From my feminist mothering studies standpoint, all violence is connected. Violence towards children, women, LGBT people, racalized people (and, of course, all the ways that many of us are have been or are all of these identities at once) is all about who has the right of protection from the state and who doesn’t. Who counts as a citizen? Who is seen as worthy of protection? Which people’s bodies are seen as in need of physical discipline? As I argued in my recent essay “Disciplining the Unruly (National) Body in Staceyann Chin’s The Other Side of Paradise” in Small Axe, which you are welcome to download from my academia.edu page, violence in the Americas is rooted in colonialism and slavery. All of our societies in the Americas have roots in notions of freedom that is exclusionary and in public spaces that need to be policed violently in order to keep them segregated by race and gender to maintain the image of a white national body politic. And so the Black, brown, Native body has long been considered dangerous as many scholars have written about, but as I argue was actually dangerous to notions of exclusionary racist nationalism. The presence of people of color in public spaces challenges the idea of the nation space as being always already white. So to explain this to white people, this is how you get police practices or violence enacted by white people in “self-defense” that see people of color as inherently suspicious and dangerous because by the logics of racist nationalism they are.
If you’re headed to NWSA, please come introduce yourself to me and join the discussion. We’ve structured out time so that we’re each presenting for 5-7 minutes so there will be plenty of time for conversation. PRCC, 209-B. Saturday 2:30-3:45
Building on the recent publication by Demeter Press of Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, this MIRCI sponsored roundtable provides new approaches to thinking about mothering, labor, and economics. Questions central to feminist economics such as what counts as labor, what kinds of labor are valued, and what labor and laborers are in/visible in both public and private spheres that are becoming increasingly blurred, resonate strongly within contemporary mothering studies. The roundtable represents a variety of disciplinary and practitioner perspectives, including that of an entrepreneur/blogger, a graduate student, a junior faculty member, and three tenured faculty. We interrogate love and labor from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives and institutional locations, including bloggers who write about improving work culture for mothers (askmoxie.org and mitacoach.wordpress.com), and as well as new scholarship on ideologies of caregiving and labor related to biological motherhood as the only “real” choice for women and in intensive mothering, the invisibility of stepmothers’ labor, and needed historical context for the legacies motherhood as profession stemming from the fin de siècle.
In honor of the upcoming National Women’s Studies Association Conference this week in Puerto Rico, I’m reposting one of my most popular pieces from the blog.
Every conference is an opportunity to make connections with other scholars and talk to an informed audience about your work. Here are some of my top tips for getting the most out of academic conferences.
• First, take time to think through which conferences are worth your time and energy. Most of us don’t have unlimited conference travel funds. When you add in the costs of extra childcare and the time it takes to craft a good conference paper, it only makes sense to carefully choose where to present your work. For me, with the ages of my children and my regional university’s limited professional development funds, I usually only attend two conferences a year. I’ve found attending of a broad international conference related to one of my disciplines, like the National Women’s Studies Association Conference and a smaller specialized conference, like the Caribbean Studies Association Conference useful…
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Today is the first day of the MITACoach Workshop. A key component of the workshop, besides the workbook, curated readings, and flash consultation with me, is storytelling.
I started MITACoach as a way to help mothers working in the academy find support and community. As mothers and as academics there is a lot of pressure not to share our complex stories. The editors of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia write movingly about the many women faculty members who wanted to share their stories about being in the academy in this anthology, but who decided they couldn’t publish their experiences because they were afraid of the professional backlash. Today we’re starting to break that silence by telling about our experiences and so gaining community and and support.
I firmly believe that our academic institutions are better when everyone has a seat at the table. Feminist theories of knowledge production have demonstrated that we produce much more complete pictures of the world when we have researchers who come from a diversity of viewpoints. Retaining mothers in graduate school and as faculty members would be a huge step in the right direction, and one way to do that is to have our experiences validated.
Why did you start offering these workshops? Mothering in the Academy (MITA) came out of my desire to find a support and community as a graduate student mom, having a second child on the tenure track, and then mentoring junior faculty parents after I got tenure. I noticed that the connections I made at conferences were vital to my success, although I couldn’t predict if I would meet other mother scholars at a particular conference. I received encouragement and support that really differed from that of friends in grad school or in my academic position, because we were able to offer each other outside perspectives on institutional problems. I even edited a book with Pegeen Reichert Powell after meeting her on a panel!
I decided to create my blog, open a coaching practice, and hold workshops in order to provide academic moms with consistent resources and a community outside of their current departments, much like I sporadically found at conferences.
