Hello, and welcome to Bearing Scholarship, a blog about the intersections between the academic environment, scholarly work, graduate study, pregnancy, and parenting. I begin this blog for several reasons:
1. My dissertation explores the representations of pregnancy and birth in British literature between 1720-1830. My scholarly methodology, findings, interpretations, questions, and arguments are part of the larger conversation about the many childbearing issues facing modern women. Literary study, social and economic inquiry, medical texts, epistemology and aesthetic theory, and archival finds are all a part of this project.
2. The university system, from its graduate students to its tenured professors to its administrators, has recently drawn more and more scrutiny of the ways it responds to pregnant women or women with families. Childbearing women in academia often find themselves in a bureaucratic and professional mess when they must balance the seemingly-opposed demands of two halves of their lives, and the effect of childbearing on a tenure-track hopeful is demonstrably not good. These are things we must investigate in order to change.
3. I will explore, to an extent, the personal side of childbearing in academia. Looking through a subjective lens can help us balance all the abstract “theory,” or statistics, policies, and ideas, with some concrete “practice,” or the real effects of policies and ideas. What do graduate student mothers (and fathers) actually experience? How are they treated by their departments? Should a pregnant graduate student hold off on entering the job market until after she has delivered? Essentially, beyond OB-GYN visits and the travails of selecting a pediatrician, what additional institutional pressures and problems do pregnant or parental students and scholars face?
I must acknowledge the risk of creating a blog like this. These risks are purely professional, which will become apparent as I continue writing. Unfortunately, many job-search committees, whether consciously or not, are averse to hiring pregnant women or mothers. Many institutions have no policies, or only vague or unwritten policies, determining the status of such women during the tenure-track phase or during graduate study. As I am a graduate student who will face the (quite terrible) academic job market in a couple years, and as I am a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, I put my professional persona at risk of ridicule, refusal, or being ignored and marginalized. I risk becoming one of “those women” whose concentration on a mere biological process like birth apparently detracts from her humanistic scholarship. In order to mitigate this risk as much as possible, I am authoring this blog anonymously (at least until such time as I can assert my identity). For now, you’ll know me as “L.”
Why do I take this risk? To prove to skeptics that vigorous scholarly research, writing, pedagogy, and service can coexist quite well with the processes and requirements of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Institutional and social change–continuing to open our minds and hearts, and stressing equality and opportunity despite differing circumstances–are necessary for female scholars to feel unconstrained by either biology or administration in the academy.