( Full size )
Flowers, from left to right and top to bottom: tomato, sunflower, goldenrod, bachelor's button, buckwheat, jewelweed, goldenrod, radish, aster.
My question today is about academia and/or job opportunities and being single. I am a PhD candidate in a Very Good University in the US, and I will be on the academic job market in a year. I have a very good publication/presentation/committee/topic situation, so I should be doing fairly fine. However, my field is totally dominated by men, mostly from quite conservative countries/cultures. It’s even worse in industry (I have work experience pre-PhD and an internship).
Now, I am absolutely sure I don’t want to get married or have a cohabiting partner or “serious” relationship of any sort. If anything, I identify with relationship anarchy. I am happy like I’ve never been, and I feel like I’m thriving and my best self arises when I am alone and free. I do have many short and long romance stories with like-minded folks who are in the same line of thought, but I don’t have or want any “boyfriend” in the sense that other people seem to want me to have (focused on dating – getting engaged – moving in – marrying).
Usually, in academic conferences, in the informal networking events, or in my department, I get asked when I will be on the market, and if I prioritize going back to my country or staying in the US, this kind of things. I think it’s all fair game and I am thrilled some Big Names in the field show interest in me! But sometimes they ask things such as “will you have a 2-body problem?” or “well, eventually you’ll want to marry, right?” or “our school is in a city with plenty of young men!”. Or more bluntly “how come you are not married yet?” (my age – early 30s – is not a secret). I know those (mostly old, mostly men, mostly conservative) professors may just be trying to be nice(?), but I can tell by the way they look that I don’t fit in what they think is “a good woman” or “a normal person”.
I have told some (younger – some younger than me) professors in my department that I don’t want to marry and they all reply condescendingly “you’ll change your mind!” But they are not the ones who’ll make my hiring decisions (although they’ll write me letters of recommendation) and so I am not that much concerned. What about those from other schools who may want to hire or not hire me a year from now when I am on the market? When I have 5-minute interactions and they ask me topic/advisor/ideal placement/marital status. Should I tell them “I don’t want to marry” and out myself immediately as not-their-idea-of-good-woman? Should I tell them “oh I haven’t found anyone yet” and then lie (or risk that someone will try to set me up – it’s happened before!)? Should I just smile awkwardly and say “I don’t know!”? I also feel that, when I say I don’t want to marry, the person in front of me thinks I am lying. What if I tell them “no, I don’t want to marry, but I do want to have kids and I am very well informed about sperm banks and adoption agencies”. Will this kill forever all my job opportunities because of the single mother stigma?
It’s all a paradox, because they don’t like women because of the whole marriage and maternity thing, but they don’t like it either when women don’t conform to their standards of womanhood (wifehood?).
How can I navigate this? I do want to have a good academic placement but I want to know who won’t be supportive of my lifestyle to avoid their departments. But also, you know, academia is sometimes hard and there isn’t much choice of placement for a candidate. So at this point I mostly want to say something that won’t close all the doors but will make my point clear enough.
Any help will be welcome! Thanks so much!
Future Professor Badass
Dear Future Professor Badass,
As tempting as it would be to say a robotic “That is a sexist question” or give a long rambling Boring Baroque Response involving your theories of Relationship Anarchy whenever this comes up, here is the strategy I actually advise:
Them: “Will you have a two-body problem?” (For people outside of academia, this means will you need the university that wants to recruit you to also factor in a job for your a fellow-professor spouse) or “But surely you intend to marry someday?” (Ugh) or “Good thing there are lots of young men here!”
You: “Thanks for asking. I’m lucky that I don’t have to consider that right now in my search and can just look for the best fit for my work.”
Them: “How come you are not married yet?” (This is a weird, rude question but I too have had older people from outside the US ask me this as if it’s a normal question. Then again, we in the US ask people what they do for a job right away, for this week’s Manners Are Relative reminder).
You: Smile awkwardly and say “I don’t know!“, as you suggest! Or, “It just hasn’t been a priority!” or “Search me!” or “I love being single” or “Has my grandmother been talking to you? It’s a question under much discussion in my family, believe me” or “Haven’t felt like it, I guess!”
