Musings of an expat grad student... oy vey.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Just confused.

I guess this isn't quite so much an angry feminist post as a tired and head-whirling one. Thanks, Otto, for giving me the impetus to post it. :)

I've been reading a lot of really fascinating blogs lately. Feministe, Pandagon, nubian's stunning Blac(k)ademic, and others to which I've been linked through them. Since my few weeks of thesis hell ended in the middle of last week, there's been a bit of a lull, and I've been able to sit back at the computer and read what people have to say.

But I stop short of commenting, because I'm so afraid that I'll offend someone. And that's the last thing I want to do.

I guess I'm trying to figure out a) how big the feminist tent is, and b) where I fit in. I'm a woman and therefore do not benefit from male privilege. For me, this is fairly cut-and-dried; I identify and am identified as female, so that space of privilege/lack thereof is clear to me. But there are so many other components, all of which interlock. I benefit from heterosexual privilege, which is not quite as governmentally privileged in the UK as it is in the US with the inception of gay marriage here (YAY!), but is still socially privileged to an enormous degree. I benefit from the privilege associated with not being non-traditionally gendered. I benefit from class privilege, which intersects heavily with feminism, especially in the US where, for instance, health care is not universally guaranteed and women's health care often seems to be the patriarchy's last priority.

I am trying to be an activist for change - in my academic work, in my life, and in my interactions with others. I am doing what I can to bring down the system. But I worry sometimes that I'm not doing a good enough job. I'm constantly worried that I'm going to offend someone, that I'm ignorant about something and don't even know it, and that my ignorance will cause harm to others. I suppose it's an extension of the academic problem: there's always something else to read, there's always another facet of the situation to explore, and it's never good enough. I think that's why I don't really blog about Issues; I don't feel qualified to do so.

Therefore, I think that I'll continue to do what I'm doing: I'll just read, and listen to what people have to say. Maybe eventually, when I figure out where exactly I fit in and how I can best advocate in the online community for change, I'll speak up more outside this little blog. But not yet.

Friday, June 02, 2006


...and the livin' is stressful.

There's a big-ass angry feminist post in my head, but I can't think straight enough to write it at the moment as I am dog-tired. So, tomorrow.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Yeah, so I suck at blogging. I think I have a little bit of stage fright, which makes no sense because I don't have stage fright in real life. But when the words I write are basically written in stone forevermore (read: Google-cached), I tend to seize up.

After all, when I'm a famous novelist (hahaha. hahahahahahahahaha.), I don't want to look back and think, "Damnit, my post-adolescent angsty ramblings are publicly available on the Internet!"


Teaching is going really well. I had a cringeworthy class or two at the beginning of the semester (protip: if you're in a stadium-seating lecture hall, don't give your first lecture sitting down at the desk in the front. Arrrrrrgh) but I'm really warming to the students and, I think, they're warming to me. I'm learning the delicate balance between having lecture notes that resemble a paper outline and sticking to them religiously (my MO so far) and being completely unprepared.

Of course, since their first assignment was due this past week, there's been the normal raft of excuses - I mean, what are the odds that out of less than 30 students, TWO of them had their mothers undergo emergency surgery in that particular week? So I'm still trying to figure out how much of an asshole I want to be with my late-work policy, and how to spread their grades, and how to grade their papers well, and all of that. But - and this is a first and possibly last for me - I've given myself permission not to be perfect at teaching my first time out. I find it relieves a lot of pressure to know that it's okay to be just pretty good at the beginning.

I'm also revising an article for publication in a conference-associated edited book - the due date for that is the beginning of May. And I'm giving a paper at a conference in June, a paper that needs to be finished by the beginning of June, a paper that's going to be published, hopefully, in another conference-associated book. A paper that I haven't started yet. AND I'm trying to work on my dissertation, and it isn't going badly, though I have gaps in my knowledge that you could drive a Humvee through and I'm frantically trying to close those. Oh, and I have a book review for a different journal due - well, this past weekend, technically, but as the deadline is a bit soft, I'm going to give myself until Friday to slog my way through the rest of the profoundly unpleasant book and write it up.

