Monday, September 6, 2010

Faster Feminism

You fit into me / like a hook into an eye, says the Atwood poem: like oxfords under brown corduroy cuffs, like a Bic pen in the coil of an unsullied scribbler, like Labour Day and despair.

Isn't September already hard enough, what with its foot-tapping demands to finalize course outlines, submit grant proposals, correct bookstore orders, outfit outgrown kids, sign up for yoga (definitely, this fall, for sure), finish that dissertation, polish your job letter, shelve your guilt along with the summer's unfinished articles, feed yourself (and others), clothe yourself (and others), and somehow find the shovels and gloves again?

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye.

So what would possess anyone to start a new blog in the already populous field of academic women's commentary? Partly, the CERC debacle. When Canada created 19 extra-fancy endowed appointments in science, technology, health and medicine to attract the smartest brains to Canada and keep them here, guess how many of them went to women? All of them, you're wondering? Not exactly. None of them. Not one. Aucune.

Fish hook to open eye.

But righteous feminist anger is not our only motivator. We want fast feminism, yes, but we also want to keep alive the other meaning of the hook-and-eye figure, the intimate sartorial metaphor for connecting things: ideas, experiences, questions and possibilities, bloggers and readers, audiences. hook and eye is both an intervention and an invitation. We write about the realities of being women working in the Canadian university system. We muse (and rave, and query, and wonder, and share, and occasionally rant) about everything from gender inequities and how tenure works to finding unfrumpy winter boots and managing life's minutiae. This blog is about women, universities, and laundry.

Wait: don't click away yet. Your eyes might be narrowing and your lips starting to purse in well-practiced skepticism: what exactly do we mean by "women working in the Canadian university system"? and who is this "we," anyway? We take women in its broadest sense. The moment it becomes synonymous with 'straight white middle-class chromosomal females' is the moment we will have failed. Call us on it. We want this blog to speak to undergrads and emeritae, women at the G10 (no, G13 - no, G15?) universities, professors at big urban schools and rural campuses, women in pre-professional programs and graduate students in the core disciplines. We're Canadian, so that's our usual point of reference, but we sense that trends in the postsecondary sector (budget cuts, managerialism, corporatization, you name it) exceed national boundaries and often have specific, if unacknowledged, effects on women. If you're one of them - if you've ever suspected there's a connection between your gender and some newly mystifying aspect of your job - you'll find hook and eye useful.

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 us is 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.

We hope you find this blog irreverent and serious, both. We hope you see yourself reflected here. And we hope you'll write for us. Seriously! Here's the format: every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we post. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for guest bloggers. You can see everything you need to know about submitting entries at the "Contribute" tab above. In addition, we'll have a monthly feature called "This Month in Sexism," an anonymized tally of all the crappy things we've put up with as women. Then it's back to the real stuff: feminist pedagogy, finding the right haircut, reading collective agreements, the burden of competence, the scourge slash opportunities of leadership culture, why smart classrooms are kind of dumb, keeping creativity alive, running into colleagues at the liquor store, the horror of the nonstipendiary postdoc phenom, and what we're watching on TV.

As for the new semester? Bring it: hook and line.

9 comments:

  1. This is very exciting. I am not a woman in academe, but I am very much looking forward to reading this blog. Thank you!

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  2. So happy to see this here, written from the Canadian perspective. It's really refreshing, too, to see you blogging as yourselves. The only way women are going to be able to overcome some of the obstacles we face is by naming ourselves, not hiding out (although, don't get me wrong, I totally get why so many non/not-yet tenured faculty blog anonymously).

    Nice to see representation from the U of A. Hope that there will also so some wonderful cross-over from French-language academics, who often have a different perspective on feminism, feminist issues, and nationalism.

    This is posting as a username, but please, call me Lee Skallerup, PhD in Comparative Literature, U of Alberta. I blog over at collegereadywriting.blogspot.com and at uvenus.org.

    All the best.

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  3. @Annie - welcome: don't know whether this blog will make you wish you were a woman in academe or be happy you're not! :-) @cheryliwanchukart: followed through to see your blog - argh uofc! be great to have you write here sometime, too, if you have the time/energy to spare. @Lee - don't know whether you remember me from GFC stuff, but it's great to see you in this context too.

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  4. Thank you for doing this. It is much needed. I had a discussion with a few incoming first year students yesterday who were shocked when I self identified as a feminist and then further off put when I told them that feminism is not a monolithic entity, like a political party, but can be thought of as a number of mutually penetrating discourses. I know that it is something of an oft repeated complaint - that new students don't know what feminism is - but I rarely come across people who haven't yet learned to shelter their ignorance behind a veneer of academically inclined political correctness. Getting them early in their first year and outside the confines of a classroom was really enlightening both for me and I hope for them. It was eye opening. Pardon the pun. Or don't.

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  5. @Andrew: feminism's not a political party? Rats: I'll have to cancel the cards I'd ordered! :-) In all seriousness, thanks for reading - and writing - and talking to your students!

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  6. It's exciting to see an online venue to discuss the things we have been (not so privately) discussing in person since I graduated so very long ago. I am looking forward to engaging many a barbed hook and all of the tight fits!

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  7. This is such a great idea! Looking forward to reading more.

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  8. @Andrew: when I hear young women say that they are *not* feminists and that "there's just no need for it anymore" I question my sanity. There are some pivotal dialogs to be had here, before things settle into just another variation of the way they were 20 or 40 years ago, except with some women now earning and spending more.

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