Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Diversifying Investments

I know nothing about investing.  I am poor as the proverbial church mouse, and a humanities scholar, so this should not come as a surprise.

However, I do know that diversification is a basic principle of investing.  One invests widely, which reduces the risk of loss.  It's the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" principle, and while I can't give investment advice, I can say that it's a sound principle for friendships too.

One of the marvelous things about being single is the opportunity to diversify one's friendships.  This can still be done if one is married, I suppose, but I do think that I have time for friendships I might not otherwise have.  And the diversification is key.  A good friend turned 84 yesterday; my life has been enriched so much by my friendship with him and his wife.  In a culture where we tend -- particularly in the church -- to separate ourselves out by age, it's refreshing to talk to people who are at a different stage of life.  I was thinking about this yesterday as I left work and ran into one of my favorite small children.  A brief conversation with her brightened my day considerably.  And now, as I write this early in the morning, The Archbishop is curled up beside the laptop, purring.  That's friendship too.

Being single is a hard and lonely business, but diversify those friendship investments!  It helps, truly. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The ERA, Again

So remember that post from a while back, about the West Wing and the Equal Rights Amendment? There I discussed the argument given by a West Wing character against the ERA: it is redundant legislation because equal rights for women are already guaranteed under the constitution.

But now I present you with the opposite view. The folks with the ERA Education project argue that women were not granted equal rights constitutionally -- and in fact women were intentionally left out of the constitution. Additionally, even if this equality truly existed in the letter of the law, it certainly does not exist in spirit: there is overwhelming evidence that 21st America remains socially and legislatively biased against women.

Watch this promo for a forthcoming documentary, and see what you think:

Friday, October 11, 2013

E.M. says N.O. to Initials

Dovetailing with L's last post, I want to express first of all my gratitude for these practical suggestions for moving beyond gender bias in academia.  Believe me kids -- this is a real issue, and one I've already experienced after a single year on the job market in a ridiculously competitive field, much to my extreme frustration, shock and anger (not to speak of the psychological toll on my confidence moving forward this year).

So concrete suggestions are great.  But with all due respect to those who favor or ascribe to the following view, the idea of publishing using initials only is a short-sighted, quasi-solution that needs to die.

Everyone's told me to do it at some point-- peers, mentors, senior big-wigs in the field, and even myself: Just use initials on documents, and in that way force a gender-blindness for those reviewing your CV, your publications, your research proposals, whatever.

Using just initials in order to hide gendered names may help us avoid some bias (at least until the reviewers meet us in person, at which point the jig is up), but at what cost?  This: we can never change anything.

The "initials-only" method is a cop-out.  The bias will never be challenged if we hide our gender in this way.  All our fabulous work fails to be attributable to the fabulous women generating it.

I realize that, given the statistics, I am and have been and will continue to lose out in certain ways by attaching my whole, very female name to my academic work.  But dammit, I work hard and with integrity in my scholarship; I stand by it, and I want to initiate long-term, rich interdisciplinary dialogue through it.  So the world and all who live in need to know that this good work belongs to ME, and I am woman.  Hear me roar.

So no, dears. No, no and N.O. I will never publish under initials only.

Let's talk about solutions to gender bias, not evasive maneuvers. Yes there's cost, but in fighting status quo there will always be cost.  Ask yourself: do you want optimal chances at landing a job or getting published here and now?  Or do you want to change things so that someday your students, and your students' students, can publish under their fully female feminine girly flowery lovely beautiful names and not be punished for it?

End game, ladies.  Think end game.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Practical Suggestion

"I've been in academia for 20 years.  During that time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many talented male and female scholars.  I’ve also watched a disproportionate number of the female scholars in this group drop out of grad school, be denied tenure and fail to reach the highest levels of professional success.  As one of the few women who have made it to full professor at an elite research university, I often ask myself, 'Where have all the women gone?'"  Read it all. 

We can discuss whether quantifying citations -- or recording" impact factor" -- is a legitimate way to assess actual scholarly significance.  For a humanities field that relies less on journals than it does on books, this may be a flawed methodology.  We can also discuss whether or not "full professor at an elite research university" is, and should be, the goal of every one who pursues an academic career.  However, well done to B. F. Walter for making a practical, achievable suggestion for a minor policy change that could potentially have very significant results.  

Once upon a time, I submitted a thesis to a university that did blind evaluations.  I was given a number, and the readers had no idea who I was.  I was awarded a very high mark.  Would I have gotten that high mark if the readers had seen my name?