Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Worthless Sacrifices

Sometimes one decides to give up something for a certain gain. One lives in a superbly dreadful town, for example, in exchange for getting paid to do a PhD there. I am not prevented from hating it by having chosen, but I accept the consequences. So I don't go out after dark, so what?*

What I see a lot among women (and sometimes men) here is they give up something they're not really willing to give up. They put up with harassment or discrimination because complaining might hurt their chances of a good job later. They work ridiculous hours because it makes their advisor happier. They are submissive in situations where they want to slap the other person, verbally if nothing else. They put in extra time grading things that aren't their job** because some professor asked and we must play the game or we won't get a good enough recommendation for just the right postdoc followed by any faculty job.

Yes, I know that there is a certain amount of game-playing to stay in academia. It happens to be a game I don't care to play, not least because your average professor drives me kind of nuts. I'd probably kill someone. Or get fired. Or maybe both.

If being an academic professor is really more important than anything to these women, then they have the right to make the choices they want. But what happens a lot- what I see- is that they make choices and then they are utterly miserable because they have given up too much. They feel exploited, degraded, used. Because they are. And they're buying into The Crazy.

I can see giving up a few things you really want for at least a moderate certainty of reward. (See also: PhD.) I cannot understand giving up many things you want for the dim possibility of future reward. If Professor Geezer is being completely inappropriate, why put up with it? Yes, all right, being rude to Dr. Geezer might mean he doesn't vote for tenure in five more years. Meanwhile he's inappropriate every week. Is it worth it? It wouldn't be worth it to me.

One of the reasons I think academic science is so broken is that it's so hard to change, especially if one does not have tenure. And one reason it's hard to change is that people are kept in line by fear of ruining 'their careers' by one wrong word. Surely many wrong words would be required to totally ruin it.

*No, really.
Long explanation, but trust me, really not at all.