Is there something beyond Quote of the Day? How about Quote of the entire period from the time I first considered grad school (i.e. senior year of college) to the present?
Every single female academic I have ever talked to about tenure has admitted to having a back-up plan. If I don’t get tenure, I’ll be okay because I can stay at home with the kids. I can go back to school. I can get back into my art. I can write. I can consult. If we’re going to all have these back-up plans (which, true to our impostor syndrome, are often better-defined than our actual plan to tenure) why not put it to good use? Live our lives, do our jobs the way we think they should be done, and try to get tenure that way. We already know what we’ll do if it doesn’t work. -Kate Clancy. (Via.)As I've discussed here before, one huge difference between men and women in grad school is that men often - and women never - arrive having known since they were toddlers (whose mothers were confident in their sons' futures as Great Men) that they would one day be highly esteemed and most distinguished Professors. I mean, there are guys who know this in high school and college, then don't get into grad school. But some do, and it doesn't matter if they have twelve incompletes and put off scheduling their exams till Year 14: they are the future of intellectual inquiry. That's just how it is.
Women in grad school, meanwhile, once they get over being amazed at having gotten in in the first place, will explain that they could always teach high school, go to law school. Women won't, in my experience, outright say that they could always stay home, explore hobbies, or otherwise fill their days without monetary compensation, but part of this comes from the fact that early in grad school, when the Plan B's are first being hatched, there are not as many husbands-let-alone-children in the picture as there are at the stage Clancy's talking about. But whether the back-up plans are more or less stereotypically feminine than the particular doctoral degree being sought, the fact remains that women discuss alternatives, while men will become professors, whether or not that ultimately works out for them. Ultimately, if the goal is staying in the profession for which you were trained, the men may have the right idea, although the mess of shattered egos this leaves, when it's really not the end of the world to end up with a Plan B, no doubt hits men harder than women.
There are several things in the rest of Clancy's piece I don't fully agree with. I'm not sure what's to be gained by mentioning one's tendency to burst into tears. And having the capacity to turn off one's non-work-self and switch on one's work-self, like having a dose of stoicism, isn't bowing to the patriarchy, but reasonable. It's not that one should have no outside life, but that it's important to show you have that work vs. not-work line drawn. The danger in not doing so is either that you come across as someone more interested in hobbies than work, or, conversely, that you end up tailoring (or painstakingly describing) your free time to fit what you think is expected of you, what you think would make you look better.
And as appealing as it is to think that blog-fame (stuff like, uh, occasional links from Andrew Sullivan) could somehow translate into a qualification (as opposed to a drawback) for getting tenure, there are some good reasons why even those of whom this might benefit wouldn't want to go down that poorly-lit road. (I'll settle for, writing daily anyway makes dissertating go more smoothly, and for having powers-that-be understand how very, very little time and energy blogging actually uses up.) But whatever the essay's drawbacks, that ending is something all female grad students need to hear.