It’s time. I’m signing off as permanent member of the Duck of Minerva after seven (7!?!) years of blogging. The experience has helped shape me as a professional, writer, and member of the IR and online communities. I began blogging during my first nervous year as an academic and continued through to the current realisation that I’m now a *youthful* mid-career scholar. My posts have covered a very wide range of topics, including ebola, Anthony Weiner’s first set of dick picks, women and combat in the US military, and the parallels between police and military racism and brutal tactics. I’m most proud of my posts on feminism, sexism, and surviving academia as a woman and as a parent. I’m grateful that Charli Carpenter asked me to be part of the Duck team in 2009 and for the many exchanges with fellow bloggers and readers over the years. Through it all, blogging has given me a few things. In no particular order:
- Blogging made me realise I’m not alone: I often blog about aspects of the profession I find bamboozling, including conferences, hiring processes, the casualisation of teaching, and finishing a damn book. The response to several posts- particularly about early career, parenting, and work/life balance- made me realise I wasn’t the only one sitting in on hiring processes thinking ‘oh, mediocre men really do beat out successful women…a lot.’ I wasn’t the only one attending conferences with a baby strapped to me, leaky boobs, and sleep deprivation so wild I would have amputated a leg for three straight hours of sleep. And I wasn’t the only one wondering when I would be taken seriously as an expert in international relations. This sense of community has changed my experience of being an academic entirely for the better.
- Blogging made me a better writer: Oh the agony of writing! The way that I wrote my PhD was so excruciating that it often felt like there were IV lines attached from my body to the computer: each day of writing drained me until I had nothing left, and I submitted. That’s not exactly a sustainable approach, is it? Blogging has taught me to have fun with writing. To be light, to make editing errors (many), and to just get an idea OUT THERE and not agonise over it. What freedom!! My enjoyment of writing has increased exponentially because of blogging. I let go of being perfect, I laugh at old posts that I now disagree with or that I could have written better.
- Blogging has given me thick skin: It goes without saying, but blogging requires think skin. To be fair, my experience has largely been positive and most people reading the Duck leave interesting or positive comments. And, frankly, sometimes I have written things that readers had every right to question or push me on. But, trolling, anonymous jabs, and a boat-load of mansplaining have been a part of blogging. I remember the first couple of times I received negative or trolling comments to a post in the early days. Some comments would literally keep me up at night. I’d think about how best to respond or how I could have done a better job getting my point across. But after seven years of pretty regular critique and trolling, it just doesn’t stick anymore (mostly). This has translated into the rest of my life. I lump negative comments with nasty (unfair) reviewers, twitter trolls, and that guy in the ISA audience who said I just didn’t understand how the military works. These are folks who aren’t trying to provide critical feedback, they are trying to say: ‘hey, it’s not that I disagree with what you are saying, I just don’t like how you are saying it, or the fact that you are saying it with such confidence.’ I do like a good back and forth with trolls once in a while (who doesn’t?), but mostly I’ve learned that online, and in person, the best way to deal with mansplaining, or other efforts to put me in my place is the smile emoji. :) I heard once that Katy Perry signed her divorce papers with the smile emoji and it changed how I felt about her entirely.
- Blogging made me realise the value of being nice: Academia is a small world and, more importantly, life is just to short to get nasty, to gossip, or to deliberately try to undermine someone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve often loved a good gossip session, and I’ve said and written things I wish I could take back. But over time and through my interactions and writing I’ve realised A) most gossip is toxic for everyone, and it only makes the gossiper look like an ass B) everyone is usually trying their best, and you never know what’s going on in someone’s private life- so go easy at conferences, in the comments section, in the hallways, and on twitter C) keeping my head above petty debates (online and in the office) and producing ideas and work that are interesting and mean something to me is the only sustainable academic strategy I’ve found.
I’m sure I’ll pop in as a guest from time to time. For now, thank you and farewell!
The following is a guest post by Rachel Merriman-Goldring, Susan Nelson, Hannah S. Petrie at William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations.
For decades, survey research has suggested that women lack confidence in their answers, responding ‘don’t know’ or ‘maybe’ at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Initially, this trend on political surveys was attributed to topic-specific political knowledge gaps between men and women.
However, recent research, including a study on the confidence gap between male and female economists, suggests that, while background knowledge matters, other structural factors, including gender-differentiated socialization, may contribute to women’s tendency to select ‘don’t know.’
Sorry, faithful Duck readers, for the radio silence – I’ve been traveling for much of the last month and then – ugh – just started teaching a daily undergrad class. I promise – real blog posts are coming! In the meantime, I wanted to fill you in on some information I’ve been digesting in the last month. The information should be enough for all of us to “rant” about.
It’s that time of year again: the magical time when my 10 page undergraduate research proposal deadline is enough to cause a health scare among the geriatric population of mid-Missouri. As the semester comes to a close, my office is typically filled with both undergrads and grads coming to tell me a plethora of problems and stories. Many times, these problems preface a request for an extension of some sort. Can I please have an extra week? An extra day? An extra 20 minutes?
