The Old Worry

Dearest M.,

Yesterday, Mr. CF and I had another run-in with the complications of work and shared space.  I had a moment, very clearly, where I saw why writers are warned off from marrying other writers.  If writing could be this strange little mysterious thing I did that my spouse found charming and a bit admirable while he went off to run his accounting firm or whatnot, it could all seem so lovely.  Of course, in that scenario, I’m sure I would lament “not being understood,” and yackety schmackety.

But instead, I got mad at myself and attacked the dishes in the sink as if they had misbehaved.  They got very clean!  What happened was very mundane.  He has more free time than me, and writes often.  My workload is to the gills at the moment, and my output has been sludge.  I put time aside over the weekend, and then quickly chucked it because of an invitation to do something fun.  The invitation got canceled, and I felt like a schlump for putting my work aside so quickly, and then begrudgingly watching the weekend inch away.  Meanwhile, Mr. CF was finishing another draft.

So, I jerkily got mad at him for doing well what I am doing poorly.

The reason I bring this up is because I was reading about a study the MLA did tracking women’s careers in the humanities.  It takes women one to three-and-a half years longer to be promoted from associate to full professor than men, and it’s not because of child bearing/rearing  issues (the conclusion that I immediately jumped to before finishing the article).  Apparently academic mothers often exceed expectations.  Weirdly, if you’re married, it does affect your career (usually taking 2 years longer to reach promotion than male counterparts).

One insight the study had was that on average female faculty spend more time on their teaching (grading, in-class instruction), while male faculty spend more time on writing and research.  As great teaching is very often only rewarded with a plaque and lots of requests for letters of recommendation, it doesn’t have the same oomph at promotion time as sexy research.

Now I will make a huge over-generalization, and compare this study to marriage in a way that would make Aristotle shudder.    This is not a new idea, more of a repeat.  Are women faculty more inclined to perform to external expectations first, and then fit their own work in?  A classroom of students ready to judge your performance is a mighty audience, and one that can easily trump any voice that says to put them on the backburner.  Is the inherent argument or frustration that crops up between me and Mr. CF the fact that he performs for his own interests (creativity, etc.) first, while I perform to other’s expectations first?  Meaning, I need to say “suck it” more often?

This is interesting to me because it seems that some could interpret this study as support for the fact that women are more inclined to nurture and support students.  Instead, at least in my case, it reads more of either a more direct connection to present communities, or a bold streak of insecurity that is afraid of being thought less of, and so on.

Do you think there will be a Susan Boyle backlash?  She seems able to transcend any of that kind of nipping.  I like thinking of her voice as a giant shield that makes her instantly into a golden turtle.

Happy Sunday dahling,

Yours,

CF

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