I firmly believe that we need peer-mentors as role models to succeed.
The workshops especially are structured around the idea that mother scholars need a community to talk about their experiences and needs where they don’t need to have their “game faces” on. The workshops are deliberately kept small and framed as cohorts, with the hope that you’ll learn just as much from the participants as from me and the other seminar leaders. Each workshop will have a private Facebook group so that participants can keep in touch with each other.
MITACoach workshops will happen three times a year at critical moments to help mother scholars bridge work and family. Mid-summer to plan for the academic year, mid-fall to take stock of your work-life balance and plan for winter break, and mid-spring to plan for a productive and restful summer.
What happens in the workshop? In keeping with the busy schedules of academic moms, the workshop is designed for flexibility. You get a 30 minute flash strategy Skype or phone call with me, to be scheduled at your convenience during the month of July.
During the week of July 14th, there will be four conference call seminars on different topics. Each speaker will talk for about 20 minutes, and the rest of the seminar will be devoted to workshop participants’ questions. Don’t worry if you can’t make a specific call. All of the seminars will be available as mp3 files for you to review when you have time.
|Jocelyn Stitt U of Michigan
Tuesday July 15th
College of Charleston
Wednesday July 16th
|Michele Dunnum Mott Community College
Thursday July 17th
Minnesota State U
Friday July 18th
|Academic Moms: How To Get What You Need from One of the Least Family Friendly Professions||Professional Decision Making: A Single Mother and Department Chair’s Rubric to Avoid Superwoman Syndrome||How I Survived and Thrived with a 4-4, Long Commute, Single Parenthood, & Remarriage||Parenting Through Academic Career Transitions: Finding a Career While Keeping Your Sanity|
Finally, you’ll get a workbook designed to allow you to take action on what you’ve learned during the week and in your consultation with me.
You can find detailed information about the workshop and seminar leader bios here: https://mitacoach.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/mitacoach-mid-summer-workshop-starting-july-14/
How do I enroll and what is the deadline? What happens next? You can enroll by clicking on the paypal button on mitacoach.wordpress.com website. The fee is 69$. Special Grad Student/Adjunct Rate $49. Or you can email me at mitacoach @gmail.com to send me a check. The deadline for the summer workshop is Sunday July 13th. After you enroll I’ll be in touch with a few questions so I can tailor the workshop to you, set up your flash consulting appointment, and send you your workbook. You’ll also get instructions in how to participate in the conference call and an invitation to the private Facebook group.
I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of Today Show host Matt Laurer’s interview questions. An essay I wrote about Tom Cruise’s meltdown about postpartum depression with Matt Laurer was published in Mediating Moms: Mothers in Popular Culture.
Now, Lauer has provided me with new material in the wake of his interview with GM CEO Mary Barra where he asked if Barra could be a good mother and CEO. As you might imagine, internet outrage ensued. This got me thinking – what are the worst questions you can ask a faculty mother? Let’s roll the dice and talk about some of the most uncomfortable questions I’ve been asked. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section.
#1 How do you do it all?
For the record, I think asking successful parents what solutions they’ve come up with to manage home and work can be the basis of a really rich and insightful conversation. In fact, this is the basis of the MITACoach workshop starting on July 14, where you can hear from 4 different academic moms about strategies they have come up with for managing their teaching, research and home life. Michele Dunnum is going to talk about the work she loves as a professor at a community college, commuting, and being a divorced (now remarried) mom of a son. Alison Piepmeier brings her perspectives as the chair of a department, a public intellectual around feminism and disability, a person with seizures, and the single mom of her daughter who has Down Syndrome. Laura Harrison is pregnant with her second child and will share her survival strategies as someone who was recently on the job market who is now on the tenure track with a demanding research agenda. I’ll be talking about how the insights of mothering studies can be used by mother scholars, as well as my own best insights on having an academic career and a family. I fully believe that you can have a joyful career as a staff or faculty member and a happy home life – you just need to know where to find mentoring!
But…when this question gets asked by colleagues in disbelief, it really gets to me. It suggests having a full time demanding career and children is so difficulty that we’re foolhardy to even try. Or, that the responsibility for making our homes function lies solely with us. Coming from other academics, it implies that I’m not fully committed to my career. Ugh. I came up with a one-sentence answer that felt authentic to me, and just use that whenever this question comes up. I’ll be talking more about how to negotiate difficult conversations such as this one in the workshop.
