boast post · shine theory · writing

Shine Theory and an Epic Boast Post

Do y’all know #shinetheory? We’re big fans of it over here at Hook & Eye. Although we don’t use those words to frame it, shine theory is part of the impetus behind our boast posts, which are our (sporadic) attempts to publicly celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and our own. Coined by Ann Friedman–she of the epic email newsletter The Ann Friedman Weekly–in NY Mag’s The Cut, shine theory is essentially this: powerful, smart, accomplished women should not be feared or envied. They should become your best friends. As Friedman writes of the socially-conditioned impulse to hate women who seem to have it together, or just have, more than we do,

Here’s my solution: When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.

Friedman also runs a great podcast with her long-distance bestie, Aminatou Sow, called Call Your Girlfriend that is the direct result of shine theory–Ann writes that she and Amina became friends when Ann got over her envy of Amina’s epic print mixing and general awesomeness–and largely about it.

I think of Erin nearly every time that I listen to Call Your Girlfriend, because Erin is that person I might just hate if I didn’t dig her so damn much. Her killer shoe game (Fluevogs4life!), incredibly well-developed friendship skills, thoughtfulness, and savvy make her a person you want as a friend, because having her as a friend makes you look good.  More than that–and you, dear readers, know this from reading her work here and elsewhere, even if you haven’t had a chance to meet her in person–having Erin in your life online or off makes you a more thoughtful, aware, and informed person.

If being friends with awesome people makes you look good, I must be looking pretty great today, because–boast post!–today is the day that Erin’s astonishingly good and incredibly timely book Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is officially published. I had the great pleasure of seeing her read from it at one of her first book tour stops last night, and it is such fun to see her and her words making their way in the world via this new project. Written as a series of linked notes, Erin uses her training as an academic to name and articulate the things we feel in our bones but do not have the words for, rendering intelligible to us the things we experience moving through the world in gendered bodies. One of Erin’s great strengths as a writer is her ability to link the personal and the political, to connect the intellectual and the affective–you’ve seen so much of that here every Monday on Hook & Eye–and Notes from a Feminist Killjoy does this so beautifully. As Sara Ahmed (I know! Sara Ahmed!) writes in her blurb,

this book offers a powerful plea for a feminism that is willing to kill any joy that derives from inequality and injustice.  All feminist killjoys will want this book on their shelves!

If you want a little more shine theory in your life, by supporting Erin and by reading her really excellent writing on female friendship, grab yourself a copy of Notes from a Feminist Killjoy from our friends at BookThug.

We’re so terribly proud!

#alt-ac · altac · boast post · defense · PhD

When In Doubt, Buy Office Supplies (or, I Got My PhD)

I spent Saturday morning swimming in a soupy blend of emotion and leftover adrenaline. I don’t think I spoke much. Mostly I just read the Black Panther comic my husband had bought for me earlier that week, curled up in my favourite living room chair, and exclaimed quietly every time our eyes met: “I did a thing!”

I did. I did a thing. I did a big thing.

I got my PhD.

Dr. Dalgleish, happy and tired post-defense.

I’ve been so grateful for the family and friends who wanted to hear the story of the defense, because telling the story over again has let me consolidate in my mind what is a genuinely treasurable memory, one that has already become a touchstone. My defense was a joyful, fun, challenging, exciting, euphoria-inducing experience–probably the best single academic experience of my career. I had fun!  My committee made me think hard about how and why I’d done the work I had, and made me think more and differently about my place in the field. I shared in my post last week my worry that my day job has made me less effective as a researcher, but the defense proved that it was actually quite the opposite. Having a career in addition to my research practice has made me more confident, better spoken, more thoughtful, more stylish in my writing, less cautious and conventional in how I perform my research, far better able to articulate the value of my work, and far better able to craft a research practice that has real value in and out of the academy. I walked out of my defense completely over the moon, and that’s a feeling that I hope stays with me for a long time.

