Sunday, June 26, 2011

Defined by your job?

Eileen at Dissertation Under Construction wrote a piece yesterday called Visibility and Women's Work that really struck a chord for me:

J has worked at a summer theater every summer since I moved to Overcast three and a half years ago, and usually it's great.  Long hours, but the people he works with are mostly fun and reasonably acquainted with the fact that graduate school is work, since some of them are thinking about grad school themselves.  Except for a few people, mostly straight men, who seem to think that intellectual work, especially done by a woman, is not work at all.  I'm aware that I'm extraordinarily privileged, in that my university gave me a funding package which allows me to solely work on my dissertation during the summers.  I don't have to pick up a second job or teach unless I choose to, so when we meet people for drinks after work or whatever, my answer to "what did you do today" is usually "read another book" and not "rigged 500 pounds of lights/built a giant platform for people to dance on." 
She is a grad student, academic and pretty awesome.  But her work isn't seen by some (mainly men) as real.  In my years with J, I've never heard anyone dismiss his work (theoretical physics mainly done from a couch) as fluff.  I couldn't do what she does, and without people like her the breadth and diversity of our knowledge base would dwindle.  Why is it that tasks are deemed less important when you have a woman do it?

I need to realize (and remember, and repeat to myself) that people who think like this are major douchebags, and I don't negotiate with douchebags.  It will still irk me, but I should correct them when I can and move along.

The things I like to do, that really bring me joy, are not what most people would call a career track.  I may never have a career in the sense that J has a career, but that doesn't mean I haven't done something with myself.   Eileen wrote about how what you do for money doesn't have to be what defines you.  It's great if it does, and defines you in a good way, but life isn't always work.

What I need to do is strengthen my non-"work" skills, so the after-work sphere of my life grows larger and more important.  People may not respect the things I like to do (sewing, sculpting) as real work, but I need to.  And I don't think I've been truly respecting my talents.

It's easier said than done, to not give credit to what others think of you.  But starting this summer, I'm going to try to not care.

Eat it, haters.


  1. First of, your work is brilliant, a.b. Also, am I the only one whose hypocrisy meter is going off? Some of my best friends are in the theater, and they struggle with people questioning the value of their work. I find this particular case of questioning one's career legitimacy interesting.

  2. I guess some people always need to find someone else to exercise dominance over (see misogyny in male geek communities). Blerg.

  3. Love those veggies! Even if you are a grad student your real joy can be elsewhere too...but I get the undervalued misogynistic tones all the time. There is such a divide between even counseling and social work vs. psychology. Psych is more male-dominated and therefore more "legitimate" and "scientific" and better paid-for by insurance companies. Haters gonna hate.

  4. Don't forget the tone of surprise from the misogynists at work well done.

    From the little I know, your craft skills are amazing. You may or may not want to pursue them full time but that doesn't stop people like me from spending a good five minutes admiring all the pictures you put up. :)


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