#alt-ac · #alt-ac 101 · best laid plans · new year new plan

Back to School for #alt-academics

This Labour Day marks my third fall of going back to school as an #alt-academic, although it’s the first year when I’m not actually working in a school. Still, I work in a teaching hospital, and our annual rhythms are much the same–we’re still gearing up for an influx of new undergraduate and graduate students joining us for their first year of doing research with one of our faculty, we’re still getting ready for the fall funding rush, and I’m still wrapped up in my usual rounds of reviewing postdoc applications and prepping for Writing a Winning Research Proposal 101 sessions. And I’m so glad.

It may seem like a little thing to be worried about giving up, but my life has been ruled by the academic calendar since I was four years old. I’ve spent just one year of my adult life working outside of the structures of a school or university, and that was at Oxford University Press, where we still largely observed the academic calendar because all of our writers and buyers did too. Labour Day is my New Year’s Day, the marker of the beginning of a fresh new year with no mistakes in it (as Anne Shirley would say). And being in an #altac position where–even if there’s no back to school for me–the spirit of back to school still reigns is such a comfort. Some things don’t have to change.

But some things do change. And the transition from summer to fall brings some extra challenges for #altac folks who are trying to maintain a semi-active research profile while working full-time jobs. My collaborative projects mostly went dormant over the summer, as everyone turned their attention to large-scale writing projects, research trips, and holidays, but they’re all ramping up again. Hook & Eye is back, and I’ve also got a dissertation chapter, plus some other writing/editing/teaching projects all requiring lots of attention (and completion) in the next couple of months. I’m lucky, though, that I’ve moved from a position that saw me supporting research funding and professional development programs for 6,000 students and postdocs to one that sees me doing the same for about 1, 200–I can do more for fewer people, and my job doesn’t spill over into the rest of my time the way it once did. Like Erin, I’m deliberately moving away from the fastness and hyperproductivity that neoliberalism so loves towards a slowness that that lets me “have intellectual fulfillment as well as a home [I] love coming home to.” 

Still, mine is affective labour–I work the job I do because it lets me help grad students and postdocs more easily make their way through, and out of, the academy. So too is my research and writing affective labour. Because I care, I work to make unheard voices heard, whether it’s the voice of a poet silenced by sexism and rumour, or graduate students, postdocs, and contract academic faculty silenced by those who don’t want to believe that the academy is failing its most vulnerable. If I was looking for an easier time of it, I could scale back or call it quits on my research, but so long as I feel like I have the opportunity to do some good, I’m not willing to give it up. I also need the balance of the 9-5 and my academic work to keep me happy. It turns out that having one to turn to when I need respite from the other is exactly what suits me, and what keeps me productive. It’s what keeps me from falling back into the writing paralysis I described in my “I Quit” letter, and what lets me have that intellectual fulfillment I want.

My transition into the new year isn’t as abrupt as it is for some. I didn’t have the “normal” academic summer (i.e. the summer of those with the privilege of a well-paying tenure-track job or graduate stipend) of setting aside the usual routines of the school year for four months of all research all the time. I took a week off work to finish up a dissertation chapter and get some projects done around the house, and another to visit family and research sites in London and Copenhagen. Most days, I did what I do every weekday–wrote from 6-8, walked to work, worked from 9-12, wrote from 12-1, worked from 1-5, walked home, made dinner, did household or fun or social things, went to bed, and did it again. Turns out that this routine, at least for me, is the prescription for avoiding summer guilt and the end of summer hangover. My summers as a full-time academic were clouded by guilt–either that I wasn’t working enough, or that I wasn’t enjoying downtime because I felt guilty about not working enough–and capped off by an orgy of shame about the distance between my beginning of summer goals and my end of summer accomplishments. My goals for this summer were minimal–get my writing routines completely embedded so that they were automatic. And I did that, no shame hangover required. It’s a good way to start the new year.