Aside from my happiness and pride at accomplishing something that was hard work and took a long time and demanded a lot, there are other things the PhD has given me that I don’t want to lose: the structure that having a large ongoing project lent to my days, the time I carved out for research and thinking and writing, the sense of purpose it lent me, the broad set of skills I developed, the confidence in my abilities, the friendships with fellow researchers and writers, and the deeper and more nuanced understanding of the world. I want to use this time, while I’m still on the high of having finished, to be intentional about crafting the next phase of my life, one that holds on to all of the space I’ve made for thinking and reading and writing. I also desperately want and need to reshape my life in ways that are more balanced than it has been recently, in ways that leave room for creativity, spontaneity, embodiment, exploration. Not having my dissertation fill so much of my time makes me both exhilarated by the possibility, and a little panicked about how best to make use of all the time not having it on my plate has opened up.

When in doubt, I buy office supplies. On Sunday, I picked up some lovely paper, some new highlighters, and more ink for a beautiful fountain pen I was gifted as a defense present. I sat down at the dining room table on Sunday afternoon, and I drew what I wanted my first week post-PhD to look like, the week that I’ve been dreaming about for years. I drew it with my new fountain pen, and beautiful paper, and all the colours of highlighter I could find. I took my time, and I thought about the things I wanted this first week to have, the week that would let me begin as I mean to go on.

And so I penned in time to read in the living room with Moose the cat. I drew in time to go running and swimming and yoga-ing, to remind myself that my body is something other than a living jar for my brain. I put in time to walk and listen to podcasts, time to cook, time to work on the novel I started at the beginning of the summer and some non-dissertation academic projects that are in the pipeline. I penned in time for relaxing and self-reflection and projects around the house. I drew in time with my husband, my family, my friends, and more time to sleep that I’ve allowed myself in a long time.

A very colourful week.

It’s a beautiful week, not just on paper but in practice. It’s a week that’s chock full of all the things that to me say a good life, one that’s full of intention and effort and expanding my horizons. On paper it looks a little like panic, a little like trying to keep the uncertainty of the future at bay by locking the present into tiny boxes, but to me it looks more like intention, like putting down on paper how I want my life to be, the life that the PhD gave me.

My external examiner mentioned that she’d read my “I quit” letter, and she jokingly told me that she thought that letter was a lie. She’s right. I didn’t actually quit. I’m just swimming in a different lane of the same pool. And the water’s fine.

boast post · good things

Boast Post!

It’s that time again! I’ve had quite enough of this month’s news–women still not being reviewed, Jian Ghomeshi, Gamergate, predation in the guise of mentorship, catcalling, the election of another white conservative millionaire man as mayor, and on and on. I’m also in scholarship purgatory, very stupidly decided that I wanted to set the deadline for my current chapter on the same day as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships are due, and am entirely unprepared for the onset of winter. That means we’re due for a boast post to cheer ourselves up, yes?

Remember how this works? You have to boast about yourself, without apologizing or cringing. Did you get some awesome teaching evals? Land a new job? Submit an article? Finish a dissertation chapter? Give an awesome conference presentation? Ace an informational interview? Get an unexpected but meaningful compliment? Tell the world! Or at least, that chunk of the world that reads this blog. Yes, it feels super weird and awkward, but it also feels great when you’re done.

I’ve got three things!
First, I got a lovely email not long ago from one of our Canada Research Chairs in mathematics, thanking me for my work on one of our Banting postdoc nominations and complimenting my development work to our Dean. For an English scholar, I’m pretty darn pleased that I can develop the heck out of a Banting-calibre math application. My eighth grade teacher would be so proud! 
Second, I launched our Graduate Professional Skills program in late September. With the invaluable help of my graduate assistant and other staff in our office I pulled together a half-dozen great workshops, a bunch of really excellent speakers, and a full day of training, eating, and talking about graduate professional development and its relationship to academic and post-PhD career success. Everything went off without a hitch, everyone had a good time, and the program I’ve been working on since 2012 now officially exists!

Third, I’ve finally gotten over my fear of pastry and learned how to make a really good apple pie. It’s easy (albeit a little time consuming), delicious, and so rewarding. Watching someone enjoy eating something I’ve made is one of my favourite forms of instant gratification.

