Friday, April 08, 2016

The Masked Avenger: an extension of "A Good Little Girl"

I was blown away by xykademiqz's fabulous post "A Good Little Girl," which I had somehow missed the first time around. Go read it. You won't be sorry.  Here's the heart of the matter:
The good little girl is in danger of a) doing much more service then necessary, b) doing much more or more laborious teaching than the colleagues who are not good little girls, c) generally being misinformed about what all that teaching and service really do for her career, because everyone expects her to act as a good little girl and, at the same time, thinks less of her for doing so.
nicoleandmaggie point out in the comments that women do this because study after study shows that they are punished more for not doing all the extra service, etc.

Now, this is hypothetical, because all my colleagues are and have ever been lovely human beings, but I've alluded a few times here to those who would impose, if possible, by making excessive demands for service, or would make life complicated because they are very special and shouldn't have to answer emails, or would, in an "office commons" situation, manage to be so unpleasant that others would give in just to shut them up. (We have offices at Northern Clime, so this is truly theoretical.)

But there is hope because there are Masked Avengers out there, and I am one.

The Masked Avenger is a senior-in-rank person who wants to see justice done. Ze is not going to be bullied, in part because ze is senior and has no more--well, you know--to give. Ze is unimpressed by rudeness, even by "God, PhD."

And the Masked Avengers are on a mission. They--I--want to see equity and fairness, even in the petty things, where often times unpleasant behavior pays off when people give in so that the unpleasant person will shut up and go away.  They take it on so you don't have to, maybe taking on administrative or service tasks that allow this protection of juniors to happen.

We Masked Avengers can't make your life massively better, because we don't always have that power.  But we are out there, and we are legion, and we have your back.

Are you a Masked Avenger in your department? Do you have one in your department?


Anonymous said...

I would have become one if I'd stayed at my job instead of nopeing the hell out and moving to a different state.

Keep up the great work!!!

Contingent Cassandra said...

I'm lucky enough to be able to say that many (perhaps even most) -- though not all -- of the department chairs I've had fall in this category. They don't always succeed entirely, but they genuinely try, and that means a lot, even things don't go the way they -- and we -- would prefer. said...

#2 here: I am not a, "I will sacrifice myself" person, but I am a, "Have you asked Senior DeadWood who makes 200K/year to teach one class a semester and do no research to do this?" and a "Junior Female already has too much service work."

I do get yelled at A LOT when I note that "Junior Male not only sucks at doing research, he's doing WAY LESS SERIVCE than Junior Females who are managing to be a rockstar in research, service, and teaching." They all want to protect Junior Males because he's doing so poorly. So I get told that I'm wrong. (We also have junior males who are doing fine on all counts.) Also complaints about how our junior women used to be overloaded when they were junior (and now are either tenured or gone) are used as excuses to get the male juniors to do no service, but they complain about the female juniors not doing enough when they're doing way more.

I hate promotion and tenure meetings because obvious sexism is obvious and yet people get angry when it is pointed out. It was so much better when we had our chair who really understood implicit bias. But it didn't stick. Most recent chair told me I was taking this sexism stuff too far and his wife had gotten real sexism and people won't take me seriously if I complain about little things. God I hate the patriarchy.

Maybe when all the junior women are tenured and the lazy junior men aren't... *sigh*

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I have a senior colleague who says that she picks one service thing to do and then devotes her time to it. That's pretty much what I'd like to do, but for some reason it isn't working out that way. I am currently on three committees, and am chair. One committee meets twice a month, the others, once a month. I really would like to get off of at least one of these committees, but the other two are impossible to leave, and have a ridiculous commitment. UGH.

But my situation is better than it had been. I used to be on five committees. There is no service shelter for junior faculty at my university. None. :(

xykademiqz said...

