Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First world, problems

-Confirming what everybody already imagined, what we had all already observed. But there are always other challenges to meet. For example, one may cook all of one's family's meals from scratch.

-Are food aversions really limited to "the west, where there is no shortage of foods to happily loathe without risk of malnutrition"? Religious food restrictions are certainly not, as I somehow think has come up on WWPD in the past.

-Hmm.

9 comments:

Recovering Foodie said...

I love the cognitive dissonance in that NY Times article. The author seems acutely aware of all of the competing foodie trends out there right now, and she does a hilarious job of trying to harmonize them:

"What does “home-cooked” mean in the modern age? Am I making bread, or would purchased bread be O.K.? What if it’s purchased at the farmer’s market?"

LOL - "what if its purchased at the farmer's market." Well, I'll do her one better. What if its purchased at a supermarket that exclusively buys from farmer's markets? Or what if the farmer (who presumably does not make his own bread, or else he would be a "baker") sells bread at the farmer's market that he himself picked up from ABP or another large-scale commercial baker en route? The mind-wrangling possibilities are endless, and the gut-wrenching decisions boundless.

I think it's high time for an official foodie bible, so that we can turn to an authoritative/divine source as an answer to all these vexing questions. And I nominate Michael Pollan to serve as our latter-day foodie Moses. He's already claimed that "kosher" really just means "food that Michael Pollan likes," and so I think that he would be up to the challenge.

fourtinefork said...

Mary Douglas and Levi-Strauss, among others, have written quite a lot about food aversions outside of the West! That, at least, is cannot be chalked up to just being a first world problem!

caryatis said...

Phoebe, re: first link:

"As one biology graduate student in our study said, “My husband has a job he loves, but it will require that we don’t move: This limits my postdoc and career options significantly. I think the chances of staying in the same city throughout the career and finding a tenure track position are almost nonexistent. However, I am not sure I care any more.”

Classic female self-sabotage! Did she ever consider asking her husband to move? Or picking a man who didn't so clearly prioritize his career over hers?

Phoebe said...

Recovering Foodie,

Good name!

Yes, 100% yes, re: Michael Pollan and an official food-bible.

As for home-cooking, I get that if you yourself prepare your own food, you, like, burn calories shopping and chopping. But that's not so efficient - generally one person is going to cook, and others will be just eating that food, even in households where chore-labor overall is split evenly. If my husband makes me all the Belgian fries - all of them! - there will be aesthetic and perhaps medical consequences.

Fourtinefork,

Good point!

Caryatis,

I hold forth graphomaniacally on this very topic in the post I just posted.

But in the mean time, I think on the one hand that you're right - assuming opposite-sex relationships, it is generally a female grad student who will think like this, not a male one. On the other hand, even in a world of perfect gender equality, sometimes one partner is going to have a career that prevents - or necessitates - a move. The way careers are now structured, one may wait a long time - or forever - to find a spouse in one's permanent (does such a thing still exist?) location. If couples - families - are going to live together, it's quite likely one partner will need to have the less-big-deal (or just more geographically mobile) career. What needs to happen is for the default not to be that the trailing spouse is the woman.

But argh, she's a science grad student! The husband's job had better be awfully spectacular, as she's probably, like, employable.

caryatis said...

Phoebe, I still don't agree that one person always has to sacrifice a career. This may be the impression you get from the academic-with-academic thing. Outside academia, most of the people I know are just working for money and wouldn't mind finding a new job or working less if they could do so without sacrificing their standard of living. And if one of the working-for-money people meets a more ambitious person, then...in theory it's still a sacrifice for the former, but if it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to them, does it matter?

I once met a woman in Utah, in her early 20s and married (of course) but no kids. She had been a biology grad student, and told me at some length about her IQ and how great she was at biology. Then she got married. Now she gives out perfume samples in a department store. Just waiting till she gets pregnant to quit.

That example does not support my point at all, but it stuck with me.

Phoebe said...

Caryatis,

I don't think one person must "always" sacrifice a career, only that the expectation that two people can be wildly ambitious, put their jobs first, and live in the same place (where, then, does travel-for-work fit in?) is often unrealistic.

"Outside academia, most of the people I know are just working for money and wouldn't mind finding a new job or working less if they could do so without sacrificing their standard of living."

Right - a job, but not a "career." It's not remotely unrealistic that both spouses would work outside the home. If anything, it's the reverse that's unrealistic.