And now it’s your turn! Remember, no self-deprecation, undercutting, or humblebragging. Just boast!

boast post

Boast Post!

We haven’t had one of these in awhile, and I think we need one. It’s the tail end of term, and everyone is getting a little sloggy. The sun is shining later and later every day, but it seems to be taunting us while we sit inside, buried under piles of work. Many of you are probably nursing sore backs and hands from lugging and notating piles of papers, and I know some of you are cursing the gods of exam scheduling who put you on the last possible day. I’m blurry-eyed and anxious from hours of very carefully clicking buttons, magic buttons that generate emails telling new and returning Master’s students that they’re in possession of a shiny new Canada Graduate Scholarship (or not, as the case may be, and god forbid that I click the wrong button). I’ve got a tower of ethics protocols awaiting review that looks set to topple. The hustle to meet admission targets is making everyone edgy, and the pressure to get all the things done over the summer that was the bane of my graduate student life has come back with a vengeance now that I’m in admin (blast it! There’s no escaping the academic calendar).

Still, despite the end-of-the-marathon fatigue that always sets in this time of year, and the frayed nerves that accompany it, good things still abound. Let’s celebrate! Since it’s been awhile, here’s how it works: you have to boast about yourself, without apologizing or downplaying. Did you have an article accepted? Put together an awesome conference panel? Finish a dissertation chapter? Win an award? Finally figure out how to do that thing in PHP? Get an unexpected but meaningful compliment? Tell the world! Or at least, the little chunk of the world that reads this blog.

I have three whole things, which feels like a lot today. 

First, 60% of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship applications I midwifed (as a friend so delightfully put it) this year won awards. That’s a huge jump over last year, a crazy percentage considering how hard Vaniers are to get (they’re Canada’s Fulbright), and a wonderful assurance that a whack of our students will have phenomenal funding and the recognition that they’re the strongest students in their fields. I’m particularly proud of one successful application–it was rather a diamond in the rough when I first got it,  so rough that it almost got scrapped, and after lots of hard work by me and by the student, it positively shone. 

Second, I was invited to speak on a panel on careers for humanists at MLA 2015, which makes me happy twice over because a) I love Vancouver, and b) I didn’t even have to write an abstract! 

Third, I’m lucky enough to work in a super supportive office full of thoroughly delightful people, a number of whom, including the Dean, told me this week that I’m doing a good job. Yes, I know that I’m a very competent person. No, I haven’t screwed up in any major ways in the last seven months. But man, external validation feels good. 

So, that’s me. It’s been a crazy, crazy few months, ones in which caffeine and grouchiness and late nights and insomnia have played far too large a part, so let’s start the slow slide into summer and the turning over of a new leaf with some boast-y goodness. And look–no self-deprecation or cringing!  Your turn! 

balance · boast post · grad school · new year new plan

A Canadian in America; or, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Hello hello! I’ve been a H&E follower for years, and I am very happy to announce that I’ll be alternating Tuesdays with Jana as a new regular contributor. In November, Aimée blogged about imposter syndrome after she secured a tenure track job. I suppose, on a much smaller scale, I’m now dealing with my own form of imposter syndrome, as I’ll be Hook & Eye’s first American correspondent, a Canadian blogger in America (oh yes, I can just speak for All Of The States!). I did my undergrad and MA degrees at the University of Calgary, but after having been at Fordham U in New York City for 3.5 years, I feel quite detached from the Canadian system, so bear with me as I take my time catching up.

I’m going to start by talking about SSHRC, which has also, in some ways, made me feel alienated and displaced, as immensely grateful as I am to hold a Doctoral Fellowship (which ends this year). I’m here in America, but I’m funded from there; I’m working alongside my peers, but I’m somehow different from them, with a different employment and pay deal worked out, from a distant and alien country (kidding!). Because I tend to gauge my own self-worth in relation to those around me, and have a strong community here of peers working toward similar goals, it has been difficult to deal with the fact that I hold this prestigious scholarship; meanwhile, peers whom I love as friends and respect as scholars have to take on extra jobs throughout the summer and academic year in order to support the staggering cost of living in New York City. I often find myself downplaying this scholarship (“oh, you know, it’s my Canada money LOL…”; as though Canada just divvies out cash to everyone seeking to study in the States), or even secretly wishing I didn’t hold it, so that I could be on equal financial footing with those around me. In this sense, however, I’m afraid I’ve fallen prey to my own form of shrinking, and I need to learn to accept the fact that on some level I deserve this money, while still recognizing that the system is broken, and other scholars and peers would deserve it too, if given the chance. Unfortunately there is nothing quite comparable to SSHRC in the American system, though there are other great things like NEH and Fulbright. 