#2 Can you come to a meeting at 6:30 today?
Boy Howdy. Questions like this used to make me feel like I was going to have a panic attack. Since starting MITACoach I’ve heard from lots of academic moms about their difficult negotiations with childfree faculty in leadership positions. One mom told me that when she was an assistant professor, senior faculty scheduled a series of job candidate talks and meetings after 5 on weekdays. It hadn’t occurred to the senior faculty that childcare wouldn’t be available then. This is part of a continuing legacy in the academy of assuming that everyone has a wife at home ready to take care of children and running the household. Or simply the effect that many academics don’t have children and so don’t think about what extending the workday means. I finally just sat down with my chair and explained the logistics of my childcare arrangements. It’s like an 18 wheeler, I told her. I can turn it around, and arrange for more care, but I need a bit of notice. This smoothed the way for better communications about scheduling events.
#3 How many kids do you have?
This happened to me recently. I was talking to a senior faculty member about moving and getting my kids registered for school. The conversation ground to a halt. “How many kids do you have?” She asked incredulously. Let’s pause over that for a minute. There are really no circumstances in which asking that question in an amazed tone is polite. Her question made me feel embarrassed and defensive. Which is interesting given that within American culture my family is completely normative. I’m a woman legally married to a man and we have two children. Within academia, though, female faculty members are less likely to have children than male faculty or their non-academic peers, such as doctors and lawyers.
For academics moms of color, this question can be even more insidious. Mothers of color experience the legacies of racism in the labeling of their sexuality and mothering choices as excessive or as in need of control. I’ve heard many stories from mothers of color who have been challenged by white colleagues about the number and spacing of their children, rather than being given support or recognition for their accomplishments. Despite publishing two monographs and gaining a prestigious fellowship to attend law school, Duchess Harris PhD/JD Associate Professor at Macalester College writes “I entered the tenure-track 15 years ago when I was five months pregnant. I have taken three parental leaves, which were all met with resentment.”
These are my top 3 most dreaded questions. What are yours? What response to do you make to them?
JOIN THE SUMMER 2014 COHORT
Mid-Summer Workshop Week of July 14
• Are you feeling overwhelmed?
• Do you feel the summer slipping away and you’re not writing?
• Would you like to be able to relax during family time and feel focused while you’re working?
• Want to prepare yourself and your family for the upcoming academic year?
Would you like to be part of a small cohort dedicated to finding solutions to these issues?
Mothers working in the academy often find themselves torn in multiple directions with competing claims from family, teaching, research, service, and self-care. This workshop, run by Jocelyn Stitt, an academic mother devoted to helping other academic mothers, provides tested frameworks for rejuvenating, reflecting, and transforming the way we think about work by mother scholars at a variety of institutional locations.
Jocelyn’s coaching practice, MITACoach, is currently having a special of 3 coaching sessions with goal assessment toolkit and enrollment in the workshop for $199. OR, try out the coaching service by enrolling in the workshop for $69.
and receiving a free 30 minute session with Jocelyn. MITACoach is a coaching practice and blog dedicated to helping academics who are mothers find coaching, community, and support for their professional and personal goals. The summer cohort will be limited to 20 participants. EACH PARTICIPANT RECEIVES:
30 minute flash strategy call with MITACoach Jocelyn Stitt
Summer 2014 MITACoach workbook including
Concrete tips for using the summer to rejuvenate after a long academic year
10 key questions to help you reflect on your past work and family experiences
Writing prompts to identify and evaluate what your goals are for a successful blend of family and work
Curated transformative short readings that have the power to change how you think about work and parenting
Action Steps to help you reprioritize for the coming academic year
Four Conference Call Seminars over the course of the workshop addressing specific challenges facing academic mothers. Our fabulous SEMINAR LEADERS were chosen for their different institutional locations, their areas of expertise in education and mothering, their diverse identities and family structures, and their ability to overcome specific challenges. Each seminar will be recorded and available as an mp3 file for participants.
Email Jocelyn at mitacoach @ gmail.com with any questions. To sign up, please click on the Paypal Donate button on the right sidebar.
