The End Was Not the End

*Sometimes, a beginning feels like an ending at first.*

When I left academia, I kind of thought my life was over as a scholar, a teacher, a researcher & a writer. More than thought it, I felt it. In my marrow and sinew, in my flesh and heart. My life as I knew it was over. And I was pregnant with my second child, hiding from the Florida summer heat and all my expectations that I shattered with one final, albeit forced, choice. While I was hiding, I was also hedging. One day, I might return to academic life, I told friends, students, and colleagues, perhaps, this isn’t the end. I hedged to make them feel better, which only made me feel worse about the loss and my inability to put together words to explain what was happening.

I’ve written about this before, many times before, but bear with me again. I thought my life was over at 32, almost 33, because everything I imagined for myself finally appeared hopelessly out of reach. I attempted to lean into the change by making a clean break, but my breaks are never quite clean. (The more I want them to be, the less they are.) Instead, I claimed I was in transition, a constant state of flux, which makes little sense for someone who hates change and craves routine, schedule, and rules to follow. And yet, I decided to write about what I couldn’t say.

I started writing to figure out what had happened to me. I started writing to make sense of my past years training to be an academic but also to figure out what my future might be. I started writing not only about my life but also about higher ed to answer the questions that swirled in my head about the profession I thought I loved and understood, only to realize that I didn’t know what that profession actually was. I started writing to figure things out and to try to save my own life by creating a new story of who I was and who I could become.

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What Makes A Mother

*What she means is that a mother with tattoos doesn’t seem like much of a mother at all.*

“You’re a mother with tattoos,” the cashier, in the orange Home Depot vest with platinum hair, cackles. You are just trying to purchase some magnets, two lollipops, two Coke Zeros, and fire-ant killer.

You try to smile and nod, but only manage a grimace. The cashier doesn’t seem to notice. Both of your kids stare at you expectantly, but you realize they are only waiting, as patiently as they can, for the lollipops in garish flavors like watermelon and cotton candy. You hand them lollipops, and they both grin like gremlins.

With all of your purchases in their separate bags, you turn to leave. Your husband pushes the three-year-old in the dayglo cart while your eight-year-old daughter walks beside you.

The cashier isn’t finished: “I mean, you’re a mom with tattoos. What do the people at their schools think? I mean…” (more…)

Sexism Ed Redux

*The academy has a gender problem. And it’s not new.*

So, Sexism Ed has been out for 28 days. (Who’s counting? I am clearly.) And there are few things that I want to direct your attention to.

First, The Revealer published an excerpt recently, which is one of my favorite essays on all the men who pretend to be allies, but really aren’t. Here’s a glimpse:

A man, who claims to be an ally and/or a feminist, has become a red flag for me. Especially if he loudly proclaims to be an ally. Especially if he looks around to see if everyone is paying attention to him. Especially if he insists on telling me about his feminism in detail while ignoring my arched eyebrow.

Second, David Perry was kind enough to interview me about the book and sexism in higher education more broadly at The Pacific Standard.  We talked about the push back I received for even bringing up sexism in academic circles:

I received emails, comments, tweets, and messages from academic men, who wanted me to know that sexism wasn’t a problem in academia. They told me about how their universities (or colleges) had women presidents. Or how their departments had a lot of women. Or how there were women in their grad programs. Or how they knew a women academic once. They sent me anecdote after anecdote about how women were doing fine in the academy to tell me that I was wrong. It was bewildering to see so many men try to shout me down for mere mention of a gender problem, which really just seemed to prove my point.

Previously, David also hosted my cover reveal, in which I wrote a whole essay (of course!) about how I came to write the columns for Chronicle Vitae that eventually became the foundation for the book:

What I found instead was that I would write about sexism, and later contingent labor, in the academy for the rest of my life. The limits that I thought I would encounter were not there. The academy has a gender problem. And it’s not new. This shouldn’t have surprised me. We live in a patriarchy, but I had hoped that academia was somehow better than the culture surrounding it.

Third, I am guest hosting this week at Nonfiction Fans: Illuminating Fabulous Nonfiction over on Facebook. I’ll be giving away a copy of Sexism Ed and a copy of Grace Period later in the week. So, make sure to pop by and ask me questions. Here’s part of my interview that started off the week:

You’ve written books on very different subjects. How did that happen?

Oh, boy, I do *write* on very different topics from white supremacists to zombies to sexism, which tends to surprise people, who, I guess, think writers stick to one topic or two. I write about what interests and fascinates me but also I write about topics that make me nervous and uncomfortable. It’s kind of like, “What’s keeping me from sleeping at night? Yes, I’ll write about that.” But, I also like to write about topics, in which we already assume we know the shape (narrative) of the story, so that I can show how the topic is always more complicated than the popular assumptions about it.

Check out the full interview here.

And finally, I wrote about my very complicated feelings about this particular book in my most recent TinyLetter:

An author is supposed to be elated when her book is published. She’s supposed to shout from the rooftops (or tweet or email or message) about her accomplishment. She’s supposed to be beaming with pride. She’s not supposed to look weary when you congratulate her about her new book. She’s not supposed to seem bummed.

(If you haven’t signed up for my sporadic newsletter, you can here.)

Lovely readers, I have a small request for you. If you pick up Sexism Ed (or any of my books), please let me know. It is the best feeling in the world to know that someone is reading my book or books.

 

Sexism Ed, Coming Soon

*We live in a patriarchy, but I had hoped that academia was somehow better than the culture surrounding it.*

So, I’m late on this (because deadlines and life), but Sexism Ed: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia is now available for pre-order. As you might already know, this is my newest book, and it will be published on April 2. (Eek! That’s less than two weeks from now.)

Here’s the blurb:

Why aren’t more women at the top of the ivory tower?

The academy claims to be a meritocracy, in which the best and brightest graduate students gain employment as professors. Kelly J. Baker, a Ph.D. in Religion, assumed that merit mattered more than gender. After all, women appeared to be succeeding in higher ed, graduating at higher rates than men. And yet, the higher up she looked in the academic hierarchy, the fewer women there were. After leaving academia, she began to write about gender, labor, and higher ed to figure out whether academia had a gender problem. Eventually, Baker realized how wrong she’d been about how academia worked. This book is her effort to document how very common sexism—paired with labor exploitation—is in higher ed. (more…)

No Silver Lining

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