While internally dealing with the guilt of holding this scholarship, institutionally speaking I have had to perform the role of someone who deserves it: I have had to waltz over to the administration building on campus (so to speak) and demand more systematic recognition for something that, in Canada, comes with a flurry of accolades and congratulations. It has been a slog indeed for me to get my administration to recognize that yes, I have money coming from elsewhere, and yes, it’s awesome and I should be rewardedand four years in, I’m finally content with the deal Fordham’s worked out for me.

Perhaps this is a lesson in the power of performance and performative utterances, in acting-is-believing; we as feminists working within a struggling institution may feel inadequate and want to apologize for our individual successes, but sometimes we have to stand up and demand recognition, which is especially the case if we realize we’re acting in the service of a larger cause. I’ve felt this on the relatively rare occasion that I’ve participated in protests: am I the type of person to shout, chant, and/or wave signs? Nooo….and perhaps few people are. But can I become that person in those situations? Yes! In recognizing and addressing larger inequalities, we can learn to expand ourselves rather than shrink, and celebrate our own triumphs while seeking to rectify the larger system, so that other triumphs can become recognized and celebrated as well. In performing such actionsin speaking our achievements out loud, perhaps even before we’ve internally accepted them, and in looking with clear eyes to the triumphs of otherswe may, perhaps, begin to internalize our identities. Think of it as academic method acting…we can, dear readers, become the roles we perform. 

Just like Daniel Day Lewis.
(recognizing the irony of including a video clip with no women…)

So, yes! In the noble tradition of boast posts and method acting, I’m here to say that I have a SSHRC! I’m smart and capable and proud to be a blogger for Hook & Eye! I think I’ll be a valuable addition to this blog! Ok…I don’t really know about all that, but imma just own this pride right now, hoping that these words can help me become what I speak. This is one of the ways I’m setting up for what may be a very difficult semester, with no teaching responsibilities, no externally imposed structure, and a lot of dissertation-work. I need to get over my imposter syndrome and act myself into becoming the student who SSHRC thinks I am .

And you, readers do you have similar anxieties and goals? What kinds of roles do you need to perform & become this semester?

boast post · empowerment · media · you're awesome

It’s that time again! Boast Post!

Datamining our archive, I see the urge to write boast posts falls upon me at the ends of semesters, those last draggy few weeks where all the promise and hope of the beginning of term is snuffed under the weight of missed deadlines (mine as well as my students’) and piles of grading, and worries about the not-yet-quite-planned-enough plans for winter teaching.

So here we are again. Let’s try to find something we’re proud of, something we did right, something we love telling people we get to do for our jobs. Share a piece of praise someone else directed your way. Imagine writing a letter of reference … for yourself, where you really want the candidate to win whatever she/you has been nominated for. Find something specific to really crow about.

As always, I’ll start. Mine is a little thing. I’ve been writing about digital photographic life-writing practices, on a number of fronts, but including, of course, the ubiquitous “selfie.” I was just doing some free-writing about Selfies at Funerals on Monday. Tuesday, “selfie” became Oxford Dicionaries’ word of the year. I got a call to feature in a local news segment on the topic (filmed right after I had had my hair done, hooray!)

But the boast part is this. After the TV interview, I thought, I want to go bigger. So I emailed Nora Young at Spark and pitched her the selfie story and me as an expert to consult. She wrote me back in 9 minutes, saying it wasn’t on their radar, but she would pitch it to her team. She wrote again 23 minutes later: it’s a go. We’re currently trying to schedule an interview time. I got to send her an outline of what I think are the important parts of the selfie discussion.