I’m featured in the October University Affairs cover story, and it paints a rosier picture of #altac careers than I think really exists. They’re not the cure-all for the ills of the academic job market, nor a reason to keep PhD enrollments high. But even so, I’ll be damned if I can’t help as many people as possible make their way onto the #altac track. It is such a good place to be for those of us who don’t want the tenure track, but don’t want to leave the rhythms and routines (and research) of the academic life behind. For that reason, I’ll pick back up with the #altac 101 series shortly, and I’ll talk more about how to succeed off the tenure track, about the gendered aspects of job searching, and about how scientists, social scientists, and humanists are in precisely the same boat when it comes to the ills that plague academia. I’m so looking forward to another year of H&E, and of you.

Happy new year, dear readers, and see you soon.

image credit: death to the stock photo // cc

balance · new year new plan

Pace Yourself

Welcome back to the new term! Were *your* holidays refreshing? Did you manage to take time to yourself without guilt-tripping yourself every two seconds? Or did you spend the break fretting about not working, and missing out on responding to that CFP or procrastinating from writing your Major-Conference-That-Shall-Remain-Nameless paper? No matter where you fit on the spectrum, we all know the promise of freshness in the New Year/New Term combo does not  materialize in our bodies, and that we inherit the fatigue of both the Fall term and the holidays (family! travelling! all the food!). My take? Better be realistic about it, and stop pretending mountains will be moved by sheer willpower and perilously low energy levels (it’s cold. it’s dark a lot of the time. it’s January, *then* February before any colour comes back into the world).

Grey January skies over Lake Ontario

So, what is there to do? I’m not one for sports metaphors in general, but it looks like the running one is a refrain here at H&E, so I’ll just re-iterate it. We’re in it for the long haul, so we might as well pace ourselves. The Winter term has only just started, so I know it feels like if you don’t write that proposal, you’ll be written out of that Conference, which is so germane to your larger research project that missing it will cause an irreparable gap in your CV, and potential questions from your doctoral committee, hiring committee, peers, etc. But really? Chill! Unless you’re on the organizing committee, nobody will question your absence, especially these days. Why not take that time that you’d frantically put to inking yet another argument to letting your brain do some unguided rambling? Take the resources you’d put into going to that conference (money, time, physical effort, missed sleep) into translating your brain’s free ramblings into writing. No, I mean it literally: how long would the travel take you? Translate that into writing time over multiple days. Actually sleep the sleep you’d otherwise miss by going to the airport at ungodly hours because you can only afford the 7 am flight. Take it easier on yourself, the environment, and the academic ecosystem.

Try ditching one of the major academic events that you engage in per year, and do the accounting on it, bank those resources, and use them elsewhere. Then do the tally. [I know economic metaphors are not much better than sports ones, but that’s all I got just now, when the lesson plan for the class that starts in two hours, for the course I’d never taught before, beckons. See how I’m pacing myself here?] If there’s one thing I wish we could do more is turn inwardly, and actually understand what it is we want to do. As researchers, we spend so much time trying to make sure we’re abreast of what everyone else in the field is saying. As teachers, not only do we have to prepare the material, we also expend an immeasurable amount of emotional labour ensuring our classes are open and our students feel welcome and engaged in the process.

So, at this begging of term, instead of resolving to work more, be more productive, write more, do more grading, please ask yourself “What’s the healthiest way to accomplish what *I* really want?”

grad school · mental health · new year new plan · productivity · spirit animal

New Leaf September

I’m not one for giving advice, not really–not when it comes to time management, at least. My cobloggers have already offered some excellent pointers regarding how to whip ourselves into shape for the new school year. How to manage life as a flexible academic, how to squeeze in daily writing time, how to adjust to a new program as a newbie graduate student, figuring out our responsibility to new students as contract professors, and, most recently, training ourselves to pay attention and structure our own time in the absence of externally enforced structure.