Seminar Leader Bios:
MICHELE DUNNUM lives in Ann Arbor and is a Professor of English and Coordinator of the Developmental Writing Program at Mott Community College in Flint. Ten years ago, I began my tenure-track job four months before my divorce was final and had to adjust to the demands of full-time work and a one-hour commute as I navigated the emotional difficulties of sharing custody of my preschooler. My son is now fourteen, beginning high school in the Fall, and I have been married to another Mott English professor for two years. My husband brought two young-adult stepsons into my life, so I have learned a few things about the peculiar role of the stepmother and the art of family blending (gently—more like stirring than blending). I could say that parenting, marriage, teaching a 4-4 load, and holding a leadership position at my college is a juggling act, but I lack the gross mental motor skills that are necessary for that kind of juggling. I become an anxious insomniac if I try. Instead, I pick up one ball at a time. And I knit—as of four months ago, for the first time in a thousand years, I have an actual hobby(!)
LAURA HARRISON is an assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State University – Mankato. I research the ways in which reproductive technologies intersect with ideologies of race, family formation, and reproductive justice. My current book project is titled Brown Bodies, White Babies: The Politics of Crossracial Gestational Surrogacy (under contract with NYU Press). I have a two and a half year old daughter named Ada and am due with my second child in August. I was on the job market while I was pregnant, finished my dissertation and accepted a job offer while my daughter was a newborn, and am facing book manuscript deadlines and pre-tenure job expectations while pregnant again! I look forward to discussing strategies and tactics that have worked for me in facing these challenges as a mother and an academic.
ALISON PIEPMEIRis director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the College of Charleston (SC). I’ve written books including Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism (NYU Press, 2009), and I’m currently at work on another book, The Good Mother: Down Syndrome and Reproductive Decision-Making (under contract with NYU Press). I’m mother to Maybelle, who’s almost six and has Down syndrome. Since 2013 I’ve been a single parent. This means, among other things, that I’m trying to figure out how my budget can work. I have seizures and for the past three years have been unable to drive, although that recently changed [hurray!].
JOCELYN STITT I’ve spent the last year taking a leave from my academic position, moving to a new state, enrolling my kids school, joining a research institute at the University of Michigan, and starting MITACoach. When I’m not transporting kids and pets across state lines, I’m an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State University where my research focuses on the amazing cultural productions of Caribbean women, especially their autobiographies. I’ve taken my research on how women tell stories of resistance, survival, and celebration even under difficult circumstances and used it to found my coaching practice. I help mothers who are academics find meaning in their experiences, make connections to others, and take positive steps towards shaping their futures. I’m looking forward to bringing to you my experiences as a grad student mom, job searching with a toddler, being the only person in my department to have a child, being pregnant of the tenure track, gaining tenure, and having a long distance marriage for several years. Although it feels weird as a feminist to say this, I’m proud of my 22 year long partnership with my now husband Neil who has seen me through master’s degrees, my PhD, getting tenure, and creating an equitable marriage. I would love to have a hobby; Michele has inspired me to find my knitting needles which are still packed from our move.
I just finished reading Kate Bahn’s post “When Grad School Eats Up Your Good Years” at Chronicle Vitae about the opportunity costs of being a mother and an academic. Bahn is a graduate student at the New School, and comes to the conclusion that combining motherhood and a career as an academic is simply too hard. Since she wants to have children she writes that she isn’t going to pursue an academic career. Bahn sees few role models in her field of economics and astutely notes the many institutionalized forms of discrimination that mothers experience. While I’m always glad to see younger scholars writing about motherhood and intellectual life, I came away from this essay incredibly frustrated.
As you all know, I’m all about working to name and change structures of discrimination within the academy. But Bahn’s post mostly made me angry for two reasons. First, Bahn repeats intensive mothering ideologies that it is just too hard to be a mother and do intellectual work. Decades of foundational mothering studies scholars, including Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Andrea O’Reilly, Sara Ruddick, Patricia Hill Collins, Fiona Green, Pegeen Reichert Powell, Sara Blaffer Hrdy, Elizabeth Podnieks and many many others have shown us that not only is it possible to think and mother, but that our scholarship is enhanced through our experience as mothers. Special shoutout to Elizabeth Podniek. Her edited collection Mediating Moms: Mothers in Popular Culture, to which I contributed an essay, was awarded the Outstanding Scholarship Prize (2012-2013) by the Women’s and Gender Studies Association, part of Canada’s Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Or as I call it, a fork in the eye of the idea that you can’t produce significant scholarship and have children.
