting along with each other, citing things like how in the girl's dorm, the girls are always fighting (but what do you expect with a whole girl's dorm synchronized to fictitious conditions), whereas in the boy's dorm, the boys just talk straight, punch each other out, and get on with more important things. We can do that too


It is nice at least that the tone of this handout is encouraging and empowering. It also provides some good gender-neutral advice regarding academia. However, it is unfortunate that it basically tells women that they have to act like men in order to be successful. For example, tip #2 involves concealing one's problems in favor of putting up the image that one is successful and on top of things. It is natural for most women to want to discuss their troubles. This is very therapeutic for us, even if we only get sympathy and no concrete advice. I get the impression that most men prefer to deal with their problems on their own for the sake of keeping up a strong image. That is okay. But if you ask a woman to do that, you are creating an emotional timebomb. Maybe you can't tell your coworkers about your frustrations, but you better darn well be able to tell someone.

Don't cry in public... did I miss something? Did women used to do this all the time? I guess we're prone to crying publicly just like we're prone to backstabbing each other. But if we overcome our inferior female urges, we can prevail.

PMS and menopause are not "fictional." I'm pretty sure those are medically documented. Even when hormones control our emotions, we still have the ability to control our actions. So yes, I agree that it's not a good idea to go around screaming at people and then telling them it's not your fault because you have PMS. But personally, I need to be able to at least tell myself that I have PMS (or sleep deprivation, exhaustion, dehydration...). If I know that my despair, for example, is probably caused by a biological condition rather than my situation, I know that I should continue to act optimistically despite my emotion.

And now, the double standard! Tip #20: Being ignored because you're a woman "can be fun."

(It turns out that there were two #14's, but since I made an html ordered list I just changed my comments to refer to the new numbers instead.)

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