But I repeat. I am not one for giving advice–at least not in bullet points, at least not at this stage in my career. I work very hard, to be sure, but I do it in very nonconventional, nonstructured ways. I have always been an avid daydreamer with an overly active imagination (oh hey, I’m writing a dissertation on dream visions! Work and life FTW). Sometimes my head rests so far in the midst of the clouds that, for example, the other day I got on the wrong train, then got off on the wrong stop of the wrong train, and then found myself wandering through some random midtown street, so enthralled in the music I was listening to that I actually had to remind myself to keep my eyes open. (I. Know.)  I sometimes forget to eat, I often wake up at 9 or 10 am, I often stay up working until 2 or 3, I have a very bad habit of hanging out in the Dark Playground.

(“The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread.”)

Perhaps we all feel this way, all us bloggers, and I always admire our collective ability to admit we’ve failed, we continue to fail, we will inevitably fail more in the future. But readers, please–be gracious to yourselves. Accept that the goals we set are often unreasonable, worsened by a metrics-based system of output that demands that we make the maximum use of our time and work. So I think the best advice I can give, from my very humble and relatively privileged position as a funded graduate student with very few daily administrative or professional duties, is to be fair to yourself, and fair to your own natural rhythms when sussing out a work regime. Are you a night owl, like me? Respect that about yourself–don’t be night-shamed by those eager beaver morning risers! If you have the luxury of not having to be somewhere at 9 am every day, or not having to drop your kid off at daycare, embrace your night-owl-ness, while being sure to allot yourself a few hours each day for self-care and/or mental rest, be it alone or with a few close supportive friends. I cherish those quiet hours after midnight. While I’m at it, I just want to call upon an essay by Anne Fadiman for a moment:

Something amazing happens when the rest of the world is sleeping. I am glued to my chair. I forget that I ever wanted to do anything but write. The crowded city, the crowded apartment, and the crowded calendar suddenly seem spacious. Three or four hours pass in a moment; I have no idea what time it is, because I never check the clock. If I chose to listen, I could hear the swish of taxis bound for downtown bars or the soft saxophone rifts that drift from a neighbor’s window, but nothing gets through. I am suspended in a sensory deprivation tank, and the very lack of sensation is delicious. (“Night Owl,” The Norton Reader 67)

[^Ok, this doesn’t always happen to me, but sometimes. It’s a beautiful thing.]

Currently, I’m returning to the classroom after an 8-month break (thanks, SSHRC!), so am trying to reinstall structure and focus into my previously seamless schedule.  At the risk of sounding contradictory, but responding to Erin’s call for focusing techniques from yesterday, I do have a few personal strategies and goals that I’ve set for myself this month, and maybe my experience will give you some good ideas as well. Maybe not. Either way, I’m using this blog as a means of keeping myself accountable to my goals during this self-proclaimed, momentous “New Leaf September.”

1. I’ve temporarily deactivated my Facebook account.
It was hard, guys. I think I’ve deactivated it once in the 8 years since I’ve joined, and that lasted about, maybe, a day. I’m slightly addicted to social interaction and the digital community that Facebook establishes just has not been helping with that lately. Now, instead of scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and wondering why this or that person hasn’t liked my latest photo or responded to my fb chat, blah blah blah, stupid social media anxiety, I’m relying on Twitter to supply me with news and ideas and an electronic friend circle, and I’m trying to redirect my mental energy into other, more creative things. I even finished a book today! I’m on Day 2. We’ll see how this goes (it’s possible that by the time you’re reading this, I’ve reactivated; don’t judge.).

2. I’m slotting my various responsibilities into various spaces around the city. 
Teaching stuff? Either campus or my office at home. Dissertation stuff? Coffee shops or libraries. I have been fortunate enough to become a member of the Wertheim Study program at NYPL, which means I have access to a scholars-only room with designated shelf space and other important-looking studious scholars who make me feel like I need to be important-looking and studious too. When I’m there, I have to be working on my dissertation: I’m not allowed to grade or respond to student emails or text my friends (*cough*). Trying to maintain designated spaces for different tasks will help me feel like I’m off-duty when I head home every day.

