Motherhood, Tenure, Robo Rights and More Bad News

February 16, 2016

I am a little fatigued by the news. I know it's their job to highlight disparities and injustices and all of that - but man - it really brings me down sometimes. I gotta wonder/fantasize what it feels like to be someone who is on the "lucky"/privlieged end of the news. I mean, here I am reading the most recent headline from US News on Academia's 'Baby Penalty' (the thrilling tagline gives the tl;dr: "men fare far better in academia than women - especially women who have children.") But what would it be like if I were a man -- better yet -- a white man -- in academia? Would I secretly fist bump myself in my mind because I have a better chance (statistically speaking) of achieving the dream I had worked for years and years to achieve? Would I feel that subtle mix of sadness/relief that many of us in the US feel when we hear about the atrocities of the world around us? That guilty feeling of knowing that we did nothing to deserve being born into a country of such rich opportunity? Bad news to me -- news that signals even more roadblocks ahead -- is good news for someone else, right? 

 

Well, I know for sure that I am daunted. I rarely read an article that screams "Black pregnant women are doing GREAT!  They are well loved and appreciated. They are excelling!  They are just kicking ass and taking names! Keep it up."  Instead, I read about how I am ugly3x less likely to get tenure (hell, probably even less likely, they didn't breakout by race), that is, of course, if I can get a PhD and get hired somewhere in academia. Oh! And if I somehow beat the odds and marry and then get pregnant - I get told that as a black woman I am more likely to have complications, miscarriage, and stillbirth and die in childbirth.

 

But, I guess in the end, it isn't really good news for anyone, is it? The history and systems that brought us these gaps and roadblocks, also brought us their counterparts. Stifling expectations on masculinity that limited a father's ability to connect with, know, nurture, and love his own children in the way a mother may be supported and encouraged to. Limits on scientific progress that neglect the unique and multifaceted perspectives of the society it is supposed to serve. Financial, emotional, historical, relational, intellectual divides and deficits. When I think of it that way -- it is just plain scary news. 

 

 

Despite the odds, I am really happy (take that News Nerds!). I am at an institution I love and married to the most incredible man that has ever existed. So far, I have a healthy pregnancy and my husband and I are having tough discussions about leave, childcare, and sharing parenting responsibilities. But I am still in the mood for some good news at a wider scale. Some more progress and change. I wonder if our child (should he choose to pursue higher ed) will even notice the rich diversity of the faculty at his future college. I hope that we won't stagnate or move backwards or return to not-so-good-ol' American ways -- but continue to ask these tough questions and talk to each other about the parts that suck.

 

Like most of the dreamers of the past, I look forward to moving on to a whole new era of higher-level issues.   Like robo rights or something. Definitely robo rights. 

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© 2019 by Dr. Janelle S. Peifer