On being part of a philosophical couple

Posted: February 11, 2012 by Jender in trivialising women

On being part of a couple: 6 years ago my husband accepted a very prestigious professorship at University X in country Y. I work in the same field but am much more junior (at the time I was 10 years out of my Ph.D.), so I did not ask for a position for myself, though I did expect to be offered a minor, temporary position. Before leaving for the new job the star philosopher who had recruited my husband met with me to discuss my options. The star philosopher suggested to me that I put together a combination of grants and working half-time in a particular segment of the commercial sector, consonant with my interests. (For the sake of anonymity let us say it is a restaurant, more or less what the level was here.) I objected to this, wanting to remain in academia. My career wasn’t going badly at all! We agree that I would apply for grants for two years, and then everyone would take stock at that point.

I did not handle the suggestion to work (even half-time) outside of academia, or the remark of one colleague, that my husband’s salary is so high, why did I even need a job?or the general atmosphere, very well. In fact I was so upset, I mentioned my situation to a few of my husband’s new colleagues (at parties, after a glass of wine). They did not feel sympathy for me—probably a natural response, when someone is indiscreet in that way.

Final result: I very soon come to be regarded as “difficult.” The grant situation doesn’t really work out, although I do end up getting funded for 1.5 years, sort of after the fact. Life in country Y becomes untenable, in spite of friendships formed with some very nice people in the end. My husband and I both return to our previous jobs. I obtain tenure. My career takes up where it left off. I publish, I receive prestigious fellowships, I receive numerous invitations to speak—though never in country Y, which has hosted so many in my field.

Moral(s) of the story: When you are exposed to sexism, don’t lose your composure. You are supposed to be quiet about it. Second moral of the story: don’t tag along when your other half gets a great job, hoping you will be offered something too. Third moral of the story: work hard and you will be able to look back on the hard times from a better position.

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