3. I keep a daily research journal where I sketch out my accomplishments and note what needs to be done next. Not only does this help me celebrate what I’ve done, but it helps me pick back up again whenever I sit down to my dissertation, minimizing the paralysis that sometimes occurs when transitioning between very different tasks. I keep this journal specific and realistic and allow myself to freak out in it a little bit too, screaming silently when things go wrong or when I haven’t met my goals. Freak out in your research journals, people.

While I know I’ll fail as I turn over a new leaf this year, I want to be gracious to my own strengths and weaknesses as a person, and allow myself micro-celebrations when things go right. I guess that’s what this entire blog is about, in a way. I’m barreling into this new year after a summer that, well, wasn’t the best from a feminist perspective, feeling strong and energized, ready to “put words out into the world that do something,” as Erin so eloquently reminded us to do last week. 

In a sense, I want to barrel into the new academic year like this amazing dog named Walter who dashes into the Ionian sea with a camera strapped to his back.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to share that video.

academic reorganization · new year new plan

Labour and Change

Four years ago Hook & Eye launched its first post. You fit into me / like a hook into an eye, says the poet Atwood. And our first blogger and co-founder, Heather Zwicker, rejoined, “like oxfords under brown corduroy cuffs, like a Bic pen in the coil of an unsullied scribbler, like Labour Day and despair.” 

There is so much pressure put upon the new year in academia. Some of that pressure is welcome (new stationary! new pens! new classes!) Some of it is not (one million meetings! fighting the scanner!) But unless we take the time to look at the macro and micro shifts in culture we might mistakenly think that the start of each school year is the same. It isn’t

In the four years since Hook & Eye began the shape of labour in the academy has continued to change dramatically. In the last four years we have seen memes circulate as harbingers of the pop-culture denigration of Humanities labour. We have seen a rise in rape culture on campuses. We have seen reason after reason why feminism matters in academia and in the world. Each time I start thinking about another year of writing blog posts I am reminded of the necessity of trying to put words out into the world that do something. I am reminded of the reasons we started Hook & Eye in the first place: to create an accessible feminist community of people working in academia in Canada. To articulate challenges and to call out injustices. To talk about the minutia and the mess of working and living as feminist scholars. To take responsibility. To create a community of care. To listen. 

The reasons for this blog haven’t changed. The climate in which the bloggers work has, however. When we started back in 2010 there were three of us. Here is how Heather described she, Aimée, and I then:

Conveniently, writing collaboratively builds in a range of perspectives. The three of us bloggers share a worrying commitment to punctuality and a reassuring addiction to wit, but that’s about it. We do not agree on everything; we do not write with a single institutional affiliation; and we sign our stuff. (We want you to, too.) One of us is an assistant professor on the brink of tenure, one of usis an assistant professor on a limited-term appointment, one of us is an associate dean. We live in Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Edmonton; we come from francophone Ontario, renegade Alberta and central Canada. We range in age from 31 to 44 and earned our PhDs in 1993, 2004 and 2008. One of us is a mom; one of us is a lesbian; at least two of us have tattoos.

Whelp, guess what? The rise of precarious labour, the increasing pressures on tenured and tenure-track faculty, and the ongoing neoliberalization of universities is having a fundamental effect on education and labour in Canada. It is changing the shape of Hook & Eye as well. 

Last year our most-read post was Melissa’s “I Quit” letter detailing her shift into the alt-ac sphere. Runners-up included Margrit’s lament for Alberta’s universities after governmental cuts, Aimée’s tips for giving a keynote to a packed audience. Jana’s repost on mental health and the PhD, and my series of posts on the empathy trap. There’s a trend here. Do you see it? First, the only member of our weekly blogging team to have a tenured (never mind tenure-track!) position is Aimée. Our demographic of writers has shifted dramatically. Second, the work of the work is building. It is no secret that the work you do is building, whether as a contract academic faculty or a tenured or tenure-track faculty member. The work is building for everyone, but it isn’t building in the same ways. We seem to discuss less the fact that if you are in the academy and a woman, a person of colour, or early-to-mid-way through your career those pressures and labour inequities are massive and unequal as well. Unless universities start playing the long-game for sustainability of education, culture, and their own reputations, those disproportionate and unfair workloads are only going to increase.