I slacked off far too much in the fall, I think, and I'm paying for it now...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New year.

So I, uh, seem to have left the blog to simmer for a while. Not sure why I did that. I think that all the writing and reading I've been doing for school have managed to squeeze all the bloggy energy out of me, but now that I've spent a week doing absolutely nothing of value for my PhD, I'm recharged and ready to blog again.

One thing that's happened since I inexplicably stopped blogging is that I've picked up a teaching position at a local university (not the one at which I'm doing my degree). I'm just an adjunct, teaching one course that combines two of my major research interests, but it's still bloody terrifying. I haven't actually taught in several years, and when I did teach it was in the capacity of a high school classroom assistant or an ESL teacher, so I'm not quite sure what possessed my department chair to trust me with a classroom full of students who will likely be, on average, two to three years younger than myself. But trust me she has done, even knowing my lack of experience. "University X," she said with a wink, "is a good place to learn how to teach."

The thing is, I'm naturally a pretty good teacher. Teaching seems to come easily to me, at least according to most of my former students, and I think that showed in the interview (which consisted of about one hour of questions and one hour of enthusiastic chatting about my field). But there are certain classroom-management and other pedagogical skills that have to be taught or developed, and I don't have those yet. I know everyone makes mistakes in their first classroom, but perfectionist that I am, I know I'll be incredibly hard on myself for every one I make. I've been devouring the Teaching Carnivals, but I'm still putting a call out now for my one or two readers (welcome, Carine, by the way! I LOVE your blog!): help?

Overall, it's been a pretty good holiday season. We didn't really do much, as my family is all across the pond and my husband's family is dysfunctional and doesn't really speak to each other, but we've spent a lot of time together being boring homebodies. I got Arthur and George by Julian Barnes - one of my favourite writers on the planet - for Christmas, plus a £30 Borders gift certificate which I used yesterday to buy books on critical and literary theory because I am a first-class nerd. As I am far poorer than my husband, he got a Gryffindor house scarf knitted by moi, which he wears around the house while saying "'Ello, 'Arry" like Hagrid. It's hilarious.

I hope the holidays have been equally kind to all of you. Happy 2006, everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


(Wo)man alive, I really need to update this thing more often. The past few weeks, though, have been nonstop motion: came home from visiting my family in the US, spent a few days working frantically on a conference paper that should have been revised a month ago, missed a bunch of screenings at a film festival because I was working on that conference paper, gave the conference paper (it went over really well, for which I am incredibly grateful), and now am finally home and have a few days off.

Well, not really; I have a few pages of a book article due at the end of the week, and I'm meeting with my PhD supervisor tomorrow. But mostly off. And there's been some good news - two more conference acceptances, including one that comes with full funding for flight, room and board - so even though I'm working hard, it feels like I'm accomplishing little goals along the way. The sloggy parts are worth the great ones.

I tried to write a blog entry about honesty and censorship, like I promised, but my brain is screaming for a rest, I think, and the words won't come out in any sensible order. My thoughts are still a bit nebulous, and fuzzy thinking does not a great blog entry make.

Instead, I will save the heavy stuff for another day, and welcome elisabeth to the blog. I wish I could understand your blog, but I love your pictures!

Monday, October 10, 2005


First, an enormous thank-you to everyone who responded to my last post. Even if the news isn't particularly rosy careerwise, I'm used to overcoming adversity, and it's really nice to know that I'm not alone in this quest. I've also found a few excellent blogs, to which I've linked: Otto's and handworn's.

This blog entry may be short, as my husband and I are currently back across the pond on a two-week trip to visit my parents and brother in Big City, and we're about to go out for dinner. But I'll add onto it later, most likely.

