May 12, 2003

"Everything is Grist for the Blogger's Mill"

In the comments to Blogito Ergo Sum, Rana admits that "One week blogging and I already find myself thinking 'this would be great for my blog!'" (her new blog is here, by the way). I know the feeling.

And this reminds me -- yes: yes, this is a vanity site -- of an email exchange I had with my husband (let's call him AIA) a few weeks ago:

Me: Were you reading my blog this morning?

AIA: Big Brother is on the prowl. Yes, I was.

Me: Hey, all the cool bloggers have site meters.

AIA: That's a good justification for the Panoptiblog.

Me: Great term! I may use it on my blog.

AIA: Everything is grist for the blogger's mill. Sigh...I'm a blog widower.

So do you think this blogging thing could affect my marriage? And if so, what to do? Blog or husband? Husband or blog?

What would Ms. Mentor say? Hmm.... Looks like she might say, "If [AIA] must pout, perhaps you want out." Damn. Does she think husbands grow on trees? I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with Ms. Mentor on this one, but I guess I'll save that for another entry (on second thought, I'd better attach a disclaimer now: Yes, I am a feminist. But no, I don't think feminism implies a view of people, whether male or female, as disposable paper products. Second disclaimer: Though it intersects with feminist concerns, the issue at the heart of that column isn't so much feminism as it is the creation of a hyper-professionalized academic identity to the exclusion of all other commitments, loyalties, and obligations...)

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 12, 2003 08:19 PM

My husband is coping pretty well with being a blogwidower. Gives him more leisure to study Aramaic. ;)

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at May 12, 2003 09:04 PM

My husband copes reasonably well with being a blog widower. (I think you're still a widower if your wife posts about 10x as often as you do.)

He copes with being a blog widower better than I cope with being an Angband or Civilization widow.

Posted by: Ginger at May 12, 2003 09:25 PM

Yes, I'm not aware that I swore an oath before God, family, and community to love and honor the academy until death do us part. I usually find Ms. Mentor's advice sound, but this seems like the ethics of hyper-professionalism.

Posted by: Thomas Hart Benton at May 12, 2003 09:35 PM

to recently married to possible comment

Posted by: meika von samorzewski at May 12, 2003 11:07 PM

Some people do swear such an oath -- and not only to love and honor but also to obey the academy.

I like Ms. Mentor, too, but I can't agree with her on this one at all. Maybe it's the Catholicism from which I have lapsed (but from which I will never fully lapse...)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 12, 2003 11:15 PM

Obviously: get him to blog. My wife doesn't, despite my making conditions ideal. I wonder if there is some reason only one SO can blog at a time...

Posted by: Alex Halavais at May 13, 2003 02:44 AM

There is only one Vanity Site (TM). Mine.

Posted by: zizka at May 13, 2003 03:58 PM

On the question of what's legitimate grist for a blogger's mill, let me add this. Last night I decided that it's okay to cut and paste from my comments on a student's paper but not from my referee's report on a paper by a professional peer. My impulse to do the latter struck me as creepy. (Though it was an interesting thought, I thought!) But the former impulse seemed fine. Am I naughty to recycle student comments like this?

Posted by: Ted Hinchman at May 13, 2003 06:11 PM

Yes, I think Ms. Mentor's "advice" was kind of flippant. In the world of academe, it's as if you have to underplay the fact that you a) are married or b) enjoy remaining married. This is especially true if folks know you to be a feminist...
The way I see it...who is going to be at your bedside when you are in the hospital? Your family, or your tenure committee? Think about it.

Posted by: Cat at May 13, 2003 08:41 PM

Hey, thanks for linking! :)

I posted something about that Ms Mentor column in the Chronicle of Higher Education forums (but, alas, cannot remember a more specific site than that!). The context was more-or-less around the question of whether her advice was good for that person and/or applicable for others of us. I had two thoughts about this: first, would the question of her advice's appropriateness have come up if it had been Mr. Professor and Ms. Disgruntled Spouse, rather than Ms. Professor. I'm not sure it would, or at least without as much vehemence in the replies. (I hope I'm wrong about this.)

Second, I questioned whether it is appropriate to berate someone for placing her (or his) job above an intimate relationship with another person. For me, this would be a case of misplaced priorities. But for her? Maybe not. Maybe she is receiving all that her heart and soul desire at work. Maybe she has rich and fascinating relationships with colleagues and students. Maybe on her deathbed former students will hold her hand and tell her how her class changed their lives. Point is: we don't know. Shouldn't it be her choice, whatever it is? Who are we (and who is the institution) to determine the value of her chosen life?

Okay, end of rant... :)

I've not yet made my boyfriend a blogwidower (hard to, given that we have a long-distance relationship) but did feel simultaneously disconcerted and pleased when he revealed he'd read my blog yesterday...

Posted by: Rana at May 13, 2003 09:13 PM

I take your point about the gender aspect. It seems to me that this is one of those impossible situations that has only arisen of late. Once upon a time, the wife followed her husband wherever he landed a job. If she was miserable, she wasn't a very good wife. Here we have a situation where the husband has the followed the wife and is miserable. Since both parties are now entitled to their own career aspirations and indeed to their own versions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what happens when there is a clash? I don't know the answer. Obviously the lack of geographical mobility is one of the significant drawbacks to an academic career.

But I could well imagine being miserable if my husband got a job in some small town in the midwest and I found myself there with nothing to do. I'd hate to think that the advice to my husband would be, "If Invisible Adjunct must pout, perhaps you want out."

