Totally stolen from The Hermitage. Please see the original post for other answers across the internet.
1. How do you command the attention, and respect, of men in academic settings (e.g. classroom, conferences, faculty meetings)?
#1: My academic training is such that I mirror stereotypically masculine communication styles. This tends to bother some of my quieter female and male minority colleagues who feel that I am silencing them (it does not bother said colleagues with similar training to mine). I don’t understand why they don’t speak up! So I make an effort to ask what they think, just like I would do in class. I don’t allow myself to be talked over, I remind folks when they are repeating what I have said before, “Exactly, that’s what I was trying to get at earlier” and I make sure to point out, “Yes, that’s what (quiet female colleague) was saying earlier as well.” After a few years of that, people listen to me.
With students, I tend to get a bit more respect if I impress upon them “proof by authority,” again, just as a man would. I have a PhD in a very difficult subject from a legendary school. I am well-published. I am a media darling. I have awards. When one of these things comes out in a departmental newsletter, my formerly skeptical male students tend to behave better. And, like my mother, I’m quite good with the skeptical single eyebrow raise. “Really? You’re trying sh*t with me? I don’t think so.” Also a little public peer humiliation, “Who can explain this to Mr. X?”
I do take their subject-matter questions seriously, even if phrased incredulously, as if they’re playing devil’s advocate so that they can get a deeper understanding of the material (which means I get the respect of a certain type of masculine problem student), but if they behave inappropriately, I point out that their behavior is inappropriate. This was especially a problem with emails in the past, so now when I get an inappropriate email, I respond saying that the email is inappropriate and we cannot allow our graduates to embarrass our program with unprofessional communications. Then I give them the contact information of the writing center and tell them that I can answer their question after they have learned how to write a professional email. That so far has always resulted in an abject apology rather than escalation of inappropriate behavior, as had happened in the past. I have also learned (through harsh experience) that women are not allowed to show negative emotion in the classroom, even if deserved. They can be enthusiastic and excited, but they cannot be angry, even about something like plagiarism. Men can. Disappointment is the best we can do, and even that can come back to bite us.
#2: I don’t have much problem with colleagues and bosses, fortunately. I deal with asshat students by invoking authority, much like #1 said. Thanks for saying all that, #1.
2. How should women dealing with a two-body problem handle assumptions that their career is secondary to their partner’s?
#1: I Blame The Patriarchy, and we should smash it. Failing that, I just don’t know. I’m in a different field than my partner; he’s smarter than I am (#2 Not true! You’re just differently abled) and has a high-powered job, but he’s not an academic. So far, my career has driven us as a couple. He followed me to grad school and now is finally following me to Blighted Town. I think our friends and acquaintances and coworkers understand that my career is important. His is, too. So far, we have (somehow, barely) managed to both have careers as well as our relationship. We don’t have kids, though, so we were able to live apart for years at a time (grumpily!). The first time I was seriously on the job market, I kept my relationship status on the down-low. The second time, I didn’t bring it up, but I was in more of a eff-you mood: anyone who doesn’t want to hire me because of my marital status is a place I can’t survive working in, anyway. Even though I’m now stuck in a red state, it hasn’t been too much of an issue in most areas — rental housing aside. (Grr.)
#2: I don’t know a good answer to this. On the one hand, I was severely hit by these assumptions on the job market and before. I’m still digging out of that prestige hole (the old-fashioned way, through high-quality publications that are slightly underplaced). On the other hand, I did get a trailing spouse position for my spouse. Anecdotally, I know stories of women who did not wear their wedding rings on the market who did much better without the ring than those who wore them, and of one woman who took her engagement ring off for the second half of her interviews after it derailed one of her earlier interviews by moving the topic of discussion to weddings rather than her work. She did much better after. Not a perfect experiment, but somewhat informative.
My advisers all recommended marrying a computer programmer or a freelance writer/novelist, if marrying at all. Or, another graduate of the same prestigious program, as places like being able to get two hot-shots when they might not have a chance at either. I do, however, know people married to English professors who managed to get dual positions for both spouses at top places you’ve heard of. So, if you’re both hot-shots maybe it’s not so bad.
On the hiring side, our school (in a small town in rural nowhere) is VERY good at placing dual career partners. That’s how they get all the good people. My department is full of amazing spousal hires and hires whose spouses are spousal hires. (#2’s place hates doing this.) So when you tell us you have a spouse with career needs, we do not hold that against you and we put the machinery to work right away, because the machinery often takes longer than the 2-3 weeks we have after we give you the offer. For us it’s a selling point (though we also do not hold single folks’ status against them– single folks often meet someone in the city and convince them to move to the small town). But I do not believe most schools are quite so friendly. #2’s school claims it is, but it’s a lie. A lie, I tell you.
As to whether or not you should say something, it’s difficult to say. In some places even mentioning things like family (parents) and spouse could make you seem less serious. In other places that helps partner placement move along. Some places it’s even a selling point. We do tend to look more fondly on people who have extended family living a few hours drive from our town (“They’re more likely to accept us”). But don’t say you won’t go someplace unless a placement can be found for your spouse… we’d still like to think we’re special. You can say it would help, but you don’t want to say you’re not actually interested in us as a department even if it’s true.
3. What would you like to see from tenure-track and not-yet-tenure-track menfolk? How can they pitch in?
#1: Our chair is really wonderful in respect to these issues. He comes at everything with an underlying belief that discrimination is real, that things are more difficult for women and minorities, that there are past injustices that have not been paid for, that diversity has positive spillover effects on everybody, and so on. He listens to people, he takes EEOC guidelines seriously, and he questions things like, “are we discounting this person’s research because it is in the area of -ist studies?” It makes it a very supportive environment to work in.
Also, I think if there’s a rule we’re applying to a situation, that rule needs to be applied equally to everybody. If we have a rule that we’re only looking at applicants with at least two publications, then just because a friend is pushing white-guy new grad with no publications, we shouldn’t look at him separately unless we change the rule and go through and re-look at all the applications. People seem to want to make exceptions for young white guys more than other folks, in my limited search committee experience. Showing “promise” is a way that white guys in a male-dominated field are more likely to get ahead.
#2: They can pitch in by taking some of my damn teaching load so I can do more research. Except, in my department, the loads really are pretty equal. I’m not sure I want specifically male T-T help so much as I want change from all males in society, about such a huge variety of things. Ow, my brain.
4. How do you deal with insinuations that you were only chosen for a position/award/etc because of affirmative action?
#1: With that eyebrow raised, and proof by authority. I don’t actually get that much because I really am superior quality (by pedigree and accomplishments) and they are lucky to have me (and I’m lucky to be there precisely because I am valued and the department is so supportive and not batshit crazy). The junior hires in our department are primarily female though, probably because the university is very family friendly, so it’s not much an issue.
In one of our subfields we hired an amazing woman, and part of the reason we liked her over the other candidates was because she filled a huge hole in that area and the students have never seen a woman working in that area. The student responses to her job talk were harsh and frankly, embarrassing for everyone to read. The men in that subfield said that that was proof that our students NEED someone like her providing that viewpoint and filling that hole. Is that affirmative action? No. Diversity is a real need.
#2: Diversity is a real need here, too, and fortunately the people in charge mostly recognize that, even if students don’t. So far, I haven’t gotten that particular insinuation, though I know women who have. Mostly I deal with things like that with the old raised eyebrow and “Do you hear yourself?” look.
Well, commenters? What makes you grind your teeth here?