Thursday, October 4, 2007

If you blog it....

...they will NOT come! Nope. Uh-uh. Not even close. They will drop the ball.

Murphy's Law of Blogging:
The second that you talk about how good (of a little odd at times) your students are, they suck the next class!

And they have no excuse. Absolutely none. And there's no rhyme or reason to it.

I remembered today that I am applying for a job - the one that's at Dutchman U. I was reminded of this because TD's chair went to talk to the chair of that department to discuss my candidacy and to inform them that TD's departure might be imminent, i.e. they could lose him (which they don't want to do, of course). There's a *very* different hiring structure in place in TD's field (which is a social science). While they have a national conference (similar to our MLA) where they interview job candidates, if they find someone they like who's slightly more advanced - even a year or two - they will fly them out whenever they want and offer them a job if they like them. TD is actually reaping the benefits of this hiring system when he comes out for his (oh-please-dear-gods-and-demigods--let-it-be-successful) job talk at Neighoring U at the end of November.

Last year when I was on the market and it was looking pretty likely that I would be leaving Dutchman U, I had to field a lot of incredulous looks and questions from TD's colleagues. Some of them were slightly infuriating and chauvinist, like: "but TD is here now...you guys are here now!" And of course, I replied: "I am not fully here unless I have job security and am not wasting my fucking Ph.D. teaching shit I'm not trained to teach!" (but I put it in a nicer way...) These comments were always from men with stay-at-home wives or wives who weren't able to get teaching jobs yet still stayed with their husbands. (I should also mention here that I actually like 96% of TD's colleagues, but his field is still pretty conventionally male-populated with portable spouses). But I also felt like I needed to defend how my humanities department does its hiring. TD's colleagues kept saying, "but we don't understand...you're a good teacher and a good scholar. Why don't they just hire you?" I'm like, "because there's not a t-t line open in my field and they can't/won't create one out of thin air just to keep little junior faculty me on the books!" Sigh.

So goes the background. This year, however, the case is slightly different: there is a t-t line open in my field (and there are now 2 separate spouses of t-t faculty at DU who are bucking for the position - Holy Conundrums, Batman!). So, TD's chair went to discuss my candidacy with my former chair. I told them what he would say (which is: MW is more than welcome to submit an application for this position - indeed we look forward to reading it - but we will be conducting a full international search and cannot make any promises at this time), but TD's people scoffed a bit and said, "Nah! We're going to see what we can work out! If money's an issue, we can try to get around that". I just sighed again and let them do whatever.

I have this vision of TD's chair going into this meeting with his finger guns out and blazing and winking and saying, "let's make a deal!" - and of course, my former chair said exactly what I knew he'd say. He wasn't rude - he was just matter of fact. I'm not a superstar and I'm by no means an inside candidate because there are 25 of me just as well trained and probably even better published and committeed and they're all shooting for this particular star!

So, TD's chair was unhappy about how unyielding things seemed and TD said, "I guess this really might not work out, huh? I guess I really do need to throw all my energies into trying to get the position at Neighboring U" (which they actually seem excited about wanting to give him!)

I'm not sure whether to cry or laugh - I realized that when I told him that he would be a helluva lot more portable than I am that he really didn't believe that until now. It's so frustrating and tedious to have to explain things over and over again - did they think I was lying? Or being deliberately obtuse? Or are they really just that sheltered? It has struck home a lot recently and I've been reminded about how truly archaic a lot of academia is. It's not just that the two-body problem is only now being addressed by most schools (and even then, lots of places don't give a rat's ass). It's that for so many departments and universities/colleges, they haven't a fucking clue!

Wives follow husbands. That simple.

It's not that the Dutchman would ever really think that way if I put the question to him like that. It's just that he's become a bit complacent because he's now happily ensconced in a department that insulates their men and makes them think it's easy to balance their work and personal life. That annoys me more than anything. I have to periodically drag him into the light and force him to look at the reality and each time he blinks like he's never seen anything before. It's all new to him and it fucking-well shouldn't be.

Whoa. This turned into a rant and I didn't even mean to go there. I just had some things on my chest that I needed to get off. It's also one of the reasons why I don't like to be reminded that I need to apply for this job...

8 comments:

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Ugh. That is completely frustrating. I would be tearing my hair out. Actually, I think I'd be throwing something at someone! Amazing how much difference the gender dynamics in different disciplines still makes. :-P

HeoCwaeth said...

This is slightly tangential now, but maybe I'll be able to create a lovely tie-in. Who knows?

