We find out in less than a week if Bun is a boy or girl, and many of my friends/family/coworkers have indicated they “just know” it’s a girl. How anybody makes these statements with certainty, I don’t know, but it’s got me thinking a lot about feminism – my own brand and that of others – and how it will affect the way I raise Bun, even if Bun is a boy. What is my “brand of feminism”? As odd as it may sound, I’m not entirely sure…I’ve never dissected the idea too much before. I’m certainly not of the belief that women and men are alike, and I don’t believe women can do everything men can do (pee standing up, for instance). Likewise, men can’t do everything women can do (e.g., having a baby). But I do believe that there is a certain amount of equality between the sexes, especially regarding intelligence.
Because of this belief, I know that women can be just as successful as men at just about any profession (aside from, perhaps, middle linebacker of the Cowboys), and I plan to raise my son or daughter that way. The great divide between men and women in science isn’t due to an intelligence gap; it’s because of society and biology, and the demands that they place on women. Even in the liberal monastery of academics, the blatant overtones of how a female scientist should run her life is quite evident. Remain single and take no prisoners, or find a husband that will go wherever you go. Oh, and if you have kids, make sure they don’t interfere with your research. And if you’re male? Well, your wife should be able to find work wherever you end up…regardless of if that new job is really what she wants to do.
Take my personal situation, for instance. I met Hubby after moving out here for my postdoc. At the time, he was working on his masters and had just been promoted from intern to employee, making only slightly more than my postdoc salary, at a federal government agency. So the idea that I would continue to pursue the TT academic path presented no real strain on the relationship or future plans for marriage/children. Well, after 3 years together, the situation has drastically changed. Hubby now has climbed the government ladder from a GS7 to a GS11, going on GS12, meaning a substantial jump in salary. Hubby’s job is also very satisfying for him, making it difficult to pry him away from “home”. Meanwhile, I’m looking for TT faculty positions in a dreadful economy. And to top it all off, we have a baby on the way. Our little two-body problem has now grown into a major one. Hubby’s job is well-paying and likely as permanent as he wants it to be. Mine is not, and any TT position that I find may not be either. So how is it that I get to drag us off to wherever?
I know marriage is about compromise, and I really don’t mind it. The fact is, Hubby doesn’t want me to compromise…he’s just as frustrated by this situation as I am. And our plan is still the same – I’m still hunting for TT positions, and we’ll cross the finding-a-job-for-him bridge when we get there. My biggest problem, though, is how I feel like a feminist sell-out when I talk about my concerns with male PIs in the department. They seem completely befuddled. ‘Why are you worrying about what your husband will do?’ ‘Didn’t you say he’s plenty marketable and should be able to find a job wherever?’ These guys finally see me as being just as capable as any man, and now they’re wondering why I’m worrying about my spouse’s job.
So what’s the deal? Am I betraying the sisterhood if I take a step back in a couple of years to let Hubby’s career take front seat? Am I letting my potential daughter down? Am I setting a bad example for our possible son? I don’t know, but I somehow feel more pressure than ever to make the right decision. Not that there’s any decision to make right now. With no interviews this past year and no job prospects, the idea of uprooting Hubby is really a moot point. Of course, the decision could eventually be made for us both if the TT job thing doesn’t work out…then I could sink into science oblivion as some other PI’s can’t-live-without senior scientist. I would make an awesome senior scientist.
But would Bun approve?