Whatever you say, keep it light and vague. The more you can answer calmly and confidently, without apology, the more people will take your cue in how they react.
I know all of this is sexist and invasive and weird and assumes heterosexuality when it should not but the individual people who ask you this think they are being kind and even helpful, especially if they are trying to recruit you to their campus. They want you to be happy and anticipate issues that they might have to work around so that you will want to stay forever at their school. They want to figure out if they have the budget to hire you and a spouse if they want you badly enough. They don’t want you to take the job and then leave in a year because it’s a romantic and sexual wasteland or because there’s no industry in the town except for the university and your (theoretical) partner can’t find work. It can be awkward attempt to mentor you, at least in some cases, so if you can find a way to be vague but positive and deal with the intentions (rather than the effects) of the question it will help you connect.
I wish it were not so, but right now you need a job so someday you can be the colleague who doesn’t ask newcomers these questions (or asks in a way that is actually helpful).
Answer with your vague positive statement, some version of “It’s not my biggest priority right now, which makes me feel very lucky! I have the luxury to just think about finding the right fit for the work I want to do. I know not everyone has that. ”
Then ask them questions about their lives.
- “When you moved to [City Where University Is Located] what was it like to get your bearings?”
- “Any advice for settling in in [City]? Where do the people who love it here shop/eat/hike/live?”
- “Was it a difficult adjustment moving from [Country of Origin] to [City]? What was the biggest surprise?”
- “What are the things about [City] that really make you feel at home?”
- “Were you married when you moved here? How does your spouse like it here? What do they do?”
- “How did you and your spouse meet?”
- “Did you have to deal with a two-body problem? What was that like? How does the university generally deal with those?”
- “What do you remember most from your first year of being a professor here?”
You can turn the conversation to their research or their teaching or questions about the students or the department, too. People like to be asked questions about things they are experts on, and in my experience professors like this even more than most people. Use their weird question as an opportunity to make a human connection and find out more about them as people and the place as a place to live and what you’re getting into. Be remembered as someone pleasant to talk to, focused on her work, and someone who asks good questions and is a good listener.
You’ve got this and you don’t need to make excuses for something that isn’t actually a problem. Good luck in your search.
What I've finished reading since my last post:
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. What I thought would be a fun, tight-knit murder mystery turned out to be a big story covering hundreds of years, major political upheavals, and some thought-provoking ideas about clones. I enjoyed this a lot.
Redshirts by John Scalzi. It was a fun book and made me laugh, but as my first Scalzi novel, I can't say it made me want to read more.
The Thessaly series by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, and Necessity). An interesting series, especially as an exploration of utopia. I never thought I'd read a book that would make me excited about the god Apollo. I found that even though I wasn't enormously taken in by the plots or characters, I couldn't put them down, and I think that's just because the prose is so damn readable. I came to particularly love the character Maia, and was bummed that she wasn't in the last novel.
Lavinia, by Ursula K Le Guin. I've had the e-book for ages, and after I finished The Just City, but before I realised there were two more novels after it, I was in the mood for more Bronze Age fiction. Le Guin's prose is as wonderful as ever, and I loved the use of the device that Lavinia -- and everyone else -- was a character in the Aeneid, not a historical figure. I find Le Guin's tendency toward gender essentialism more annoying than I used to.
The Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton (Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown). Detective noir/political thriller series set in an AU where the UK made peace with the Nazis and the US never joined WWII. In the first book, one of the POV characters is happily married to a man with the same first and last name as Mr. Adjacent, and it was very strange! At several points I thought I'd have to stop reading it because this character was under serious threat and I thought he might die. The end of the series was narratively satisfying but politically annoying. Between this series and the Thessaly series I have read two instances in Walton where the oppressed and their allies basically convinced those in power (or rather, a sympathetic faction of those in power) to stop oppressing them. I'm with Fredrick Douglass on that one.
What I'm currently reading
My Real Children by Jo Walton. Yes, I'm on a kick. I've just started this, but I'm hoping it will be more the intimate, character-driven story that Among Others was. As much as I've enjoyed Walton's books that I've read since then, none of them can hold a candle to that one.
