Monday, March 21, 2005

Female, Married and Academic: the Conundrum

I've been thinking about this topic ever since Chris and I got engaged, but especially this week, since I've started receiving feedback on my future PhD. I've discovered something really interesting: there are quite a few people who do not know how to "place" me, because I'm not the stereotypical "I'm getting married this summer" girl. What baffles a few people I know (outside of the University setting mostly, except for a couple of peculiar examples) is the fact that I'm planning on both getting married and getting a doctorate. All of this has caused some musing. (Warning: I get wordy, this time!)

Now, I feel really supported in these decisions. Don't get me wrong. And I don't feel insecure about them. I've committed my life plans to God, and I really feel like He's been guiding Chris and me through all of this. And I'm much more traditional in my plans for future children than you'd think: I plan on staying home with them, and just working as a sessional (a few hours a week) rather than taking on the prof responsibilities of a tenure-track position. I'll wait until my future children are older before I take on any more responsibilities, but it's a lot easier to get my PhD right out of my MA. I want to always make sure I have a balanced life, and I'm not really a "sacrifice everything else" ambitious kind of person.

The moral of all that: I'm rather traditional in my gender roles, and I've planned my life accordingly.

But, there are some out there (always women -- I'm sure there are men who think this way, but in this age, I don't know a male who would voice this kind of point of view) who don't understand why I'd go to all the effort of getting a doctorate if I'm getting married.

Questions and responses my parents have encountered:
(In response to hearing my plans:) "But she's getting married!"
"Shouldn't she go and just be wherever her husband's going to be?"
"Why can't she just work in an office somewhere?"
"Isn't higher education just for girls who have no chance at a husband?"
"When will she have time to teach if she's going to have children?"

I also deal with two different extremes of people. First, there are those who assume that my impending wedding is the only priority in my life. With a year and a half engagement, you don't really work "full speed ahead" on preparations. And so, I've encountered quite a few who are puzzled when they learn that no, I haven't done much lately to prepare for the wedding. I have bigger stresses than that. (Okay, I got the fabric on Saturday. That's progress!) There's even a girl at University who only asks me questions about the wedding, and then utterly shuts down when I try to talk about anything else. It's very odd. (Well, she's also horrified that I have male friends, and is convinced Chris will be jealous -- have you seen him with his female friends? -- but that's a whole other story.)

Then, there are those who assume that, because I go to grad school, that I'm somehow pretentious or will talk over their heads, or will look down on them somehow. That makes me sadder than any 1950s assumptions about the roles of women (those more make me laugh). It's sad that anyone would think I wouldn't like them.

I wonder if other female married academics go through this? I might be more of a unique case, with all of the Christian circles I move among. In my department, I'm not so much on an anomaly, because most of the grad students are married or in really serious relationships. At a conference last year, Chris had a good time bonding with the husband of one of my colleagues. Said husband was giving Chris advice about how to get along in countries where you don't know the language, and need to entertain yourself while your spouse is researching. This friend's husband loves how he gets to travel Europe, thanks to his academic wife. (All of this conversation made Chris very excited for prospects of going to Germany!)

So? I'm happy in my life plans, and Chris is thrilled to be moving to Victoria (come on -- how cool is Victoria?), and now we're praying to find work for him there. And my friends and family love me very much, and have provided amazing support for me through these degrees. (I have the most encouraging parents ever, when it comes to having a love of learning. You wouldn't believe how much they get involved in my work! And then there's my grandma, with her copy of my first article, showing it off to people!) I'm just going to have to remember that, in some of my circles, I'm a bit of a trail-blazer. I'm a bit different, and I'm going to have to always be prepared with an explanation, some patience, lots of love, and a sense of humour.

(And I remind myself that Christopher thinks it's the coolest thing ever that he's getting a "smart" wife! It's like how excited he is that I'm thirteen days older than him. Woo, older woman!)

This has been long, and now I must go to bed. Good night, my lambies.


Chris Reed said...

I love you, I'm glad that we get to somewhere that is knew for both of us as we get married because it will allow us to find out who we as a couple are in a new environment. Also a smart wife means fun travel and non boring conversations. Also there is the fact that you will be a hot wife. I'm sure that Derek would agree with me there. Love you.


Chris Reed said...

I just had to add that I just read my comment after publishing it and I used the wrong "knew" I meant "new for both of us". Oh well.

Chris . . . again.

LynnieC said...

Chris is the cutest ever. Correcting his own spelling mistakes? so good. And I personally can't wait for you guys to get to Germany...that sounds like I'm trying to get rid of you, but its worse! I want to take advantage of your apartment for a free place to stay in Germany. Awesome.

Life of Turner said...

Maryanne, the main reason it's a conundrum is because that Doctorate makes you more marketable, but you won't need to be marketable, because you'll already be sold. After all, isn't the only reason that anyone learns to do anything worthwhile to sell themselves to prospective mates? Speaking of which, I need to learn to play guitar and speak Latin. For myself, really!

"You know, like numb-chuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills." - Napoleon Dynamite

Derek out.

P.S. Chris, I agree. But only inasmuch as I support you in your decision, and not in a creepy "wow you two are almost married and Derek's still making comments like that" way. Just to clear things up.

Ky said...

Maryanne, both Chris and Derek are right: you are hot! And I AM saying that in a creepy "you-two-are-getting-married-but-I-still-make-comments-like-this" because I CAN!
And, yes I do plan on taking advantage of your future apartment in Germany. Then we can BASH around Frankfurt.

LynnieC said...

Hey Derek. I know some latin and I play some guitar, and I DID do it just for me. So there's your theory out the window.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Derek: Karl says, "You SHOULD learn Latin, because it might do something good to you."

I'm just transcribing, not condoning.

Life of Turner said...

Various responses:
Ky - You amuse me greatly. keep up the creep.
Chris - Good job on the hot soon-to-be-wife. I'd congratulate myself if I were you.
Karl - I'll Latin you!
Maryanne - Isn't it funny that comments on your blog address me?
Lynnie - I'll believe you if you die a lonely Latin-speaking guitar-picking spinster. Otherwise, I will attribute your securing of any future mate you have directly to those skills, which in turn corroborates my theory. Go ahead, prove me wrong!

Derek out.

Queen of West Procrastination said...


Karl has a response to Derek, but he's too Luddite to do this himself:

"Ubi est Derek? Booibus yeahum!"

Chris Reed said...

LynnieC you fail to understand what Derek means when he says that he needs cool skills to get a girl. It is the boys that need the cool skills because like Napolean says girls only go for guys with cool skills, he does not say that guys only go for girls with cool skills.

Now Derek the fact that guys don't only go for girls with cool skills is exactly why girls can get cool skills for themselves. And that LynnieC is why you were able to learn to play the guitar and speak latin for yourself.

By the way Derek a cool skill that girls go for is baking. Trust me.


arimich <> said...

Amen to that! As I recall, it got you a wife. And funny.

arimich <> said...

Or an almost-wife, anyway, if you want to be precise.

J.C.Q. said...

I can make balloon animals. Is that a skill? I will make you a weiner dog.