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Category Archives: academia

Supporting Women

I’ve been wanting to write about women not supporting women but was trying to find a way to do so without cutting too close to home, so to speak.   Being one not to hold something in for an extensive amount of time, especially if it is really bugging me, here goes nothing! 

This semester I have seen entitled and elitist behavior, by women, who call themselves feminists.  It’s shocking.  I talked with a close colleague about this and we discussed how this is so prevalent and troubling that it might be worthy of an article.  I am hesitant to recommend any of my students go into academia as a career.  Here I am, enjoying over 19 years of working with students and teaching in a public university, yet I would not recommend it.  Dog eat dog.  That pretty much sums it up.  And I recently talked with one of my alums who is in a Master’s program being chewed up and spit out by women who call themselves feminists in her women’s center. 

For me, this boils down to how we practice our feminism.  We can say we are feminists and have a definition of what that might be or look like, but how we behave toward other women is an excellent test.  Ashley Judd recently wrote a great piece about body image and the media and asked us to try to be better at not judging each other.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/09/ashley-judd-slaps-media-in-the-face-for-speculation-over-her-puffy-appearance.html  So there’s one step.  But treating each other with respect no matter what our job titles are is the next step. 

In the institution of higher education we exist in a caste system.  The support staff exist on the bottom, then the professional staff, than the faculty, than the administration.  But it’s really the faculty, I have found, that appreciate and perpetuate this system. 

Some recent examples of entitlement in action (names removed of course to protect the not-so-innocent): 

  • A message left on my voice mail referring to one of the sweetest and nicest colleagues I have as a bitch 
  • Demanding water before a talk
  • Being annoyed that we were showing a borrowed film to a group of middle school girls during spring break

I will stop there, because even one incident is too much.  What I have found is that the second you try to call someone out or confront their behavior they use the “ignorance is bliss” strategy and just don’t respond to you.  I have questioned the behavior of my colleagues and just not gotten a response.  It is so easy in this technological world of blogs, tweets, emails, and texts to simply ignore the text you do not want to deal with.  Hell, it’ll go away! 

I thought I wanted to teach full time.  I loved teaching and this was why I spent almost $70,000 to get my doctorate.  I did this while working full time and teaching as an adjunct.  And then I spent the next six years applying for every job I believed I was qualified for in New England.  But a dear friend recently said to me after another rejection “You are not one of them. You’re nice.”  What does this mean for the institution of academia, the very place where we try to teach our students to not only be critical thinkers, but also to become engaged citizens of their world.  How can we demonstrate that practicing our feminism isn’t just talk but action? 

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