Also, I'm slowly re-reading Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand by Ursula K Le Guin. I read it for the first (and only) time more than 15 years ago, so all I really remember is the overall feel of the book.
What I'll read next
I pre-ordered the new Philip Pullman book, La Belle Sauvage, and it will be arriving in less than a month. I told myself I'd re-read His Dark Materials first. Also, last year I purchased N.K. Jemisin's Obelisk Gate but decided to wait until the third book was out before reading the whole trilogy (including re-reading The Fifth Season). Now the third book is out but I haven't bought it yet. And finally, I have four books on hold from the library and I plan to drop anything else to read them once they become available. In other words, I don't know.
Free book-shaped space
I finally got my account set up to get e-books from the library and my book buying is plummeting (excepting the Le Guin haul, described below) while my reading rate soars. I'm so pleased.
I recently learned that Worldcon 77 (in 2019) will be in Dublin! I really really want to go -- Dublin is cheaper to get to than London and almost as easy -- but it's within a week of my 10-year wedding anniversary, when we are also planning a big trip. I know this is nearly two years away, but August always ends up filled with family travel, so I feel like I do have to plan this far in advance in order for it to happen.
I went to Portland, Oregon in August, for the first time since probably 2003. I went to Powell's and re-purchased many of the Le Guin books I'd gotten rid of in a misguided purge a few years ago. All the books I bought were used -- I prefer to buy used books anyway, but these were necessarily so since I bought out of print books. Anyway, my Le Guin library is slowly being restored. Also, I almost bought a few missing Earthsea novels, but then a guy at the checkout counter told me that next year they'll be releasing a new illustrated version of the series, so I decided to hold out for that. Speaking of, the fancy illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is coming out soon. I seem to be collecting them all, but I'm really curious to see how they'll do the later books, as even The Philosopher's Stone is huge and unweildy.
( Read more... )
Spike/Buffy prompt card, Spike/Willow prompt card, Spike/Lindsey prompt card as well as Spike, Xander, Lindsey, Gunn, Giles and Angelus fan art by blondebitz.
Spike/Buffy banner by katleept.
Popculturerollcall podcast talks The Wish.
--The first few days back are usually pretty reasonable. (I could conceivably even be home for supper tomorrow evening!) Thankfully, today I was able to finish and submit the half-volume that's due tomorrow, so that's not hanging over me...but I'll need to go pick up my and scruloose's con passes, and then on Friday, no matter what time we wrap up at the office, I'll be going straight from there to the convention. I even made it as far as looking over the schedule and making notes this evening, although in practice I rarely make it to more than a small percentage of the panels and talks that catch my eyes. So many people. O_O (The "rarely" applies to cons and similar things in general, as this is only my second Hal-Con.)
--When I was poking around in my tags the other day to see if I could figure out when I stopped bouldering, I came across this 2013 post about Claudia from when she and Jinksy were about five months old. Oh, my kitten. *^^* (*finds baby!Claudia!kitten icon*)
--I have this half-formed theory that Casual Job is the appropriate excuse to actually start figuring out lipstick, since I really haven't, despite buying a bunch in Toronto. The defense I have to offer is that I'm usually at home living in pajamas when Casual Job isn't on (I'm very glad I'm not one of the many people who needs to Get Dressed to successfully work at home--although if it'd help my focus, you bet I'd do it), and when I go out it's usually either quick errands (hard to convince myself to bother) or to have dinner out with someone (and I know people eat and drink with lipstick on all the time, but it turns out I find it intimidating to consider needing to immediately touch it up while out if it smears/wears off).
- Hearts don't break around Spike (Spike, T) by EdxOthers
- If You Want to Cross the Bridge, My Sweet, You've Got to Pay the Toll (Illyria, T) by punchkicker15
- Artwork: Paired Up Prompt Card - Prompt Spike/Willow (NSFW) by blondebitz
- Artwork: Paired Up Prompt Card - Prompt Spike/Lindsey (NSFW) by blondebitz
- Artwork: Paired Up Prompt Card - Prompt Spike/Buffy (NSFW) by blondebitz
- Artwork: Bachelor Auction Manips (NSFW) by blondebitz
- Artwork/Poetry: Spuffy Art by katleept
- PUBLICATION: S03E09 - Emotionally Intense Hallway - The Wish by PopCultureRoleCall
On Monday, I was elected to the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America, West. I’ll be serving a two-year term.
