Emily Rapp on female friendship

Being in the academy, I get the whole “women are lousy mentors” line–constantly. Old women, you know, are so catty about younger, prettier women. It’s just true. Unlike the bros. They’re so cool with each other, bros are. Unlike women, who just don’t do things the right way because of their weakness and need to compete for men. (Gag).

From Emily Rapp’s fine essay, Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship

Recently I overheard a man say at a yoga class, “Yeah, well, you get two women together and it’s like bitch central.” I could have told him he only needed one, in fact, and that would be me, but it also made me realize how much people diminish and poo-poo the real power and strength of female friendship, especially between women, which is either supposed to descend into some kind of male lesbian love scene porn fantasy or be dismissed as meaningless or be re-written as a story of competition. Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones. Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and sometimes children.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have both male and female mentors, and all have been wonderful. But it’s very, very hard to be supportive of other people when you are constantly told you are nothing, and where your supportiveness is both expected (because of your gender) and unappreciated (because of your gender).

The essay also contains a wonderful riff on being an older, single woman:

The Wrinklies weren’t spinsters or old maids and they were not “failures” in any way. They were free. It was I who failed to see them, until later, for who they really were: educated, hugely intelligent, fascinating, financially independent. Women who led rich lives full of meaningful work, deep and lasting friendship, sex when they wanted it, time with the beloved children of their family and friends, conversations about politics and art and literature, culture, travel to remarkable destinations where they did not journey as unconscious tourists but as guests in people’s homes and hearts. Despite these full lives they owned their own time, they owned their days. I did not. I was too busy trying to find someone who would spend the days with me, as if this would validate my presence in the world.

Go read.

H/T to Dorothea Herreiner

More about the public life of an academic blogger from Natalia Cecire

Natalia Cecire discusses the pros and cons of thinking in public on a blog, and rather hits the nail on the head with why I’ve come close–and am still thinking about–shutting down this blog.

Thinking in public is a difficult habit to get into, though, because public is the place where we’re supposed to not screw up, and thinking on the fly inevitably involves screwing up. Blogging with any regularity in essence means committing oneself to making one’s intellectual fallibility visible to the world and to the unforgiving memory of the Google cache. This is particularly a problem for academics, who are, after all, professional thinkers; we have a culture of making it look easy, and of concealing as much as possible “the raw material of poetry in all its rawness.”

My own problems have been that it’s too easy to make an argument on the Interwebs and have nobody challenge you, which means you can fall in love with your own argument even when it’s wrong–and worse, you can fall in love with your own idea of yourself as authority. The second problem is enough of a temptation in the academy. I prefer to exist in a space where 1) yes, my years of working and studying and thinking in a field do mean that my informed commentary isn’t worthless the way some people seem to think if they see a PhD by your name *and* 2) I’m still not right all the time.

Alternatively, people do challenge you, with differing level of adroitness (but that’s ok), but not all that often. It’s pretty quiet over here in this part of the Interwebs.

Nonetheless, I think she has a point when she writes:

In blogging, I’ve come around to the idea that academics need to do a lot more thinking in public if we want said public to have a clue as to what it is that we actually do. It really only seems fair.

When I discussed shutting down the blog, Richard Green referred to the blog as a “service, especially for students.” At first I was dubious, but I’ve come around to thinking of it as a service and not just a vehicle for self-promotion or a place to forge new writing.

It’s a struggle, though. I’ve always needed privacy to really write and really work. There’s part of me that thinks that private universe of thinking and struggling with ideas is happening parallel to the blog. There’s another part of me that thinks the blog saps energy from that.