"And if one of the working-for-money people meets a more ambitious person, then...in theory it's still a sacrifice for the former, but if it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to them, does it matter?"

OK, now I'm not sure what we disagree on. In some cases, the spouse who is an academic will be the more ambitious one, but not all, so there isn't a default for whose career should come first. If it's Stanford and not Outer Mongolia calling, then the spouse of the academic might want to start packing. But I don't think we should assume that everyone, male or female, is going to be all that ambitious, and that every instance of not reaching for the stars is "self-sabotage." I mean, when it comes down to it, lots of men would quit their jobs or take a less ambitious route if it were socially acceptable.

Re: the Utah woman, I have no idea. Does this have something to do with Mormonism? Or might someone who holds forth about her - or his - IQ have some other issues that would impede professional employability?

Britta said...

I mean, there is some middle ground here, as in, two people have jobs (even careers) they enjoy, but both are flexible. Say, a doctor marries a lawyer, and gets placed in a residency in some city far away, and the lawyer quits his firm job, moves to the new city, passes the bar, and starts his career over. Doing this isn't a fast track to Big Law or Supreme Courtdom, but it certainly allows both partners to have a career. Or, say, ambitious spouse gets a dream job offers in city A and small town B, and while B is a slightly better offer, picks A, because spouse will have far more career options there.

Being inside academia and fairly suited for it, I can see how it resembles a cult. As I get out of my 20s, some of my priorities have changed in terms of what I want out of life longterm, and I have decided there are things (family) I don't want to sacrifice for an academic career. I also realize there are lots of interesting, intellectually challenging jobs that pay equivalent amounts and don't come with the stress of academia, and that actually a PhD in my topic would be highly lucrative in certain places. There is a not small chance I won't end up a tenured professor, and I don't necessarily see that as a failure, though I know I would be viewed as such by my department.

caryatis said...

Phoebe,

But I don't think we should assume that everyone, male or female, is going to be all that ambitious, and that every instance of not reaching for the stars is "self-sabotage." I mean, when it comes down to it, lots of men would quit their jobs or take a less ambitious route if it were socially acceptable.

Sure. In fact, when I said “most of the people I know,” I meant to include men. I do think that when we see someone who has invested significant time and self-image in a career path and then abandoned it, we can suspect self-sabotage. Or bad planning, I guess.

“Does this have something to do with Mormonism? Or might someone who holds forth about her - or his - IQ have some other issues that would impede professional employability? ”

YES. I’m just waiting for an excuse to talk about Mormonism, if you’re ever curious.

And yes, maybe, to the second question. But she was only 21.

Britta, yes, there’s a middle ground. And even if one person has 80% of the total ambition in the relationship, she’d have to be a jerk to give no consideration to the other person’s interests.

I also think about how prima facie rational and gender-neutral criteria for deciding whose interests should prevail are related to gender. If a woman makes less or cares less about her job, it may be because she’s a woman. But even recognizing that, if it were my decision I might choose to sacrifice her career for the sake of mine. And rationality at the individual level leads to the triumph of sexism.

Phoebe said...

Britta and Caryatis, I'm going to weave my response to both of you into one comment:

Basically, within academia, there *is* a persistent idea that if you go any route other than tenure-track (or adjunct aspiring to that) after your degree, you have given up, and are probably (see Emily Matchar's "The New Domesticity") selling knick-knacks on eBay and throwing in the proverbial towel.

I think it's different in the sciences (like these female biology PhDs we've been discussing, all though more often than not, it seems, the gender divide goes the other way), where the great tragedy for those who don't get an academic position is a higher-paid job in the private sector - so someone who leaves before even looking for academic work might be seen as someone who cares about making a lot of money.

But in the humanities, it's never really imagined that anyone could aspire to something other than being a professor, because what could possibly be a better job for someone with those inclinations?

Which is largely fair. I mean, if it doesn't interest you at all to be a professor, maybe grad school isn't the best idea. But there clearly are people who are super ambitious, who were once humanities doctoral students, and who didn't go that route. On the Slate Culture Gabfests, they're always talking about their time in the academy - "they" being Slate's movie critic, and some other culture-section editor. Point being, the taboo within grad school against having outside aspirations is such that it can almost seem necessary to give the impression of having given up, while actively pursuing other options.