Since our linked series of posts last week that covered the Heliopause (that is being a woman and being promoted to full professorship early in one’s career), the standing-still issue (namely the MLA’s good advice… though I didn’t see any how to implement suggestions in the MLA’s publication), and the complexities of being a full-time academic and full-time mother/partner/autonomous individual without a time machine I’ve found myself thinking in bullet points.
My desire to organize into lists may well be due to the fact that I am about to embark on the holiest of mid-winter grails: reading week. Now’s the time when academics across the nation look over our to-do lists with feverish eyes and over-achievement in our hearts and think ‘I shall accomplish all of these tasks!’ Or maybe that’s just me.
Nonetheless I’m big into lists these days. I find I want to think not only about what I need to get done, but how I am going to do it, and what steps it make take to get it done. You might be asking yourselves what this love of lists has to do with the posts of last week. First and foremost it has to do with my desire to get involved in making this profession (and, by proxy, my life) a more equitable and enjoyable and functional space. I’m no where near tenure or promotion (one would need a tenure-track job for that), nor am I a chair of a department, programme, committee, working group, or advisory team through which I could advocate for changing the way we do the dossier (again, there’s that bit about needing a permanent job first). And I’m not a parent, so while I do agonize over whether I spend enough quality time with my partner, my friends, and (frankly) me, I do not have the added real time and emotional pressures and privileges of caring for a wee one.
What I can do, though, is make some lists!
Lee Skallerup Bessette, one of the regular bloggers for our friend over at University of Venus and blogger and pedagog in her own right, has recently reminded me once again why it is so important to blog as a woman in higher education. For Bessette blogging is a way of combating bullying, “that’s what the media, the politicians, administrators, and even a number of academics are, bullies.” Indeed, that’s what I mean for this list to do.
I’m not the first to make lists, obviously. About three years ago University Affairs ran a series on women in higher education in Canada. (This was around the same time that Inside Higher Ed ran a post on the ‘quiet desperation’ of women academics) Two of the UA posts were entitled “A Challenging Landscape” and “Women Academics Five Strategies for Success.” While I applaud the focus, what frustrates me is the onus that is put entirely on the woman academic navigating that challenging landscape. So I’m going to start my own list, and I’d love for you to add to it. This list is first and foremost for the graduate students and newly minted PhDs among our readership. Why? Because I have no experience beyond the limited term appointment…yet.
So here we go. Three suggestions to begin:
1. Don’t become isolated: read blogs, form reading and writing support groups, make regular meetings with your supervisor, mentor or peers.
2. Do make space for your research. See Aimee’s post on studying for candidacies and adapt those strategies to work for writing the dissertation, writing articles, spending time searching job lists, and writing conference abstract.
3. Do one thing a day that is just for you. Take 15 minutes to look at the Fluevog sale site and droool, go to a yoga class, read a poem, walk outside, write a postcard, make some music Brian Eno style, hug your dog (or mine, see above. Isn’t he huggable?) Whatever. Just make sure you don’t forget that this is your life and you need taking care of too.
Now, back to my epic reading break to do list. Right after I walk the dog.
I’m a regular reader of University of Venus. I like the mission statement, I love the variety of voices, and I appreciate the range of perspectives the writers offer. My post comes by way of a response to Mary Churchill’s post Why do Academics Write? from a few months ago. I guess you could say I’m a percolator: I think think think about something for quite some time before I formulate a response to it.
I’ve realized that one of the reasons this post has stuck with me is that it begins with a consideration of how the writing of blogs differs from the writing of academic, discipline-specific texts. Throughout this thoughtful piece Mary returns to a question which was both posed to her and which in turn she poses to her readers: why do you write?
Inevitably this question led me to thinking about why I felt so strongly about writing this blog with Heather and Aimée, which in turn led me to thinking about why I feel so strongly about collaborative writing. (& don’t forget the link in Aimée’s post that, as she discusses, is just one of many that suggests collaboration is detrimental)
Here’s what I’ve realized: regardless of the readership–be it small, large, or wholly imagined–I write because I love collaboration. Yes, I know that the single-authored manuscript is what might get me the interview for the tenure-track job. And I know that I can churn out a single-authored article over the holidays when I’ve a small break from lecture planning more quickly than I could draft a book proposal with a co-editor. But I can’t help myself. I love collaboration.
A few years ago when I was a graduate student I learned about a collaborative peer-editing and writing group happening between two universities. This program was organized by two senior female faculty members; it paired students from the two departments and they wrote and thought together. I was green with envy! Writing and thinking in collaboration was something that I dreamed would happen regularly at the graduate level. The reality, at least for me, was that it didn’t.
Later in my PhD I had the amazing good fortune of collaborating with several other graduate students to put together a panel on the pros and cons of collaboration for the annual ACCUTE meeting. When we first started writing and thinking together we were truly just acquaintances. Over the course of a year, after many long-distance phone calls, countless emails, and experimentation with digital-conversation platforms, we were definitely friends. While we didn’t get much more than a line on our CVs for the disproportionate amount of work we did, the experience of writing and thinking together was exhilarating.
Around the same time I began writing with a friend and a colleague. She was studying for her candidacy examinations, and I was writing my dissertation. She was in the creative writing stream I (obviously) was not. We started getting together at each other’s houses for writing sessions. Mostly these sessions took place in separate rooms at first, the idea being that we’d each write and then break every now and then for coffee and conversation. But eventually these conversations revealed the ways in which our scholarly thinking was in conversation as well. We started writing to and towards each other as a way of thinking through the relationship between the critic and the poet. We ended up publishing a section of our collaboration in the fabulous special issue of Matrix called New Feminisms, which was co-edited by the eminently talented Karis Shearer and Melanie Bell. Like the earlier collaboration this writing likely won’t earn me a job interview, but it feels as necessary as the academic writing that
Which leads me, finally, back to this site: I write because I believe in collaboration, and I hope—however naively—that the writing we do does indeed foster some kind of collaborative thinking.
(More on specifically feminist collaboration next week…)
Why do you write, dear readers?
Here at hook&eye, we take the weekends off. (Call it setting an example.) But just in case you’re jonesing for feminism this first weekend of the blog’s existence, here are a couple tidbits.
First, if you didn’t catch this Globe and Mail article on the Governor General’s conference, take a peek! The call for a third wave of feminism dominated the conversation.
Or why not write a love letter to feminism? The show has been featured in Edmonton and Montreal, and the new iteration will be exhibited at the WIAprojects Symposium “Performing Feminist Culture” at the Ontario College of Art and Design in November 2010. The deal is, you write the words that explore your personal relationship with feminism.
Are you in a long-term relationship? Is it unrequited love? A love triangle? Do you have a crush on feminism? Perhaps you are having a lovers’ quarrel?
Details, including submission guidelines, here.
If a love letter to feminism isn’t your thing, how about some hate mail to sexism? Click on the “This Month in Sexism” tab above for the concept and guidelines for submission.
Finally, if you’re short on reading, let me point you to a few of the great blogs that always amuse and inform us:
The Adventures of Notorious PhD, Girl Scholar
In Professorial Fashion
Or go back to our first post and follow all the links – which, yes, we’re working on getting to open in a new window.
There. That’s it from us. Have a weekend!