THE Scholarly Web

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

August 25, 2011

"Every week, I will look at all the ways I am a Bad Female Academic," writes Lee Elaine Skallerup in the first of a blog series that has run throughout the summer.

"Some weeks, it will be about why am I a bad academic more generally, sometimes about how I am a bad female. Other weeks, it will be why I am a bad combination of the two."

In over a dozen instalments of the blog, Dr Skallerup, who has held teaching positions at several US universities, has strived to debunk the notion that good behaviour and a "don't rock the boat" mentality is what is required of a woman in the academy.

"It's no secret that I love to teach," she writes in her first post. "This is a complex statement to make as a female academic, because...I could be seen as being too maternal, and thus a less serious 'academic' in the broad sense. A good female academic keeps her professional distance and teaches because she has to."

She also argues that the widely held view is that women in academia, especially those who are not in tenure-track positions, "should be grateful that we have a job" and should not strive to be recognised for the quality of their research.

But she says: "I value my research as much as my teaching, and I'm pretty good at both...I am unapologetic in my quest for recognition and the money that goes with it.

"Politically, this is probably a terrible move, but I think (hope) that it will help my career in the long run."

This feeds into a subsequent post addressing her ambition, something she says is generally seen as unseemly for a woman.

She also chews over the "pernicious belief" in higher education that good academics do not want to take on administrative duties, or cannot be good administrators.

"I was taught that if you didn't like how things were going, you figured out how best to make them better," she writes.

"I figured that academia would be a great opportunity for me to do research, teach, and...be an administrator...I have ambition, and that ambition involves moving up the administrative ladder."

In a third post, "Being myself", Dr Skallerup writes that abandoning a tenure-track job "and ending up as 'just' an instructor" was "the most liberating thing that has ever happened to me".

"I am now free to do whatever research interests me, rather than what I think will lead to tenure...I'm truly free to be myself."

She adds that this "quasi-rebellious streak" is something she has embraced throughout her education - further evidence that she is a "bad female academic".

"I've always made contrary choices," she writes. "I chose my dissertation supervisor because she allowed me to do the research and work that I wanted to do.

"Career-wise, that may not have been the wisest choice in the short-term, but what it did do was allow me to develop confidence in my ideas and my abilities."

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to john.elmes@tsleducation.com.

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