Labour Day indeed. 

In order to address the changing structure of both academia and our blogging make-up we are changing the structure of Hook & Eye slightly. I’ll be posting on Mondays, as per, and readers can contact me if you’d like to pitch a guest post. Ah, the time afforded by under-employment. Jana and Boyda will continue to split Tuesdays, Aimée will post Wednesdays, Melissa is taking the Thursday slot, and Margrit will write on Fridays. We are thrilled to welcome Lily Cho who will be writing for us bi-monthly. Welcome, Lily! For each guest post we have, several of the regular writers will craft response posts in hopes of both creating dialogue for the guests and a sense of conversation for the readers. 

We’re looking forward to another year of writing, thinking, and discussion. And I, for one, am going to continue to be thinking about the changing nature of labour for people trained as scholars who are working in- and outside the academy. 

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?

balance · new year new plan

Ready? Set?

In the last few weeks, my 2-year old has been learning how much fun it is to count up before doing, well, anything. 1, 2, 3, Throw a snowball! Ready, set, go down the slide! “Count!,” she’ll exclaim, when I want her to put on her jacket or jump into bed. “Say 1, 2, 3!” On occasion, she’ll forget that she’s only supposed to go to the number three, and the numbers will reach into the teens before she stops and realizes she’s counted higher.

Today I’m finding myself wishing the numbers would keep counting up.

Instead, I’m feeling a little bit like I’ve skipped ahead.

Whither art thou, 2013? Have we really already finished the fall semester? Is the holiday season truly over? Wait, I’m not holidaying in Jasper anymore? Am I really about to start teaching my first ever university course?

When I have moments like these, I’m reminded how important it is to stop, pause, and let myself set for the semester. Often, it only takes a brief mental break: a full stop, a minute to let myself breathe, the space to count up and lose track before letting go. At other times it’s a complete accounting, a careful tally of goals and responsibilities and the budgeting of time to forget about both.

This time of year is particularly amenable to the latter. As we start the New Year, we’re encouraged to stop and reflect, to pause, to set, to take account of the life we’ve lived in the past year and consider how we might do things differently in a new season.

So, without further ado, here is how I’m setting myself up for what I hope will be a productive and successful semester:

1. Writing Group: I’ve set aside two days a week to write, and I meet up with people to do it. We usually do pomodoros, or writing for set lengths of time, usually 25-45 minutes, which we intersperse with short breaks. Doing this twice a week has been a boon for my productivity in the past, and I’m hoping it will continue to be this semester as I teach for the first time.

2. Teaching Prep only on Teaching Days: I’ve been lucky to get a two-day a week afternoon teaching schedule, and I’m taking advantage of it. Though I realize I’ll have weeks where this is impossible, I’m trying very hard to keep the majority of my teaching prep to these days.

3. Family Time: I check out from academic work daily from the hours of 5-8pm to spend time with my family, and on the weekends during my daughter’s waking hours. My partner and I try to plan fun, family-oriented things to do with her, and also use the time to get things done around the house.

How are you setting up for the semester?

faster feminism · new year new plan · openness · women

Faster Feminism Redux: Welcome Back, Y’all

I am sitting at my new desk in my new office at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. If you missed my hello/goodbye announcement in the spring here is the short version: I have moved. I’m now in this lovely town for a 12-month limited term contract. I’m thinking about beginnings and I am thinking about changes. I am also — always — thinking about poetry…

You fit into me / like a hook into an eye

That is how Heather began our first post three years ago. If you’re a long-time reader you may recall that Hook & Eye began in part as a reaction to the CERC brew-ha-ha in which absolutely zero of the nineteen new Canada Excellence Research Chairs we women. We also began Hook & Eye as a means of fostering community. Where, we wondered, were women working in universities in Canada? How were they negotiating the quotidian and extraordinary challenges of their diverse work environments? How are our colleagues–old friends or yet-to-be met acquaintances–thinking about and living through their experiences as raced, gendered, classed, and situated people in today’s Canadian university? And what are they wearing?

