Archive for the ‘assumptions about mothers’ Category

I am a graduate student in philosophy, but this story is about my undergraduate department. While I was there I found them nothing but supportive and encouraging. I thought it was a very female-friendly department. However, recently, I was talking to a graduate student from that department and found what he said very disturbing. He went on a long, angry rant about how everyone in the department, including himself, were very frustrated with one of the few female faculty members for having two babies close together and taking two maternity leaves.

This female professor had waited until she got tenure to begin having children. This, no doubt, made it necessary that she have two children in a row, if she wanted to have more than one at all. She had quite likely sacrificed starting a family earlier, so that she could focus on work and meet the requirements for tenure. Yet, despite this, the attitude toward her was that she was ‘taking advantage’ of the department by having children after receiving tenure from them.

The grad student I was talking to went on to argue that women should have to choose between having kids and being professors. He next argued that if women get maternity leave, everyone should be allowed to take the equivalent amount of paid time-off for anything they please – e.g. going on a vacation. He didn’t see why women should get any ‘perks’ like maternity leave, when having babies was clearly their choice. When I tried to explain why I found this an upsettingly sexist view, he said that as a philosopher one cannot dismiss any view because it is ‘sexist’. He said that he, a true philosopher unlike me, cared only about how convincing an argument was, and not about being ‘politically correct’.

On the possibility of parenthood

Posted: October 14, 2010 by Jender in assumptions about mothers

During a graduate student professional development brown bag for MA students, a senior faculty member (and director of graduate studies) advised all the students not to have children until they were tenured (if we hoped to be tenured), but added that it might not be possible for all of us given biological considerations if we hoped to have children. (There were only two women in this room out of about 20 students, I might add.)

This same professor, when I got married in my second year, jokingly told me to just be sure not to have any kids.

I’m really glad this one faculty member has left for another school now. I have never encountered any negative feedback from other people in my department. If anything, my advisor and committee members (all older male philosophers, I might add) have been nothing but congratulatory about my marriage and pregnancies. I’m pregnant with my second child now and will be defending my dissertation soon – and on schedule!

When our almost exclusively male department did a search recently, we were instructed by the Dean to make an effort to hire a woman. Most of us saw the lack of women in our department as a glaring problem that needed to be fixed and so were only too happy to satisfy the Dean’s request. One senior faculty member, however, was none too pleased; he repeatedly claimed that hiring a women would drag down our department’s otherwise stellar publication record because women just don’t publish enough and would waste the tenure-line by getting pregnant.

What other news could she have?

Posted: October 7, 2010 by Jender in assumptions about mothers

Circa 2005; I’m a philosophy grad student. My child had been born the previous year and I’m visiting in with a member of my dissertation committee. Wanting to share with him a great news that I my paper was accepted to a suberp conference, I said, “I have a wonderful news, Prof X.” Prof X interjects: “Oh, are you pregnant again?”