Patriarchy is exhausting. As is white supremacy. As is homophobia. As is Islamophobia. As are the various hatreds that divide our world.
Today, the day after the Brexit vote, I did what many people did; I refreshed my various browsers again and again.
In addition to worrying out the future of the EU, the parallels to Trump’s populist support here at home, I was also looking at two NY Times pieces, one by Sheryl Sandberg on the myth of catty women and the “queen bee” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/opinion/sunday/sheryl-sandberg-on-the-myth-of-the-catty-woman.html) and one about how academic parental leave policies are advantaging academic men who take this leave and use it like sabbatical, thus becoming more productive than female academics who spend that time doing things like recovering from the physical trauma of pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/business/tenure-extension-policies-that-put-women-at-a-disadvantage.html?ref=business&_r=0 ) .
I just had a baby. I serve as my department’s “diversity officer.” I study and teach about, among other things, the decades in which fascism flourished, the 1920s and the 1930s. In short, today’s news cycle is pinging lots of my emotional and intellectual hot buttons.
Right now, my husband and I are caring for the baby as shifts so that the not “on” parent can leave and get his or her writing done. Instead of doing my work on writing, I was doing “work” on facebook. Liking, disliking, reposting, commenting, etc. etc. etc. Did anyone “like” my comment about my university’s FMLA policies? Which of my friends is saying what kind of thing about Brexit? Have my hippie parents finally relented about Hillary? Is it really appropriate for someone to post cat videos today? I feel angry, tearful, and impotent.
This “clicktivism” feels good; it feels bad; it wears me out.
My writing has sometimes been about the amazing flexibility and innovative capacities of white supremacy. Basically, the point is that most times white supremacy doesn’t show up with a white hood on, which is how it continues to flourish. My writing has also sometimes been about the poor and the way the spectacular narratives we are attracted to don’t allow us to see the structures that maintain people’s precarious positions. In my teaching and service work, I aim to promote civil discourse and diversity, to support first-gen college students and to get more underrepresentaed scholars into the academic pipeline. But with all this clicking and liking, I realize I’m exhausted and I can’t do my real work.
As my two hour work shift escapes from me, I am trying to get a handle on things in a way that doesn’t waste my energy, my fear, my rage, my sadness. How can I channel this energy? Here’s what I can do today:
1. I can write through my feelings. Here it is.
2. I can read work that is inspiring and generous: I am enjoying the hell out of this essay about the relationship between Polio and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein (http://www.mlajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1632/pmla.2014.129.2.171 ); I am loving this essay about Creed and vulnerability (http://fq.ucpress.edu/content/69/4/72.full.pdf+html) . These are my role models today. Perhaps later this afternoon I can do my own work, looking to their exemplary writing.
3. I can move my body and go to yoga. I will take care of the body that carries my brain around so that I can live to fight another day.
4. I can take political action that is not clicking things on facebook. For me, this looks like signing up to do phone banks for Hillary, making a campaign contribution, and getting a t-shirt (retail therapy works a little). It may look different for you. If you live in my neighborhood, I may be calling you soon.
I will return to my work on Monday, knowing that it still matters and that I have taken care of myself in ways that allow me to continue on. I hope you all keep doing your good work, too.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote