An unpopular opinion

So, I’m on Twitter. I’d say my Twitter feed is equal measures personal friends; journalists, politicians, and public intellectuals; and political scientists. The verdict is still out on how important it is for me professionally to be on Twitter, but political science Twitter does keep me up-to-date on what’s happening and what the latest academic controversy is.

About a month ago, academic Twitter lost its collective mind over the satirical piece, “To My Student, on the Death of Her Grandmother(s)” on The Chronicle of Higher Education. I had a lot of strong feelings on the response to the piece – essentially, “everyone needs to CALM THE FUCK DOWN” – but decided not to write a blog post about it (read: was too scatter-brained to sit down and write anything coherent). But, academics have many opinions, leaving me with ample opportunities to ramble on about why I disagree with someone else. Today’s faux controversy:

So, here’s my unpopular opinion about this. I think there’s a pretty easy solution to this problem of the crazy/bitch narrative. Senior academic women should stop being crazy bitches.

Before anyone wants to argue with me on the implicit sexism in that solution, I want to say that: a) I read the entire blog post and still stand by this suggestion and b) my department is a prime example of senior academic women living out this stereotype.

I don’t have enough time, or a long enough attention span, to name all the offenses senior academic women have committed against female graduate students in my apartment. But here are a few just off the top of my head:

  • There was one female academic writing bad letters of recommendation for a graduate student applying for grant money. (If you can’t write a good letter, just say no!)
  • There was the female graduate student told by a female professor she would fail a seminar for missing a class to attend her husband’s father’s funeral.
  • There was the female graduate student repeatedly told to rewrite her master’s thesis as the preference of her senior female advisor changed, seemingly without warning.
  • There was the female graduate student asked by a senior female faculty member if she had considered what affect getting a PhD might have on starting a family.
  • There was the female graduate student told by a female professor that if she wanted to stay with her partner, she should be applying to R1 jobs. (Oh hey! That was me!)

Some of these things would be acceptable were it not for the fact there are uneven standards being applied to female and male graduate students. The male and female graduate students in the department talk. The male graduate students never get asked by female faculty during their annual reviews how their work is affecting their family life. My partner and I share the same female advisor, and you know who gets told to consider the needs of the other when job hunting? Me. I’m the one who needs to make changes. am his partner issue.

All I’m saying is, if senior female faculty members stopped acting like crazy bitches towards the female graduate students in our department, I would be much less likely to call them crazy bitches.


One thought on “An unpopular opinion

  1. I’m glad someone said this. When I started my PhD, there were about five female faculty in my department (we have since hired more), and four of them were jerks. I did a lot of self-reflection on whether this was just bias on my part, but I wouldn’t have been OK with their behavior in a man, so I don’t see why I should’ve had to accept it in a woman.

    It opened my eyes to the systemic sexism of academia in a way that I hadn’t noticed before. Assholes of all genders were able to succeed, but the only non-assholes I saw succeeding were men.


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