Academics are generally pretty lucky when it comes to parental leave- at least on paper. Many universities provide more leave than the minimum required by governments (so more than nothing in the US), yet there are several aspects of our careers that cause parental leave erosion. I should say from the outset that I had a generally supportive and positive experience while on leave last year, but I’ve also found several sources of leave erosion. *I acknowledge that there are many different types of parents taking parental leave, and I’m mainly drawing on my experience, or those of close friends in the field. I’d love to hear other experiences.
1. Pre-leave ‘make up’ work: This is a typical scenario: parents learn they are expecting, figure out when they are taking leave, and start working overtime to get ‘extra’ things done before the leave. In some ways this is understandable; it makes sense to want to wrap things up, tick things off a list etc before baby arrives. However, the idea that we need to work extra hard so that the parental leave doesn’t ‘put us behind’ or give some kind of disadvantage places unrealistic expectations on parents. Doing more work before your leave also means you (and your colleagues) treat your parental leave as a reshuffling of work, rather than time away from work. This kind of extra stress is the last thing that parents-to-be need, especially since pregnancy can be really terrible. You might be flat on your back trying to hold down any type of sustenance rather than writing your opus in the 8th month- and that’s ok. Parents don’t need to ‘earn’ their leave- and working extra, taking on extra roles etc before baby arrives means you donate time to the university and treat the arrival of the baby as the ‘finish line’ rather than the starting gate.
2. Parental leave free labor: I blame sabbaticals for this. While on sabbatical staff that are ‘away’ are still expected to respond to emails (even if it is slowly) and somewhat maintain their visibility and roles in the department. But parental leave is, and should be, different: parents take it because they have a new baby, not because they are focusing more of their attention to one aspect of their job. Also, most parental leave involves a pay reduction- so from a purely economic sense, parents are not getting paid to do their job anymore, they are paid to be parents, on leave. But that’s not reality. Most parents on leave end up responding to emails, doing copy edits on articles/books that are in the publication pipeline, writing reference letters, providing annual reports to funders, giving advice or feedback to grad students, and maybe even reviewing. These are tasks that one is almost obliged to do in order to sustain a minimum lifeline as an academic, but it is UNPAID LABOR. Continue reading
Like any good protestant preacher, I’ve decided to start a multi-week series where we can examine a topic in depth from multiple angles. My chosen topic: women in academia. This is a topic that has been written on extensively in peer-reviewed articles and on the blogosphere (see The Monkey Cage’s wonderful discussion for a recent summary). However, to my knowledge, most of those writing on the topic have been senior: the perspective of a woman “in the trenches” (ie junior) has been somewhat missing in the discussion. I want to add my two-cents to the discussion and I’ve purposely decided to make the tone of this discussion somewhat light. Yet, make no mistake, I’m very aware that there are some very nasty, horrible, and life-altering components to this topic. Maybe one day I’ll talk about those aspects as well.
Anywho – with an eye towards making the tone somewhat light, I’ve decided to title this series “An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week” – this is a nod to Jo Dee Messina’s song “A Woman’s Rant,” which I love. My first rant: academic titles and gendered (mis)perceptions.
As I post this today, senior faculty in my department are voting on my tenure case. I don’t really know how to describe what I’m feeling at the moment. It’s a combination of zen-like calm that I’m finally at this juncture in my career and a feeling of total and utter panic at the small-but-ever-present chance that things could go wrong. The odd thing: it’s not that I’m oscillating between these two states -I feel both at the same time. In a very real way, I’m Schrödinger’s cat: although I can’t be both tenured and denied at this university – at this very moment – I’m both.
This is a guest post by Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, Professor and Department Chair of Political Science at the University of Iowa.
In my previous post, I discussed some problems women face when networking in political science. Here I focus on the progress we have made.
As a quantitative conflict scholar, I spend a great deal of time networking in several male-dominated research communities, including the Peace Science Society, the ISA SSIP section, the APSA Conflict Processes section, and the Society for Political Methodology. I first presented at a Peace Science meeting in 1996, being one female of 9 at the conference out of 66 participants. I attended my first Political Methodology summer conference in 1994 and was one of 9 women out of 50 participants. A healthy ego combined with enjoyment of traditionally male things such as drinking, gambling, and sports eased my own integration into these communities. Yet I attended many presentations by smart women in both organizations who soon afterwards made decisions to exit the groups or leave the profession. This included the female co-chair of my dissertation committee, two female students at Michigan State who graduated ahead of me and got jobs in top 25 ranked programs, and several women from other top institutions. Continue reading
In between making organic cupcakes for my daughters’ school, completing a grant application, tending my organic vegetables, and finishing an R&R for a journal, I came across this little gem of a working paper (thanks to Freakonomics Blog). This new research shows the following:
“Couples where the wife earns more than the husband are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce. Finally, based on time use surveys, the gender gap in non-market work is larger if the wife earns more than the husband” (abstract).