You see, I find myself once again in a Janus-faced stance looking back at the original impetus for this blog, and looking forward towards the unknown of another semester. Fresh as a newly-cracked moleskine or foreboding as start of hurricane season? Only time will tell…

You fit into me / like a hook into an eye
A fish hook / an open eye

In the three years since the blog began we have addressed an incredible amount in inequity. We have had guest posts that deal with rape culture on Canadian university campuses. We have had pieces on job-place harassment. We had — and then stopped running — a monthly post called This Month In Sexism. We didn’t stop running the feature because we rant out of material, no. We stopped running it because readers requested that we stop because it was too disheartening. Fish hook to open eye, indeed. Or rather, here’s to the undeniable need to keep talking, thinking, teaching, and practicing faster feminism.

Of course, as Heather wrote in that first post Hook & Eye’s aim is a double one: it is both an intervention and an invitation. We envisioned this space as a place to talk politics, pressures, panics, and pleasures. And yes, we probably do want to know what you’re planning to wear for your first day of class. We also want to know how your feminist praxis is evolving. In short, we want to know what our readership cares about and we want to continue to bring a diverse set of topics to you for your consideration.

Oh yes, we. That trickiest of pronouns. Such an easy one to wield with blindness to the kinds of exclusions it can enact; such a wonderful work when one feels a part of that we. We have undergone shifts in who we are here at Hook & Eye. Heather has moved into the position of Editrix Emerita as she moved into her new office as Vice Dean of Arts. Aimee and I have welcomed Margrit into the roster of weekly editrix-writers. Last year we were fortunate to have a collective of regular writers (thank you Danielle, Liz, Jessica, Liza, and Melissa!) and this year Melissa will be joining us on a semi-regular basis. And as ever we are grateful to out guest posters who give of their own time and take the risk of thinking in public.

Perhaps to my eye the greatest shift in who makes up the collaborative writing we of Hook & Eye is the shift to the sheer number of precariously employed. We now have a disproportionate number of un- under- or precariously-employed writers. And while writing in public is always risky, writing in public while precariously employed carries its own unique challenges. As I have performed (again, and again, and again) with a mix of determination and complete sheepishness the number of precarious workers is on the rise. Writing publicly, creating a readerly collective, trying to create the conditions for solidarity: these are some of the possibilities afforded to us by social media. Of course, we — in that shifting collective of bodies that comprises the pronoun — need one another as much as we need our own political and social consciousness to keep us from forgetting the various ways in which these generative aims carry the potential for permeating inequity. Fish hook to open eye? Yes, that’s the risk, but I would like to suggest rather that these pernicious and diverse inequities offer us new ways of coming together. Faster feminism.

As we head into a new school year another section in the Hook & Eye archives opens. We would like to invite you to continue to read, comment, and heck, maybe even write a guest post for us. For now, though, how about inspiring us with some of your new year’s resolutions?

new year new plan · resolution

Be it resolved

If nothing else, being an academic allows one to indulge in New Year’s Resolutions at least twice a year–certainly, September brings about a strong desire to articulate new goals as surely as it prompts the purchase of new pencils with which to write them down, and January offers us a culturally sanctioned do-over if our resolve has wavered as the fall semester waned.