What I’m proud of is that I didn’t hem and haw: I just wrote to her and did the pitch. And I’m proud that I am making a real effort to shape public discourse on the topics I research. This kind of opportunity to be in whatever minor way a public intellectual is really meaningful to me. So yay!

What about you? C’mon don’t leave me hanging, bragging by myself. Boast away in the comments, please!

boast post · student engagement · teaching

Boast Post: The Wonderful Dr. Wunker

“In my second year, in a bout of seeing the world and it’s injustices especially morbidly, I asked you whether it all mattered; what anyone could really do to fix the massive social, cultural, political and economic problems that affect society today. You told me there were many ways to make change, but that a starting point – and this I remember distinctly – lay in education. Not necessarily formal education, not necessarily academic education, but being informed: recognizing and understanding societal problems was a necessary first step to changing anything. This is something I am always going to remember, and take away from my time in your classes. As you begin work in a new city, at a new school, I have the utmost confidence that you will be successful. “

 A little birdie emailed me this morning to let me know that one of Erin Wunker’s students at Dalhousie had written a lovely tribute to her, inspired by her departure to Mount Allison. Boast posts around here are normally a space where we celebrate our own achievements, but today we’ll celebrate Erin’s instead. You can find the tribute over at Cut the Jargon.

boast post · feminist win

Feminist Flaunt: Celebrating Heather’s Triumph

Dear Friends,

Allow me to invite you to celebrate our Editrix Emerita’s, Heather Zwicker’s, triumph in being named a 3M National Teaching Fellow, the highest undergraduate teaching accolade in Canada. While I haven’t been Heather’s undergraduate student, I will vouch for her pedagogical prowess and dedication, as former supervisee. All I can say for the 3Ms is that this decision has validated them in my and many of Heather’s former and present students’ eyes!

Congratulations, Heather!

boast post · good attitudes about crappy possibilities · good things · saving my sanity

What’s your passion? And what are you good at?

I think we need a boast post–well, I think I might need one, because this week, it feels like the voices in my head are doing nothing but complaining and pointing out my flaws (“I hate grading! I’m an idiot for assigning all this writing! I’m actively getting stupid because I never get to read anything! I’m a terrible researcher! I’m inherently unserious and immature! Why is the office 18 degrees? Where’s my scarf and fingerless gloves? Wah!”).

Instead of getting lost in awful minutiae of the end of term, I thought I’d come back to first principles. I’m thinking about the passion that brought me here, and the skills that allow me to shine, in my own way at least. Because that’s what keeps me going.

I’m passionate about reading. All the time. I think, at this point, I’ve got all the ads on the bus memorized, for example. This morning, I read all the text on the box from which I removed a new bar of soap. So I should be happy, and I guess I am, that I have so much in front of me to read. I really am excited to read my students’ papers (but not to grade them). I’m excited to read the textbook (but not to prep my class). I am always excited to read material in my field in a new book, or an article. My biggest passion, beyond just simply reading all the time, is for my field: honestly, I just keep finding more and more to be fascinated with in computing culture. When I started, the world wide web had just been invented, and I wanted to understand how people came to understand computers as personal machines. Ha! And now there’s so, so very much more to think about and I get so excited I start to talk really fast when I even consider it.

So my passions still drive me as much as they ever did.

And what am I good at? It’s hard to remember now when I feel so beaten down by meetings I don’t feel well-enough prepared for, by grading piles that don’t ever get any smaller, by research that is so completely not writing itself now. Hm. Well, I’m funny. My students in their evaluation always seem to remark on how I can make even boring stuff kind of fun and I think that should count for something, shouldn’t it? A spoonful of sugar, and all that? Man, my prep might not be as thorough in late November as it was in September, but, dammit, at least I’ve got the personality and the wit to really sell it. So. I’m good at being funny.

Here’s something funny, a little gift from me to you: my husband and I were walking in from Amazingly Distant Parking Lot when we came upon this. There’s something very late-November-y about it, which might resonate with many of you. Enjoy:

Huh. Okay. Now I’m feeling a little better about life. I’m chuckling out loud right now, just like in the video, at that poor stuck squirrel.


