What the hell is going on over at Science?

As per my previous post, my head has been mostly buried at work, but I have been yanked out of my hole several times by the fury over the really? honestly now! “career advice” being published by Science these days. The outrage has been well covered by other blogs (in particular, tenureshewrote has some excellent summaries and link-heavy reviews of the reactions here and here), so I won’t rehash all of the ways in which the columns have, shall we say, missed the mark.

What I will say is that the views expressed by those columns (just ignore breast ogling, have a spouse/domestic servant at home) do reflect the assumed norm that is currently operating in academia. (I experienced it far less in government, and I have no experience in industry). I generally commiserate with two populations on campus: young faculty with small children, and single faculty (with or without small children). In both groups, the common denominator is the hope that these assumptions will die off with the generation now inhabiting the upper echelons of the academy. (Okay…. I mean the Baby Boomers.)

The older generation still assumes by default that everyone’s family looks like theirs (wife at home to manage things, man with unlimited time to donate to work), although some of them (mainly women, although there are a few men in this camp) maintain a hazing mentality where “If I could do X, Y and Z with no time off, no pumping rooms, no on campus daycare” etc., so can we young whiners following in their footsteps. I have heard the “whining” word a lot in conjunction with pleas for more family-friendly workplace policies.

And don’t get me started on the breast ogling, drooling, off-colored remarks, and other things that really make folks look like fools.

I wish I knew what the editorial process over at Science was regarding these advice columns; as tenureshewrote remarked, the vast majority are written by heterocoupled individuals with fairly traditional career progressions, mainly in academia. The advice provided (even in the non-offensive ones) only applies to a very small slice of humanity. I would love to read some columns by folks from inner city schools with troubled pasts, folks who dropped out of college or grad school to start up successful businesses, and yeah, even other single mothers by choice like me who struggle against the notion that our lives are naturally harder than everyone else’s. (My challenges are no greater or fewer than those for couples… just different.) And YES, please PLEASE stop with the dual-science-career wife-does-the-bulk-of-the-domestic-stuff columns. That’s not advice, that’s enforcing the dominant perspective.


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