Huge thanks to everyone who voted, and the folks who encouraged me to run.
At one of the campaign mixers, I had the chance to speak with some writers who had only been in the guild for a few weeks. It got me thinking back to the first time I voted, about 20 years ago. I remember going through the campaign booklet, reading every statement, and marking each one on a scale of one to ten. Then I’d go back through and pick the six or eight candidates I was going to vote for.
I took it really seriously, and I still do.
What’s funny to realize is that most of those candidate statements from 20 years ago could have been written today. They were talking about many of the same issues: late payments, improving diversity, free rewrites, protecting our health plan. And it’s easy to see why: these are some of the fundamental objectives of the guild. The WGA exists to make sure our members get paid and protected.
We’re always going to be fighting these fights, whether it’s through negotiation or enforcement. It’s always been the same.
That’s not to say nothing has changed in 20 years. Things are changing quickly. And that’s why I decided to run this year.
Through this site and Scriptnotes, I get the chance to talk to a lot of writers, both in features and TV. Established writers, aspiring writers, everyone in between.
And the consistent thing I’m hearing is, huh. Nothing is working the way it used to, or “supposed to.” There’s a ton of TV being made, but the seasons are short. Features are being figured out in writers rooms, and no one’s quite sure when the “writing” begins, or how we should figure out credit.
We’re in the middle of a disruption. The industry is shifting to some new form, and none of us know what it’s going to become. No one in the guild, no one on the studio lots in Burbank. We’re all flying blind.
Maybe it will be great for writers — like the start of home video, or cable, with new opportunities and new revenue streams. We’ll all be getting fat paychecks to write VR experiences unlike anything we’ve seen before.
But maybe we won’t.
What keeps me up at night is that second possibility, that we’re facing a future where it becomes almost impossible to make a living as a professional writer in Hollywood. I worry that those new WGA members I talked to at the mixer won’t be working 20 years from now because the industry will become unrecognizable.
For me, these next two years are not about a negotiation, but an investigation of where we’re at and what our priorities should be. We elect the board to be trustees of the guild. And part of that is making sure there is still such a thing as a professional writer.
But while we keep an eye out for future dangers, we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can for writers today.
From late pay to unpaid rewrites to exclusivity clauses, there are many areas where members are looking to the WGA to take action.
Some issues can only be addressed through negotiation. But I believe better enforcement is key to improving the day-to-day life of writers — and screenwriters in particular. I talk with feature writers trapped in an endless fog of development, hostage to a paycheck that never comes.
We need to make sure the WGA represents writers not just collectively at the negotiating table, but also individually when employers abuse their power.
I want to believe I’m approaching the work ahead with an appropriate blend of idealism and realism. As I said in my campaign statement, many of the issues we face are structural, historical and/or intractable. But the progress we’ve made in recent negotiations points to our ability to address new problems with new solutions. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing along with the new board and officers.
Jocelyn: I was really happy to see Kate McKinnon win. It was nice because, I know she and Hillary Clinton are not the same person, but we’re in the middle of a hot bed right now of wildly contradictory responses to Hillary so it was kind of nice to see Kate go and shout out Hillary in a complimentary way, cause yes, I do think that she’s handled this entire thing with grace. If I had to be the woman that was like, yes, I could be running the country right now and instead it is on the brink of collapse I would in no way handle it this well.
Kat: I went through a bad break up a few years ago and I subtweeted so many things. I was just like, “Oh, so nice to sleep in the middle of the mattress” and I look back on that and stuff like, “That was a mistake.” Hillary really didn’t do any of that stuff. And do you know how hard it is not to subtweet when you’ve been wronged? So hard!
Jocelyn: Oh my god, the whole reason why subtweeting is a phenomenon is because it’s easy to do and very satisfying, let’s be honest, we all love to do it. It feels great and in the moment it doesn’t matter that everyone knows that you’re subtweeting. You’re just like, I am a genius.
- The Hosts of I Hate It But I Love It on the Emmy’s, Hillary and subtweeting.