First, I'm going to extract from some of my excellent readers' comments. Profgrrrrl wrote:
This post really resonates with me -- and I'm one of those people who has all of those crazy life transition things going on right now. [...] Or ... well ... I feel oddly self-conscious about turning my blog into all wedding and baby all the time. I mean, that's what's going on with my life right now, and while it's interesting to me it's not interesting to anyone else. Or at least the parts that are interesting me right now wouldn't necessarily be interesting to others, so I've tried to restrict myself to things like going on leave, which don't seem to be discussed often and try to make the situation more about academics and less just about what's going on in my life. I'm annoyed because I feel like I've lost my voice and it's my own fault.
Sorry, don't mean to hijack comments here. This post just gave me the moment of release about this stuff.
Along similar lines, Earnest English wrote:
I read your post and the above comments and then went away from it for a while (partly because I was hungry and made something to eat, partly because I feel a bit on the spot about blogs turning from academic blogs to more personal blogs, specifically about relationships and babies -- which of course has been my dominant theme since I haven't been IN the academy in that official way). While I was away, I was thinking about this post and what I like about the blogs I read. I like not that they are academic blogs, but they are blogs by and about people in the academy.
Both of these comments made me want to reinforce what perhaps didn't come through so clearly in my last post: my problem isn't with people who are blogging about their big life changes, whatever those changes might be. Like EE, I like to read blogs that are about people's lives, whatever shape those lives are taking. And my intent here is not at all to judge people for what they choose to write or not to write on their blogs. I don't necessarily enjoy blogs that are all academic all the time, nor do I want this one to become that or think that it should become that. And god, if one can't write about major things in one's life like having a kid or getting married, then that sort of defeats the purpose of blogging, if blogging is supposed to be a medium that allows for such flexibility of content, which I think it is or at least should be. And it should be possible to write about that stuff without it meaning losing our voices. And dude, Profgrrrrl, you so weren't hijacking with your comment!
I think that the resistance I'm feeling (which feels a bit like trying to get a car out of a muddy ditch by rocking back and forth) has to do with a feeling that what I'm "supposed" to write about (as a woman) doesn't match up with what I do write about or want to write about, if that makes sense. In other words, I think I'm imposing certain kinds of gender norms on myself while at the same time I'm resisting that impulse to impose such norms. And this feeling of being pulled in two directions isn't really imposed from outside, though outside forces exacerbate my tendency to do this to myself. And by outside forces, I don't really mean that individual folks in the blogosphere are making me feel this stuff. It's more a combination of factors - like people in Lebanon asking why I'm not married, like M. attempting to articulate what kind of "man" I "deserve," the fact that the only "personal" blogging endorsed by IHE is the Mama Ph.D. blog, and the fact that tons of people around me are pregnant or moving in with significant others or getting married or whatever. It's like I've hit some sort of threshold where I'm "supposed" to be focusing on things other than my career or myself or whatever, and that if I'm not focusing on those things, and continuing to be a careerist self-absorbed freak, that there's something wrong with me. And again, that's me who's putting all of that shit on myself, really.
(This paragraph will go poof in the service of the pseudonym.) Poof!
I think that I'm feeling like the only things that I'm supposed to be thinking about are "girl" things, and since I'm not, that in some way makes me lame, or a loser. But the problem is, in terms of my options in blogworld that are readily apparent, I can't just retreat into a masculine (masculinist?) version of gender and sexuality and call it a day, later to return to the "girl" things, which is what I did once I felt more secure, in my academic life. I could make the choice, in that version of myself as a writer, to "see how the other half lived" and to return to the "girl" things with fresh insights. But what is the alternative, if one wants to write personally, which I do, to mommy blogging or single-girl-looking-for-love blogging? I think that's the bigger question that I'm thinking about, and I'm not sure that I know the answer to it. Sure, I could have a purely "professional" blog, but since I'd have no interest in reading that, I'm certainly not going to write it. And the "personal" writing that some male bloggers do is typically centered on fatherhood, so that's not really an option for me either. What is the model for writing personally in one's mid-30s if one isn't going to write about relationships or kids? Because I'm not going to complain about the politics of my department or my students or my colleagues. That would just be tacky, and it wouldn't solve this particular tension that I'm feeling.
What was also interesting to me about the comments was that Rokeya and Gwinne both noted that this blog is not, to them, a HeteroBlog (grin) and that this is something they appreciate about it. You know, I'm not sure what to write in response other than that I'm so flattered that this is something that they don't think that I do here! It's funny, a friend of mine just got into a relationship with a woman, after previously only having relationships with men, and at the very start she noted that I was a better "cultural lesbian" than she was, which made me laugh, and yet, which I also agreed with. You know, that's the thing, and this is another place where what I do in my blogging life conjoins with my work: As much as I'm straight as the day is long, I really do consciously try actively to resist falling into certain kinds of heteronormative traps. And as much as I feel this tension about how to write here at the moment, one of the reasons I don't want to stop this blog and why I don't want to change the voice or venue is because I think I've found a way to perform that resistance here. (I know this sounds all theory-speaky, but it's the only way I know how to put it. And also, that's not to say that I've done this perfectly, because I haven't. But it's been a consistent aim.) The point isn't that I wouldn't write about it if I got engaged, or pregnant, or fell in love, or whatever, but I don't want to write about it in the way that I'm supposed to write about that stuff. Because ultimately, if I did, that would really be counter to the way that I've really tried, not only on the blog but also in my academic writing, to write as a woman, a straight woman, in a way that is gendered but yet that isn't sort of heteronormatively gendered, if that makes sense. (Yes, these are the convoluted thoughts that I have when I think about my writing voice. And yes, this probably has something to do with the fact that some of my most significant mentors have been gay men.)
(Another paragraph that will go poof!) Poof!
But another great thing about the comments (Mel's, Helenesch's, Powerprof's) is that they reminded me of the way that we can judge ourselves as "boring" or insignificant or whining while others still get something out of what we write. This is one of the greatest things about this community of bloggers that we've got here, people. We're all universally interested in one another. Not because we "should" be or because it relates to those academic hoops that we jump through, but because we have grown to care about each other. And yeah, that's cheesy, but I still read Mel and Powerprof, and they still read me, even though all of us feel like we're annoying and boring. That's awesome - don't you think? I mean, how many of us can say that we're this committed to reading anything scholarly that anybody we know writes? (Though maybe all of you are that committed, and I'm just a crappy scholar. Anyway.) My point here is that even though I know this navel-gazing that I'm doing these past two posts is tedious, I also know from how people respond that you are actually interested in that I'm thinking about it. And that matters so, so much. Because that is something that just doesn't happen with one's scholarly writing, you know? I mean, sure, you can bully some people who are your friends into reading it, and sometimes people read it by happenstance because it's related to their own work, but there isn't the immediate feedback or the support or the real caring that my readers, pretty much without fail, exhibit. So you know what? Thanks. Because I do feel like I needed that support today.
And of course I'll write about the "what's next" stuff as I get to it. Not sure when that will happen, but it certainly won't be top secret :)