What N&M say. What's really disconcerting, as you get more senior, is that any advances that have been made with a lot of sweat get rolled back quickly. You have a progressive administrator and think things are looking up, they step down and everything goes to shit again. I am also really disappointed how little my male colleagues really give a shit about women, the vast majority just think we are annoying whiners for always finding things to complain about instead of doing our jobs. And the young guys are completely clueless too, with the added offense that they think they are young and progressive and enlightened and it's even worse getting them to see how bigoted they really are.

When you are a young woman in academia, you think things are improving and you spend all this energy trying to educate your colleagues and show you are capable... And then you realize it's a fool's errand, really. The male colleagues overwhelmingly don't give half a fuck, and if they do, it's to hint you shouldn't be inventing problems when you and your lack of merit are obviously the real problem.

Fuckin' patriarchy.

undine said...

nicoleandmaggie (1 & 2): I'm lucky to be on a team of Masked Avengers. We're on the same page about how Professor Special McSpecialness should or should not receive perks just for being more noisy than an overworked junior professor (not that there are any in our department, of course). The thing is, these things go on behind the scenes, so you can't see it, but it is happening. Those p & t meetings operate pretty well as a result, I think.

Fie--no committee needs to meet twice a month, and you can tell them I said so. Seriously, if you're chair, you may be stuck with more than one committee, but at least it's not 5 any more (maybe paie comfort).

xykademiqz--I wonder if it's worse in the sciences than in the humanities. The incremental changes we make tend to stick, maybe because once they're policy the lazy ones (mandatory disclaimer: not that we have any) can't be bothered to roll it back to the old, bad way of doing things. I can't speak for the higher-ups, but in the time I've been at Northern Clime, I've seen some seriously good, sustained changes about how women are mentored and evaluated.

gwinne said...

I wonder in practical terms how similar the Masked Avengers and the Good Girls really are, though, esp. if the Masked Avengers protect junior folks (possibly at their own expense). Of course I'm thinking about my own experience.

I will say that this sort of sexism really isn't an issue in my department CURRENTLY. (It was 10 years ago when I got here.) Now what we have instead is junior women saying no (and junior men saying yes) to serving on major departmental committees. There are many things to say no to. Repeatedly saying no to Big Deal service is probably not in junior folks best interest regardless of gender.

I'm cranky and overworked, though.

Anonymous said...

What xyk said above. Also what gwinne said. I am in both roles, but in my Masked Avenger mode I do not protect Good Girl me, only others.

I took on the Masked Avenger role too early, wherein lies my problem.

And about the Good Girl role -- I got terrorized into it. I didn't start out this way.

Anonymous said...

Also: I would like to do what xyk and some commenters say: just say no. I find that when I do, though, things go all to hell and it is I who pay. So it is lose-lose ... I think the answer is to make the administrators do their jobs so you don't have to do them or create workarounds for their not being done, and to have pushback against obstructionism. Most of my do-gooding has to do with removing obstructions for me and mine. The only way I have managed to break the cycle is by coming back really strong and insisting that the work I was doing be done even if not by me, and that certain behaviors and customs stop / be changed.

Example: I go dormant on study abroad. Result: we don't have enough programs so I have to find individual placements for people during advising. Better: I insist that certain things be done about study abroad and make it stick.

Example: I don't watch the schedule like a hawk. Result: too many courses are offered and none make, so schedules are changed, instructors are not rehired and majors cannot graduate. Save: when the upper administration decided we could only offer x number of courses at once. It was what I had been saying for years, but an administrator had to say it.

[These examples are not exact, i.e. I invented them, my problems are different, but my point is, in my case the just saying no does not work, you have to go on the offensive.]

Anyway, great posts by you all and timely. Thank you ! ! !

undine said...

gwynne--it sounds as though your department has achieved some kind of equilibrium, maybe?

profacero--those re exactly Avenger actions. And I'd agree: if everyone says "no," then the consequences can be bad. If I care about the consequences, I step up, but it takes a village of people doing this to make things run.