Maybe a little pause to consider what you’re passionate about, and what you’re really good at can help you get through term, too: maybe slam poetry rocks your universe; maybe your skill is giving compassionate extensions to stressed out students; maybe you can’t get enough of literature in translation and have an uncanny ability to plan meetings that have solid agendas and always end early. I’d LOVE to hear about it.

Please! Tell me the passion that keeps you going through this November slog, and one thing you’re good at that makes it all a little easier. Let’s all cheer each other, and cheer each other up.

boast post · history · writing

Boast Post: Not Drowning!

Back in the late 80s, the English Department at the UofA hired five women in a single year and then appointed a woman Dean of Arts.

Hold onto your hats, because this handcart’s headed for hell.

A handful of professors founded a Merit Only group with the explicit purpose of winding back equity policies in university hiring. They tore apart the new English professors’ credentials in the campus paper, they organized letter-writing campaigns to the new University President, and they generally menaced colleagues and administrators in the name of “free speech.”

They sought, and eventually won, mainstream media coverage of the outrage. Feminists, together with ‘deconstructionists’ and other equally seditious entities, were featured on the front cover of the Alberta Report in 1994, the conservative Christian weekly founded by Ted Byfield and later taken over by his son Link. (Yes, mainstream: the Alberta Report could be found in doctors’ waiting rooms and the like, where it didn’t raise too many eyebrows.) Women, the story said, were taking over the university and bending its august mission to their traitorous will. It was a Famous Five persons case for our age.

I wasn’t mentioned in the coverage, which unnerved me at the time. (Was I not working hard to dismantle the patriarchy, one scholarly article at a time? How could they not even know my name?) But of course it was deeply dismaying to the friends and colleagues who were maligned in the scurrilous reporting. They spent endless hours correcting the record and battling the Merit-Only group in person and in print. Two of the five English professors left within a few years, one for a Scottish university and one for a non-academic life.

If you want the full grisly story, Pat Clements’s recollection of what it was like to be that woman dean, “My World as in My Time,” makes for bracing reading. And where might you find that memoir? Well, gentle reader, I’m glad you asked: it is in our brand new book! Edited by Susan Brown, Jeanne Perreault, Jo-Ann Wallace and yours truly, Not Drowning but Waving: Women, Feminism and the Liberal Arts (UAP 2011) is a collection of meditations on the status of academic life for women today – or is that the status of life for academic women today?

This is not a review, just a shameless plug, so let me rave for a minute about what else is in the book – others will say how well it succeeds.

Contributors write about work, whether it’s their jobs (Donna Pennee, Christine Overall), their scholarship (Christine Bold and Amber Dean on remembering women, Marjorie Stone on sex trafficking, Lise Gotell on the Nixon case in Vancouver, a splendid way of thinking through the question of separate space for women), or the labour of others (Ann Wilson on night cleaners and knitting). Susan Brown and Cecily Devereux write about the vexed status of motherhood in the academy. Len Findlay rants (in the best Findlayan way) about institutional branding. Several pieces talk about periodizing feminism, and several of them are co-written across generational, geographical or intellectual divides: Jo-Ann Wallace and Tessa Jordan, Phil Okeke and Julie Rak, Rusty Shteir and Katherine Binhammer, Liz Groeneveld.

Your very own co-blogger Erin Wunker thinks through the experience of being savaged (there’s no other word for it) at a feminist conference.

Illness comes up a lot, metaphorically and literally – and the literal illnesses are both physical (Aruna Srivastava) and mental (my piece, though please don’t read it because I am feeling quite exposed and a little less plucky than I did when it was in press). Isobel Grundy talks about mentoring. Heather Murray offers a terrifically instructive history of co-education in Toronto. And the fierce, inimitable, gorgeous Aritha Van Herk – oh, how she can write! – holds it all together with a meditation on women and bathtubs and oceans and “waves” of all sorts.

So here it is.

Ted Byfield, this one’s for you.