Friday, September 9, 2011

Something special, an ordinary party

Did you see that episode of the Simpsons, where Bart joins a football team, and Lisa makes this big dramatic entrance to the field, all suited-up, ready to fight the feminist fight against gender discrimination in sport? And there's already some girls on the team? And she's kinda like, "Oh, right then, okay, carry on."

That happened to me this week.

I was invited to attend the welcoming supper for new faculty members, because I'm on the faculty association board. The invitation didn't specify, so I wrote to ask if I could bring my husband and daughter, you know, to fight the feminist fight against the erasure of real-live-families from academic life? Well. We got there, and not only is there a nametag for my daughter (in cheery Comic Sans, no less), but a whole tablefull of kid name tags. And a giant, well-stocked craft table at the front of the hall, where a mass of small children are excitedly making glittery foam stars and flowers, collaboratively filling out colouring pages. My daughter made friends! And a pink door-hanger with unicorns on it!

What?

I made a point of moving through the room, introducing myself to faculty families--faculty moms and faculty dads and their 'civilian' spouses and their toddlers, their newborns, their twins, their tweens. The spouses got nametags, too. There is nothing more heartwarming for a crusty old tenured faculty mom than to see a new professor mom, burping a name-tagged four-month old, while her husband fetches strained carrots out of the diaper bag. We talked schools and daycares, and while I was fully prepared to to staunchly defend our rights to reproduce and research in the same lifetime, no one really needed convincing.

I actually found it very moving.

As the crusty old tenured mom, I have to interrupt myself to bring you back to the olden days, when I started here. I went to the same party. There were no children, let alone a child's play area. And I would have noticed that, because I was BABY CRAZY but feeling like I had to maybe keep a lid on it.

Things change, even at universities. They even sometimes change for the better, for the more inclusive, and the more humane.

Best. New Faculty. Orientation. Dinner. Ever.*

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* full disclosure: I won a cheese tray in the draw. I NEVER win stuff in draws. This possibly colours my interpretation of events ;-)

7 comments:

  1. I know, huh? I still feel kind of a glow from the whole thing ...

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  2. I like the cheese tray winning as a tempering of your mood....mmmm, cheese.

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  3. triproftri: exactly. mmmm, cheese. also, it's actually branded with the university logo, which i find hilarious and also endearing, in this context.

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  4. While it seems very plausible that the growing trend of including the family in your work life is a result of a growing number of women in the workforce, I'm still not totally convinced that it's "feminism". Could it be a generational difference? Or is this generational difference brought about by feminism?

    At any rate, it almost seems like a separate thing, like "familyism". When I became a parent 8 years ago, I felt like I would be damned that my life was going to change that much. As a result we always brought our daughter everywhere with us. And now we see (at least where I live) fancy restaurants with kids' menus, kid friendly coffee shops, kids at rock concerts...etc. If anything it is just as much the young dads' pride in hanging out with their kids as it is women getting respect in the workplace.

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  5. This from Terri, who couldn't bend Blogger to her will:

    "LOVE THIS POST! I wish it was more this way -- and reading your post makes me think how important it is to remind people that child/spouse inclusive events are happening in academia and should be happening more. Sadly, I rarely see kids at academic functions (even parties). I usually bring my toddler simply because we don't have a babysitter, though he often ends up being the only child at the event :( ; the other option is that either myself or my partner (also an academic) would have to stay at home to babysit so one of us ends up missing out. So far, I haven't seen much evidence of familyism in the academia.... (the women's studies centre at UBC being the one notable exception and it was also a place that brought together the different factions within a department -- sessionals, grad students, post-docs, t-t faculty -- so that may have been a contributing factor to the sense of inclusivity). I am optimistic the situation in academia will change if we keep writing about the issue and offering alternative models ... Thanks so much for calling attention to this! "

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