A Black Feminist Vegan Perspective on ‘Women, stop complaining and either raise a family or do
Here are some updated thoughts to what I posted a few days ago about challenges to finding an opportunity in academe…
In terms of my previous post, I need to mention that one of my biggest challenges is that as the primary caretaker of 3 kids under the age of 6, most of the teaching opportunities I see do not pay enough for me to have someone take care of children and for me to work. Recently, I ended up losing a contract with an organization because I didn’t have enough income to hire someone to take care of my kids (1, 3 and kindergartner) when I needed to work. I rarely see this as an impediment for cisgender men. It is also challenging for me to ‘build’ a traditional teaching record when positions offered have a salary so low that it literally cannot cover child care (as a man in the previous post had mentioned that they were able to build their traditional teaching record in order to position themselves for a TT position).
I have heard the above challenges time and time again from women in heterosexual relationships and have children (Well, single women with children too, as I rarely meet a single father who also is the primary care-taker of his children; it’s usually women in heterosexual relationships that end up being the single mom and primary care provider if they separate from their boyfriend or husband). Anyway, the women I meet who are in heterosexual relationships with a man and have kids, their man partner, rarely if ever, are impeded by having kids. In contrast, many women who are ‘highly educated’ (in the Western educational sense) end up giving up their dreams of being in academe (or other fields) because for their family it is ‘cheaper’ if they stay home and take care of the children.
In this day and age of Academic Industrial Complex USA, a significant number of the teaching opportunities are low paying and not higher paying TT jobs (especially in the fields of women and gender studies, ethnic and racial studies); they are low paying with lots of hours as adjuncts and instructors for a 1 year or less time period. I have never heard of a cisgender man telling me that he no longer pursued his academic dreams because he had to stay home and take care of his children to save the family money– which usually makes sense because men are paid much more than women so it wouldn’t make economic sense for that primary income earner to leave that high paying position if his woman partner cannot make enough. These are the thoughts I have had and I don’t see it being talked about enough in mainstream talk about challenges to getting a position in academe–
Oh, I was just reminded via a social media ‘friend’ that I should not be posting about how my childcare issues ‘impede’ my ability to have a successful professional life; that I shouldn’t be speaking about these impediments ‘publicly’ because then potential hiring organizations may read it and simply read my children as an impediment to me being a successful employee. Well, thanks for your concern social media ‘friend’, but why keep this silent? It’s a real problem and to ask us to be ‘silent’ about it because we do not look ‘professional’ is just making these problems worse.
I have a lot of ‘well-intentioned’ people who don’t have kids– or they do have kids and they usually are cisgender men who don’t have to take care of their kids (Because they usually have a women partner who does). They tell me with a lot of confidence that I just need to keep on working harder and do this or that but their strategies don’t include that whole children bit. The strategy/advice come from a perspective of someone who basically just has to take care of themselves during the day, if that makes sense. I appreciate the advice but am also unsettled by the constant lack of awareness around the fact that still, most women with very young kids are doing the 48 hour work day, not getting sleep at night because they must take care of kids who don’t often sleep at night, as well as needing to care of the kids and/or work at the same time. When I am sick with the flu or what not, the kids are too and I can’t nap or sleep at night for a long time because I need to take care of them so I am sick forever (because the body can’t heal if it doesn’t sleep).
I also am intrigued by the mostly [white] men who advise me and kind of miss talking about the childcare part as well when they speak to me; I am spoken too as if I have white and male privilege and am not engaged in ‘inflammatory’ work/discipline (i.e. critical race feminism, anti-speciesism, and critical white studies) that makes it harder for me to secure financially stable employment. Yes, thank you for your advice, but at the same time, I just need to understand why these very obvious differences are not being recognized in who has more of a chance of securing a financially secure position and who doesn’t.
Just the other month, I met a woman who said she lost her job at a medical institution. She has 3 kids and had just had a baby but went back to work ASAP. She wasn’t sleeping at night (which most of us don’t do if we have a new baby) . The constant sleep deprivation meant she couldn’t do well at her job. What did the employer do? Told her she had to leave her job because her performance was being compromised by she needing to take care of her newborn as well as other 2 kids. Don’t we love living in a country in which we don’t have the structural support we need so we can just have the basics while taking care of dependents? But, oh well, we’re just women and we need to select one or the other: Either raise kids or pursue your career. You cannot do both. In addition, let’s make life even more difficult if you want to start a family and not have state supported maternity and paternity leave if you adopt or give birth to a baby.
Um, is this 2015 or 1915? Even more frustrating is that unless you’ve actually taken care of very little kids and have not slept in months, most cannot comprehend what this means. Even when folk have never experienced it and READ the social science research that shows the consequences of not giving women (or most primary caretakers of young children) the support they need, there isn’t a lot of compassion, understanding, or move to make some systemic changes. Also, let’s revisit the very real fact that for many who are in Academe, it’s “killing us”. And add on being a woman of color doing social science work and activism that center dismantling systems of racism and white supremacy and I’m in the zone of academia’s racial battle fatigue. I would like to have a real and upfront conversation with the many white cisgender men who sincerely try to advise me yet don’t even know what the hell racial battle fatigue is (because that is what racial and cisgender privilege means– you don’t need to know!). But, when I try to be real and upfront about it, it is dismissed. And beyond the childcare issues, there is the very real fact that Black [Women’s] Lives [Don’t] Matter in academe (well in the USA) in general, as Tamura A. Lomax brilliantly writes.
Oh, and we can’t forget the time when I shared these impediments, that a ‘compassionate’ vegan responded with much snark, “Have some more kids why don’t you?” (see snapshot below and click on it to go to URL of blog post). And I confronted them and asked if it was easier to say this to me on the internet and because I am a woman and Black, it’s easy to invoke that stereotype that white America has about Black women having too many children and not knowing how to take care of them. Of course they didn’t respond. As I struggle with the challenges of choosing to both raise several young children AND have a professional career, all I keep hearing from the mainstream is, “Women, stop complaining and either raise a family or don’t have a family and just pursue your career.” Um yea, because a cisgender man thinking about starting a family and still having a career is told that all the time—NOT!