I’m thrilled to report that our first research hangout was so fabulous that I am committing to hosting one every week for the next long while. I want a better new normal and I want it to be about nurturing communities and work that I care a lot about.
When the hangout started and we turned to our work, it took me twenty minutes to even find the book manuscript that I had been working on before the emergency descended. For about half that time, I was in a full panic and worried that I had done something dumb like saving the most current version only on the hard drive of the computer in my office. And then, once I finally found it, in the quiet company of all these lovely women, I oscillated between being sad and mad at myself too. The “last modified” date showed that I hadn’t touched this document since March 10, 2020. That date really hit me. Remember where you were then? Probably, like me, you knew that something world-changing was descending but you didn’t really fully know how, or how much would change. I thought I would be leaving my office for a few weeks, maybe a few months. Now, I really don’t know.
It has been more than ten weeks since I had touched that document. Every day (and, to be honest, every night too) since then, I have been inside the emergency as a university administrator, in the seemingly endless work of trying out how to keep the university going when the news changes everyday.
When I signed up to be an Associate Dean, I knew that I would only survive that work if I continued to teach and if I always stayed close to my research. Being with my students, and being with the books and ideas and conversations at the heart of my research, are the things that keep me alive to the world as a scholar.
I don’t want to be away for so long from my students and my research. This is not normal. I want a better new normal. I bet you do too.
I’m tired of being told that “this is the new normal” when it is always about having to adjust to something I don’t really want.
So, I am taking a baby step towards a normal that I do want.
I’m so grateful to the women who joined me at this first hangout. They came from all different time zones and from all over the continent. Some of us have known each other for years. Some of us were meeting for the first time. Some of us are senior scholars. Some of us are graduate students. We chatted a little during the first few minutes and then I closed the virtual door, we muted our microphones, and settled into work.
Erin Penner joined us from Kentucky and wrote after to tell me:
Working from home recently has made research challenging. Not impossible (I am doing background reading for a new project, and just finished revisions of an article), but less “worth” the fight to carve out that time and focus from my other demands (namely, kids, students, and home).
This morning, I completely forgot for long stretches that there were any other people working. But when I did look up, it was wonderful to see other women, heads down, brows furrowed, fighting to keep that focus. And that made it all the easier to go back in.
Erin is so right. Getting our research done is something we have to fight for because, more than ever, everything else will call us away. Looking up every once in a while to see other women fighting for focus, for this little sliver of time to be inside our own work, lessened my own struggle.
So, for the next long while, we will keep this ritual and this community going. Every Monday at 11.30am EST for one hour, I’ll be there, fighting for focus. If you’d like to join me, please sign up here by 6pm EST the night before (Sunday). If you know someone who would like to be there too, please share this post or just the link to the sign up.
I’ll send the hangout details Sunday night and I will be there every Monday. I’ll ask you to keep those details (of where and how to find us) to yourself because feminist communities need to be closely held. I’m also asking, in the spirit of addressing the gender inequity in research output that spurred our first hangout, that this hangout be just for those who use she/her and they/them pronouns. Thanks to all our beloved Hook & Eye readers for understanding.
Research is a ritual. Research is community. Here’s to finding the ones we need.