Thank you very much, Professor Zero. I was so enthused I sat down and wrote this.
Mary Kempler Gunn, in her 1969 book, A Guide to Academic Protocol, explains the social formalities of academic life. Gunn was assistant to the Secretary of Columbia University.This book came out at a time when the conservative elements in higher education were under attack and has the Grundyish tone of one who is trying to get people to behave themselves. Even so, while there have been enormous social changes in the intervening years, many of the basics Gunn lays out have not changed all that much. Institutions of higher learning still adhere to versions of the ideas she puts forward regarding the responsibility of members of college and university communities always to represent their school to the public in the best possible light.
In my opinion, the academic world is still today the most conservative of institutions, observing formalities that have gone by the board even in such highly structured groups as the medical profession and the military. There was a brief period when it seemed as if matters would change in that regard, but by the 80’s everyone had gotten back into line. *
So while Gunn’s exhortations always to put your best foot forward and provide dainty finger sandwiches at faculty “dos” may seem quaint, and her warning to faculty wives never to overhear such things about themselves as “There’s Mrs. Jones in her red dress again!” may cause unseemly laughter in our less stuffy days, the underlying prescription is the same: women in academia, whether faculty or faculty wives, must uphold conservative middle class standards and decorum.
When Gunn wrote the above, female faculty were rare, mostly single, mostly without children, and very much, as I remember them, like high priestesses of the mind. They were regarded as neuters (or perhaps Lesbians, but that was conjecture) or honorary men. The question of respectability never came up where they were concerned. Now women are everywhere in the academic world, although the so-called hard sciences are holding out against the “female invasion.”* This gender shift has put many women into ambivalent situations. Fellow professors, faculty wives, and students have problems treating female faculty with the same respect they bestow on male professors.
So it is that attention to appearance, not just as regards clothes but also in radiating efficiency and unflappability, remains extremely important for female faculty. Whereas Herr Dr.Professor Williams may show up for lectures in the clothes he slept in, this is not going to work for Frau Dr. Professorin Jacobs. She must be beyond reproach in her appearance, her preparation, her manners: in short, she must be exemplary in every way. Since she is only human, she will fail, and her failures will be noticed.
*My husband did not even bother to attend his graduation and PhD ceremonies in the 60's, for instance. He could not see the point of all that in the midst of a war. What was to celebrate? Now the ceremonies go on, undimmed by the tears of Iraquis and the families of dead soldiers. And maybe the commencement speaker will mention the war, and maybe he won’t. He may be, in fact, one of the warmongers himself.
*Writers like Prof. Judith Kleinfeld try to make the essentialist argument that women are not as interested in math and science as men are. My experience tells me that many smart women are, in fact, very interested in math and science and would have gone into these fields if they had not been actively discouraged from doing so.
I am also working on a search engine for my blog. My little Google widgit disappeared one day, and I'm having a hell of a time finding something to replace it that does not have too many bells and whistles for my less than professional computer skills.
More: When writing the above I forgot to include a very important subset of women in academia: the "mother earth" types. The best known would be Margaret Mead, who started out wild but who became very respectable in her old age.
Furthermore: This is a one hour intervew with Scheper-Hughes. She is an inspiration. I had a professor at Reed who had worked with her, and he said she was amazing. Scheper-Hughes realized early on that she had choices and made the best of her opportunities. She understands better than most how little opportunity poor people have and how, where, and why they make use of what agency they do have. Her eternal question is, "What kind of species are we, and why to we treat each other the way we do?"
I wonder what she would say about academic life if she could speak frankly about it.
And last: What might she say about the condition of service workers at U.C? Surely she knows about this situation.