I find it hard to believe that someone could find all that his or her heart and soul desire through work. But maybe some people do. However, there are intimate relationships and then there is marriage. I take the marriage vow pretty seriously. I don't oppose divorce on principle, not at all. And I wouldn't support legislation designed to make it more difficult for two consenting adults to divorce. But this cavalier treatment of marriage doesn't sit right with me (which may be -- and I'm not being facetious here, I really mean it -- a Catholic thing, which I wouldn't impose on others but which does tend to influence my perspective).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 13, 2003 11:44 PM

Um, Rana, whether it's Mr. Professor or Ms. Professor, I very strongly do not believe that it can be entirely his/her decision.

The other person is entitled to some input. Veto power, even, in my opinion.

Now, if they're both cool with it, I'm with you, though I do question, in my inimitably peevish style, whether the academy ought to be limiting itself (even *attempting* to limit itself) to people who always put the academy first.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at May 13, 2003 11:47 PM

IA and Dorothea -- points well taken. Personally, I have to agree, both about the difficulty of imagining someone having that rich a career life that it's worth sacrificing a marriage for, and the failure of Ms. Mentor to offer ways to ensure that both of them can find happiness. I also find it deeply troubling that academia -- or any other workplace for that matter -- privileges those who live for the company over those who don't. However, I think that that tends to be a symptom of a larger social problem: the linking of personal value and identity to work alone. In a society where extra-career activities were more valued, or people were more reliably given status according to their intriguing personalities, wide range of hobbies, depth of commitment to mastering a personal skill, extent of love of family, etc. such privileging in the workplace would, I think, be less endemic and more likely to be challenged. I wonder, too, if it's less that Ms. Professor doesn't want to give up her job for her husband, but rather that she doesn't want to trade professor-ness for wife-ness -- the latter still has less social status in our society. If so, I think Ms. Mentor may be a realist -- which is unsatisfying for those of us who'd rather imagine something more fulfilling for both partners.

Posted by: Rana at May 14, 2003 02:55 AM

Didn't the crux of that article hinge on the fact that the people involved may not love each other as much as it takes to be there? You have to take with the grain of salt it deserves since many more relationships are more viable. ??

Posted by: Michelle at May 14, 2003 03:34 AM

May be. I have to admit I probably should go re-read it if I'm going to keep spouting off about it. :)

Posted by: Rana at May 14, 2003 01:28 PM

Rereading the question to which Ms. Mentor replied, I find nothing to suggest that the spouses don't love each other anymore.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 14, 2003 02:45 PM

I meant that Ms. Mentor's advice appears to be grounded in the possibility that they don't love each other (as much as it takes?) rather than the question itself suggested it. I really just disagreed with her presupposition that "Petulant Peter" is out to sabatoge her, their marriage is headed for ruin and that she should therefore put her career first. I'm not sure why I bothered to comment b/c your initial blog entry said it succintly.

Posted by: Michelle at May 14, 2003 06:00 PM

Jumping back in... I did go re-read it, and I must not have paid that much attention the last time, because what I remembered was the issue of the "problem" spouse more than other aspects of the piece that, on a second reading, are rather disturbing. One is the thing Michelle has just noted -- that Ms. Mentor leaps so quickly to the assumption that the unhappy husband is manifesting or is likely to manifest his unhappiness through sabotage. The other is that we seem to be getting only one side of the story from the letter writer, and an abbreviated one at that. It's Ms. Mentor who supplied the details that I remembered and reacted to. Hmmm...

It's also disturbing when she sets out the odds for finding and keeping a good mate versus the odds of finding and keeping a tenure-line job, and implies that since the former odds are better, that's where the sacrifice should occur. Sounds like one more sign that the current job market in academe is, to understate considerably, far from well.

Posted by: Rana at May 15, 2003 04:25 AM

I've now looked at that Ms Mentor column (my previous contribution was rather off topic!). Since I'm in a two-academic-spouses-with-the-same-dissertation-advisor relationship, and thus might easily have wound up in Peter's predicament, let me add one point.

I think it's certainly true that the issue would not have seemed so momentous, both to the letter writer and to Ms Mentor, if the genders had been reversed. It's hard to imagine a woman sabotaging her husband's career in the way described, and even if men actually do that sort of thing only rarely, it fits the gender stereotype and thus is easy to imagine.

But the burden of these stereotypes falls equally on both male and female shoulders, I think. For example, my fiancee has on many occasions made it clear that she was assuming that she was the one who would to give up her career and was spending considerable psychic resources learning how to live with that prospect. On my side, two things were equally unacceptable: (a) that I should have to give up my career, and (b) that my fiancee should give hers up because of the cursed stereotype that I could see was eating away at her self-confidence. This wasn't a noble sentiment on my part. It would have been massively uncool for us to have fallen into the gender stereotype -- and I mean primarily uncool for me.

What man could ever live down having 'won' the battle for career? You'd look like a complete ass. I have to say that that's just as scary a prospect as 'losing' the battle. While it doesn't look bad for a woman to 'win,' a man has to assume that people will think the worst of him (i.e. that he's jealous, manipulative, etc.) if he 'wins.' Of course, 'winning' means 'beating' your beloved, a horrible enough prospect in its own right. My point is just that there are horrors even apart from that.

Posted by: Ted H. at May 15, 2003 04:46 PM