And so I find myself making all new resolutions, again. I don’t mind so much that I didn’t live up to all the plans and schemes and goals I hatched sometime around Labour Day. For me, the very impulse to even make resolutions is a cheering reminder of the fundamental optimism of the human spirit. What can be more life-affirming than an ever-renewing set of desires keyed toward self-improvement, even if these desires do not always lead us to the improvements we aim at. Isn’t is good for the soul to think that at least we want to … change? Improve? Optimize? In any case, it all feels very hopeful

My resolutions go as follows:

  • Lights out at 10:30
  • Get outside every day
  • Be kind to my family, but not at the cost of my own sense of self
  • Keep doing my yoga
  • Meditate more
  • More home cooked meals, featuring more green things
  • Clean up the kitchen before I go to bed
Mah kitchen! Tuesday night, 9:45 pm!
I’m basically trying to be healthy, right? For work, I’m thinking:
  • 20 minutes of writing on my book project every weekday
  • 20 minutes of reading on same
  • Remember the 30 minute miracle, and stop frittering time
  • Prepare in advance, but not too much
  • Answer my emails
  • Try to maintain the 40/40/20 balance of work
  • Respect deadlines
Which are all work-health goals. Clean living for everybody!
Probably the one thought I return to every New Year’s day is one my dear friend Lesley Peterson shared with me way back in grad school in Edmonton, to wit: “This is not a crisis. This is your life.” All my resolutions come back to this: each day brings what it brings, and I can approach it with grace, and humility, and a sense of being fully present. Or, I can run around like a chicken with my head cut off, utterly heedless and without agency. I prefer the former. It requires calendaring:
Is this not the cutest thing ever? My daughter’s agenda …
Have you made any fancy or prosaic goals for the new year? 
academic reorganization · faster feminism · global academy · new year new plan

Seeing Women: Reflections on a New Year

It has been an eventful few weeks, to say the least. When I signed off on behalf of my fellow H&E writers I was anticipating a quiet holiday with a little reading, a little visiting, and a lot of unplugging. Things didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, I found myself glued to the Internet keeping track of the news. More specifically, I found myself confronted once again with the ways in which women are systematically erased and effaced. I found myself thinking about how I might better address the quotidian nature of violence against women, and I found myself overwhelmed. What follows is an attempt to think through four disparate and yet interconnected and recent instances where women have been central news stories, and yet simultaneously and problematically absent.
In the last few weeks four women I have never met have been in the news. I can name two of them, the other two women’s name has been withheld from the media. The women I can name are Malala Yousafzai and Chief Theresa Spence. The women whose names I don’t know have both been in the news because they have been victims of violent sexual assault. One woman’s name is being withheld because of the laws in her country regarding naming victims of sexual assault. The other woman’s name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
If you have managed to miss the news since October, Malala is a fourteen-year-old Pakestani women’s rights activist. She is known for speaking about women’s right to education. She was shot in the head and neck for speaking out on behalf of women’s rights. Just a few days ago she was released from hospital in Britain where she has been recovering since the fall. Chief Theresa Spence first made national news in Canada in the fall of 2011 when she declared a state of emergency in Attawapiskat. Rather than address the issues in Attawapiskat, the Canadian government effectively ignored her requests for aid and, as Chelsea Vowels and others have noted, mainstream media continued to publish inaccurate egregious misrepresentations of First Nations communities and their relationship with the government and the Crown. On December 11th Chief Spence travelled to Ottawa to begin a hunger strike as a last-ditch effort to seize and arrogant government by the lapels and demand — wait for it! — a conversation with First Nations leaders. When Prime Minister Harper finally announced that he would meet with First Nations leaders he made no mention whatsoever of Chief Theresa Spence, who was on the twenty-fifth day of her hunger strike. 
I can’t speak the names of the other two women, because I don’t know them.  One woman was a twenty-three year old physiotherapist. She was gang-raped by six men on a public bus. She was tossed from the bus naked and bleeding. She died on December 29th. The other woman whose name I don’t know is from Thunder Bay. She was violently and sexually assaulted because of her race. Indeed, her assailants intimated that they were assaulting her as a kind of response to the peaceful, grassroots #IdleNoMore movement.
These four women have been in the news, but their presence in the news underscores — for me, at least — a pernicious and violent cycle of erasure. While all four of these women come from different contexts and are in the news for different reasons what strikes me as undeniable is the ways in which they have been erased by the media. What do I mean, besides the obvious lack of naming? Carol J. Adams has an evocative term for explaining the ways in which systematic violence covers its tracks. This happens through what she refers to as the function of the absent referent, which is a radical severing of the referent from view. Adams’ example comes from the ways in which the language around butchering renders an animal into an object, thus obfuscating the violence needed to render “cow” into “hamburger.” Patriarchal society works the same way, she argues. Gendered violence gets turned into a singular act. Atrocious? Yes. Lamentable? Definitely. But rather than look closely at the ways in which inequity and systematic gendered, raced, and classed violence are built into the fabric of social life these acts of violence are made singular anomalies. 
So what do we do?
While I certainly don’t have a singular and finite answer for these pernicious and systematic violences, I have found some important cues in the kinds of coalitions that have come from the #IdleNoMore movements. Here are a few things I have learned or been reminded of in the last month:
1)   Form coalitions and teach others about solidarity.
2)   Share knowledges
3)   Articulate clear aims, and clearly articulate your grievances and concerns
4)   Be preemptive, be public
5)   Stand firm against oppression, and stand with friends and allies.
So, after a holiday season that reactivated my activism outside the classroom, I am resolving to return to teaching with a renewed sense of purpose. Pedagogy is for me a site of profound possibility and responsibility, and the classroom is a site of potentially radical change. I am returning to the classroom with a renewed sense of resolve to articulate, address, and discuss difficult issues with my students.
Welcome back, y’all. Let’s make this a truly new year.