I made a decision about this blog when I started it: that it would be completely anonymous. And to that end, I decided that I will censor myself, to a certain extent. These are the skeletal facts about me: I am married, female, an expat living in London and a few weeks into a humanities PhD. These are the labels I place upon myself, the categories into which I allow my reader(s) to place me. In each of those declarations, I eliminate a level of uncertainty as to my identity.

But there are two big issues, for me, when it comes to anonymity. The first is one of safety, and the second is one of honesty.

We've all heard the stories about the bloggers who have been outed and lost their jobs because of it. I believe Dooce was the first, but certainly not the last. Several academic bloggers have been investigated, suspended, or fired because their blogs have ceased to be anonymous. While the Internet affords some level of pseudonymic anonymity, it is far from completely anonymous, and its reach is far, its memory long. While I'm not particularly worried about anything I've said online in the past coming back to haunt me, there are a few questionable pictures of me floating around out there which I wouldn't want future employers to see. (No, nothing like that... but a certain photo of me and a few friends in truly garish Halloween costumes comes to mind.) I've also been stalked online on more than one occassion by men who refuse to take no for an answer. One of them found out where I lived and I had to sic the security guard in my building on him. Shudderworthy.

Therefore, in the interests of my present and future safety, I will not be blogging about people at my school, or people in my department, even by pseudonym. I may blog about friends, but only in the most general of terms. I will not be blogging about particulars of my research, or even about my field in general. I will never post pictures. So, unfortunately, I'll be pretty boring if you're interested in horror stories about students and the like.

I will, however, be blogging about questions, and answers. About how George W. Bush is an asshole. About concepts and theories and how they apply to life. About myself, and sometimes about my husband. About my cat and the dumb things she does. About postmodernism and poststructuralism and all those other posts.

But never will I brush aside that curtain entirely.

Off to dinner now: honesty and censorship, next time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


First of all, thanks, yall, for the congrats on my MA dissertation submission. You made me all smiley. :)


I can't sleep.

I think sometimes that I'm somewhat self-defeating, at least mentally if not materially. For instance, tonight I spent an hour reading Invisible Adjunct's blog, in which the utter impossibility of even a tenure-track position, much less tenure itself, is hammered into the head of the hapless humanities grad student. Discouraging, to say the least. I'm an academic, and as such, my way of coping with fear is to educate myself to the brim about the subject of that fear, hoping that in knowledge lies power. But not in this case. The Goblin King won't disappear this time. (A cookie to anyone who catches the reference.)

See... I want to be a professor. It's What I Want To Do With My Life. I want to teach and I want to research and publish. But I also want to make a living wage at it, and eventually be able to take a sabbatical, and have at least some job security and a pension and all the other things that normal full-time employees have. And the thought of having a contract job my entire working life puts the fear of God into me. I'm doing all I can to make sure that I don't fall into the permanent-adjunct trap. I have a fully-funded fellowship at my school of choice, which is not Oxbridge but is a fairly prestigious school with a very good reputation; I published my first refereed journal article before I finished my MA, and have plenty more on the horizon. By all accounts, I'm doing very well.

And yet.

See, the thing is, I have no idea how many other people have similar or better qualifications to my own. I don't know how they make the decisions as to who to hire. I don't know how many publications I need by the time I get my PhD to be competitive for jobs - is it three? Seven? 15? How much does teaching matter? How much does it matter that I'll still be in my mid-twenties when I start my job search? How much does it matter - like, really matter, not equal-opportunities matter - that I'm a young married woman of childbearing age? How completely bloody random is it?

I, like all other academics I know, am afflicted with the disease of perfectionism; in my case, it combines with a fear of uncertainty to make that nasty chimera, the abject terror of failure. Even nastier because ultimately, there's nothing I can do about it. I can publish and teach and stay up late blogging and run myself ragged all I want, but the fact remains that I may yet fail. And if I do, I know that I will blame myself, even if it really is no fault of my own.

Is it really as bad as the Invisible Adjunct makes it seem?