Bahn’s essay highlights the importance for graduate students of not getting trapped in the feedback loop of senior professors at your R1. Faculty who came of age in a different time are not, in my opinion, the best people to talk to about the realties of the job market and choices available to faculty today. First of all, at the at the conference I just attended I talked many women who have successfully combined motherhood and academic careers. And guess what? We have tenure and we’re on hiring committees. Second, the majority of jobs are not at elite research universities. Asking a professor who has spent their life within the peculiar strictures of an R1 for family planning advice is misguided. What I wish is that graduate students like Bahn might get out of the R1 fishbowl and talk to the majority of faculty members teaching at community colleges, regional state universities, and community colleges. We might have a different story to tell about intellectual labor and mothering.
I know this doesn’t say much for my spiritual advancement, but I had a wicked little moment of schadenfruede when I found out rather belatedly that Vicki Iovine was getting a divorce. You see, as a new mom in early 2001 there weren’t a lot of feminist mothering sources. The wave of feminist critiques of attachment parenting and regressive family values were still to be published. Mothering blogs weren’t yet a thing. I wouldn’t discover Brain, Child, in its first radical and spiky incarnation until later that year. I gave subscriptions to that lifeline of a magazine as baby shower presents for a decade until it changed hands. But in the aftermath of new motherhood, I had a copy of The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood.
The top three things I remember from that book, and her previous one on pregnancy were:
• diuretics to take the morning you were going to see your OB-GYN to try to maintain the fiction you weren’t growing a person inside of you and the importance of dressing so you looked cute for your presumably male doctor
• how to make a pot of homemade low calorie soup and only eat that in order to lose the baby weight
• that my kitchen would not be as spotless as before I needed to make my peace with that
This was not very good advice for a graduate student mom trying to finish her dissertation with a new baby. Iovine’s book made me feel like I was doing motherhood wrong. I couldn’t understand how her advice was supposed to improve my life, and I was incredulous that her ideas of childcare and marriage were still relevant in the 21st century.
So you can imagine why I felt a certain pleasure that the image Iovine had presented of her flawless marriage as a mom with four kids didn’t turn out so well for her in the long run. In her Huffington Post essay, Iovine said she wanted a relationship with someone who had her back, unlike her ex-husband. She sure didn’t have my back as a new mom.
Then I remembered that a lot of Iovine’s advice to please men through our appearance and housekeeping reflects time honored advice women give other women to survive in male dominated societies. So even though her advice was crappy and toxic, I’ve decided to forgive her, and hope that she has some real girlfriends, with some feminist perspectives, that have her back through her divorce.
In parenting lingo, “transition” refers to times when we ask our kids to switch gears from one activity to the next, like ending a playdate so that you can go home. Transitions for my kids often meant tantrums. “No leave the park!” my two year old would scream, alerting everyone to my wonderful parenting skills.
We’re also making some big transitions in the academic year. So if you’re feeling tantrumy (that should be a word), you’re not alone. Just at the point when many of us are most tired, we’re asked to recalibrate our routine. Some of us are making the transition from teaching to focusing more in our research, administrative tasks, or syllabi redesign during the summer. Others are ending winter term classes and gearing up for their spring/summer teaching. If you have kids, especially those too old for daycare, the transition from school to camps or at home child care is just around the corner, which can be trying for everyone.
In the coming weeks I’ll be talking more about strategies for a peaceful transition to the summer months. For now, here are three tips for managing this transitional time. Rejuvenate, Reprioritize, and Reflect will be central themes of our June Workshop aimed at helping you make the most of your summer and early fall.
If you’re like me, you might have a bunch of stuff, both personal and professional, that you’ve put on the back burner until the semester is over. My best advice is that these things can take wait a bit longer. If you can, try to take at least a day where you’re not being goal oriented to let your brain relax. It’s even better if you can put aside a couple of days to restart a gentle exercise program if that has gone by the wayside, get a massage, or spend time with friends. Binge tv watch. Nap. If this seems indulgent, it’s not. You’ve been working hard and you need a break. Full stop.
If you do have fewer teaching responsibilities, this can be a good time to reflect on what has gone well in the past year, and what hasn’t with your teaching and research. I like to keep a single Word document where I list ideas for future classes and what I wouldn’t do again. I also sometimes use the reviewing function of word to mark up my syllabi with notes about reordering texts, or revising assignments.
Once your brain is rested, think about August 30th. What would you need to have accomplished by then for you to feel good about your summer? What experiences do you want to have with your family? What work would you need to do in the next 10-12 weeks? Most importantly, what can you realistically do during this time period so you don’t end up mad at yourself? For example, drafting a journal article and teaching one class is probably realistic if you have a lot of child care. If you want to spend more time with your kids this summer, then adjust your productivity goals accordingly.