Friday, May 25, 2007

Damn lesbians

Wow, I just had a former post become a column at Inside Higher Ed, and the comments posted by readers are so interesting! Several posters were disturbed by my nom de plume. "Why does the author have to mention her sexual orientation?" writes Feudi. "I don't care about the sexual orientation of the author," states Jim. What is that about? What is so upsetting about my self-naming? Does it distance me from the straight/male readers?

Another comment, authored by "Old White Guy," intones:

Students want to be inspired by example, not hear their teacher whining about being helpless and oppressed due to race, gender, sexual orientation, social class. Teach them goals, not limits.
How interesting that mentioning my sexual orientation, or Violet's mentioning the effects of oppression, is somehow whining that will find its way into our classes and demonstrate helplessness to our students. It is especially ironic when the point of my post was to assist others in obtaining tenure. Couldn't my story of getting tenured at a research institution inspire by example and maintain the goal of tenure?

Some of the comments remind me of taking graduate-level English courses in which we discussed reader-response theory. I am who they think I am, and they get to determine what I mean. Of course, it helps for the readers (or someone) to be (self-)critical about their responses to Lesboprof. (I assume that it did not occur to any of them that I have a blog by that name, and I have written under this pseudonym before for IHE. It would have been a little easier if IHE had provided a link to the blog, but what can you do?)

Violet and Philosophy Prof get my back on a number of points, and both read into the importance of my identifying my sexual orientation and its impact on the pursuit of tenure. They are correct that my sexual orientation has impacted my experiences on the job market and in different positions, my research agenda, and my relationships to people in the larger university. While I would love the university to be a true meritocracy, I don't think any of us actually believes that to be true. No tenure-track folks can afford to be under that delusion.

Speaking of the delusion of meritocracy, grumpy Frizbane is back and sorely disappointed--both in me and the state of academe. It is interesting that Friz' frustration dates back to his grad school dissertation defense, which sounds like it was more annoying than exhilarating. Personally, I look back fondly at my dissertation defense, which was certainly better than the grad school experience! While other students and I joked about passing through the final hoop of the defense, I enjoyed presenting my research findings, engaging in scholarly discussion about what I had written, and seeing how I could perform on my feet. Being called "Dr." by my committee members was a great moment in my life. Of course, I assume this makes me more of a sellout in Frizbane's eyes, which are firmly locked on the ideal world.

The purpose of my original post/column was to encourage those on the tenure track to find ways to fit the pursuit of tenure to their own interests, passions, and styles. I didn't do it the traditional way, and I was by no means a traditional candidate, and I was still successful. While I admit I wanted to be successful, that does not mean that I don't want to be a real scholar, as Frizbane seems to think. The column was my way to help other scholars be successful, too, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation!

Frizbane also wrote the following snarky little poem:
I’m a Lesbo and Prof, don’t you know?
And proud to just go with the flow...
So don’t be so obtuse,
It’s time you deduce
We’ve rejected your tired status quo.

Now I read Frizbane's real question as such: can I successfully play the game in some ways (i.e., go with the flow), challenge it in others, and still have the chutzpah and clarity to work to change the tenure/academic game once I have gotten the prize? I would answer, "Yes." I think that I can work within the system to change the system, helping scholars who might not ordinarily succeed get through the system and making the changes I think need to be made when I can, over time. Even if I am a damn, self-proclaiming academic lesbian.


Oso Raro said...

The commentary on that piece is amazing (as in, amazingly surprising, bad, and telling). Well, what can one say? Everyone's jealous cuz we're pretty!


The morale of the story: some people really shouldn't use a computer, because they're not equipped with the social and cultural skills to negotiate the technology.

dhawhee said...

First time caller here--I've been reading the IHE comments and rolling my eyes. The comments over there are frequently off-the-charts of bad readings, and even more frequently people don't even bother to read the actual pieces, I'm convinced. It's frustrating. OWG's account of 'what students want' is rather ludicrous too. I've never known a group of students to all want the same thing.

I haven't checked today, but was surprised not to see the guy commenting under "Larry"--apparently a more acceptable nom de plume. Maybe he's on vacay.

Nice piece, by the way.