balance · best laid plans · day in the life · new year new plan

Welcome back: a back to school list

3 – 20 pound bags of dog food
3 – 40 pound boxes of cat litter
2 – 15 pound bags of cat food
4 – bottles each of econo-size shampoo and conditioner
6 – toothbrushes, adult and child
4 – tubes of toothpaste
3 – bottles of foaming hand soap
96 – loads of laundry we now have enough soap for
100 – pounds of salt for the water softener
10 – bars of Allenbury’s soap (for sensitive skin, natch)
18 – razors (five blades apiece! Lookout, leg hair!)
5 – pairs of new shoes, for three people
1 – batch of raspberry bran muffins
8 – little baggies of cut up red pepper and cucumber
3 – bottles of autumn-themed scent for the Lampe Berger
48 – unsweetened applesauce cups
8 – frozen single-serve microwave lunches (on sale!)
2 – batches of homemade soup stock, frozen
1- great big bag of size 8 kid clothes from Bonnie Togs

From where I’m standing (or, right now, sitting, exhausted) back-to-school is an all-out war on my peace of mind. My sabbatical is over, and I’m embarking on a new journey: a semester where instead of teaching, I’m preparing an online version of one of our core courses. And I’m now vice-president of our faculty association, which entails way more meetings than I thought it could. My daughter is starting first grade tomorrow morning, and she’s a little anxious. My husband, among many other tasks, is the guy who manages everyone’s SSHRC applications, so  this is the start of his INSANE BUSY SEASON.

Here’s how I cope.

I make lists. Then I run errands.

The idea is to lay in stock from all those far-flung big box stores I hate to have to drive to, so that we don’t have to drive there again until January. The heavy stuff, the annoying stuff, the essential stuff, the expensive stuff. The pet store. The softener salt. The heavy personal care items that prompt a crisis when you run out. The way I figure, we’re all going to be busy and stressed out enough without having to dash out on an hour-long back-and-forth to buy toilet paper.

I’m prepared for academic armageddon, whether it come in the form of elementary school crisis or administrative brouhaha or massive pedagogical/technical snafu. No matter what happens, we’ll have fresh sheets and enough toothbrushes. We’ll sleep well and smell good, at least.

I hope.

Other than all that reading and course prep and new pencil business, how do you gird your loins (metaphorically speaking) for the back to school crush? Or is the return to regular academic programming, perhaps, the end rather than the beginning of chaos in your year?

Welcome back, readers — let’s get this party started.