This story reminds of the time I was privy to a conversation between an old professor couple at my former grad program. He was blathering about a newer female prof, and how long it took her to get her English Phud, and how he was so much faster than she, etc. Mrs. Prof (who earned her Phud later in life, after working to put Mr. Prof through his Phud program) calmly looked at Mr. Prof and said "Maybe her wife isn't a very good research assistant, housekeeper, childcare worker, and typist."

OK, that doesn't speak to portability at all. But it does speak to the reality that many men, even well-meaning men, really have no idea how much other people contribute to the scaffolding underneath their "personal" achievements.

Also, social scientists have cooties!

That is all.

squadratomagico said...

I really like this post -- you do such a good job of pointing out two different overlapping entitlements. On the one hand, people in this field are used to just making an offer, throwing money at the person, and getting what they want without all the complicated hiring processes that we in the humanities insist upon. And on the other hand, it's a male-dominated field that expects women to submit to male career needs and advancements, even without fully articulating that expectation. You do such a good job of showing that!

Wouldn't you love to see The Dutchman's colleagues' faces when (I'm gonna insist on being positive here) he tells them he's leaving to move to yourcity?

Dr. Virago said...

Oh I totally know what field TD must be in now. Well, maybe it could be others, but the one I'm thinking of tends to exist in its own universe at just about every university.

Anyway, as Squadratomagico said, your post does a lovely job at getting at two overlapping problems here. Clearly the generally narrow way of looking at things and the unthinking sexism are deeply interrelated.

And I would add that it's not just that we folks in the humanities *like* to do searches the way we do them, but given the limited resources we have at most universities, we *must* do it that way. Unlike TD's discipline, we can't just go around saying, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to hire so-and-so -- so let's do it!" We generally have to apply for and justify and freakin' beg for the tenure line first.

medieval woman said...

Thanks for all your comments on this! It always feels so good to know that we're all on the same page - even if certain departments on this planet aren't living in our reality! At least I know I'm not taking crazy pills...

The thing about the position at Neighboring U is that if TD got it, he wouldn't *technically* be a spousal hire - he might have come to their attention early because there's a spousal connection in the state uni system, but they are already hiring in his field - so this is just fortuitous! And unless I got the job at Dutchman U on my own steam (i.e., without the pressure of his Chair's winking and finger guns) I would *always* be a spousal hire. For a lot of people who know the drill that's not a big thing, but for a helluva lotta people it actually is!

What Now? said...

I just had to explain to a friend for about the millionth time why I can't just get a job at the local (prestigious) SLAC if I get tired of teaching high school. And what I realized in this particular iteration of the same old conversation was that she seemed to think I was suffering from low self-esteem or was being unnecessarily (and maybe even annoyingly) self-deprecating, and so the only thing in the way of my getting that job was my own hangups. She really just cannot seem to understand that I can't just call up the school (which is not hiring in my field this year) and tell them that I'm available and immediately get the job. In a way, it's sweet -- she's so convinced that I'm fabulous that anyone would want me, and she offered to call a friend of hers who works at this SLAC, because with her personal recommendation I would surely get the job -- but it's also incredibly frustrating to have to explain the same thing over and over and over again.

medieval woman said...

WN, I know what you mean! My mom had the same reaction (frustration at my self-deprecation) when I told her that I couldn't get a job at my grad institution! She kept saying, why not? Why are you selling yourself short! Finally, when I explained to her why, she still looked doubtful.

Argh!

Dr. Virago said...

Oh yes, I know the frustration of which WN speaks. When I was a lecturer at my PhD institution before getting the TT job, the undergrads in my classes kept asking, "Why are you leaving? Why don't you stay here?" and one was so angry that the department wouldn't just hire someone so clearly fabulous that she was going to go to chair up in arms about it. Oh. My. God. That would've been so embarrassing! So I pinned her down (not literally) and tried to explain how it worked. But she didn't get it. So finally, I said, I don't *want* to stay here (which was pretty true -- I really wanted to get out of that city) and if she went to the chair she'd be interfering with my desires. Oy.

And my dad (who gets everything confused, admittedly) kept saying over and over to me that he had a fraternity brother who was president of regional comprehensive university in home state, and that if I couldn't get a job elsewhere, all he had to do was call frat bro and call in a favor. In that case, not only did I have to explain over and over that that wasn't how it worked, nor even if the pres could make it happen would I want him to force me onto a department who might resent me and not tenure me, but also that HSRCU was in a location that would make me pretty much suicidally miserable, and so no thanks.

Oy.