My 4-page Comic Book on “How to get a faculty job in 20 not-so-easy-steps”

It is time for me to claim my anonymous* post “How to get a faculty job in 20 not-so-easy-steps” and make it into a comic book for #HopeJahrenSureCanWrite.

So go ahead and Download my 4-page comic book (it’s a 2 Mb pdf file).

Want to print it?  You bet!  I bought all the vapidly cheery photographs from Dreamstime, so it’s all above-board**.

As long as you’re here, why not read my other comic book full of advice for after you get the job.

*I used to be anonymous before I decided I was me.  I guest posted as such twice in 2011, graciously hosted by @JacquelynGill on her blog, “The Contemplative Mammoth“. 
**Thanks to @Myrmecos for helping me do this right.

Three Ways to Be An Ally

What I learned from the internet is that nothing upsets my male colleagues more than the pernicious sexual harassment that has been happening right under their noses for years.  “What kind of world are we living in?” they wail, “And what can I do about it?”  Ever since I can remember, I’ve actually been a woman, and so maybe I can offer some constructive advice.  You can thank me later.

1.  Calm the F*ck Down.  If you walk up to me and say, “OH YOU CUT YOUR HAIR,” I’m not going to have you up on Judge Judy within 48 hours.  The sorry pathetic reality is that you can say a lot of stupid shit and not get in any real trouble, so just calm the f*ck down.  Women in Science often majored in Science where they learned that some people are just hopelessly socially awkward and that it’s different (yet not exclusive) from being a sinister calculating dickhead.  We know that “Can a woman breastfeed while driving?” could be more a dumbass abstract query than a lascivious boobie-fantasy narrative.  Jeebus, the sad truth is that we will generally give you the benefit of the doubt on this, time after time after time.  I have colleagues who say stupid shit to me with such regularity that I’ve started using it to set my watch.  Ok Guys, I’ll put my money where my mouth is, and take one for your team.  You no longer have to KGB every single syllable that comes out of your mouth around me.  After a while I might turn to you and say, “Stop saying stuff like that.  I don’t like it and it makes you sound stupid as f*ck.”  Regretfully, this will sap some of the enthusiasm from our burgeoning friendship, but if we’re truly destined for buddyhood, we’ll both get over it eventually.  Guys seem to want RULES on how to act to stay in the clear on sexual harassment, so here are some RULES.  Turn on your printer.  Are you ready?  Rule Number One: Don’t take your dick out while you are talking to me in your office.  Let’s just make a blanket rule that all dicks shall be covered with at least one layer of clothing when we are in a place of academic employment, shall we?  Rule Number Two: Don’t c*m into an envelope and leave it in my mailbox.  I can’t imagine where you got this idea, but it was a Bad Choice.  Next time you are choosing what to do, and it starts to seem like a Good Choice, you should email your Dean and put “I don’t have enough to do!” in the subject line.  Rule Number Three: Don’t leave your pornography on top of my lab bench in order to remind me that you have a key to my lab.  This is the kind of thing that I might just take the wrong way and make a big deal out of.  Some of these things happened to me, and some of them happened to people I know.  Are you shocked?  My point here is that you shouldn’t be.  By the time a sexual harassment case gets to the point where an institution is even talking about taking action, it means that something so egregious has been done, so many times, to so many women, that the Devil himself would first blush then vomit upon hearing the details.  Should it be this way?  No.  But here I am, hauling this great big olive branch to the table.  I’ll settle for 2014 to be the year when everyone swears to obey the Three Rules above.  What do you say, Guys?  We can call it “Rules of Three, Let Her Be!” or have a 5K race “Don’t Call Her a Whore in Two-Thou-One-Four!” and let Ofuck officiate.  Let’s go one step further: if you think you have said something stupid to me, you can ask.  You can say, “Did I just say something stupid?  If so then I’m sorry.”  Then – and this is the tricky part – don’t say that particular thing ever again.  Wow.  2014 is shaping up to be a banner year from where I sit.

2.  Step the F*ck Up.  I read some study (or I made it up) about how when a child has one abusive parent and one non-abusive parent, it is the non-abusive parent that is perceived as more hurtful.  The abusive one doesn’t let you down, you know what to expect from them.  It’s when the non-abusive one doesn’t and doesn’t and doesn’t step up that you really start to question your worth.  I’ve painted myself into an unfortunate rhetorical corner where women are metaphoric children and men are metaphoric parents, but let’s soldier on for the sake of argument.  Dear Mr. Ally, you are hurting me when you stand by and say nothing as you see me harassed.  I’ll go one better and claim that you are hurting me just as much the harasser is hurting me.  Let’s take a purely hypothetical situation that happened to me once.  Here I was, the only woman in a sexual harassment workshop led by two badass female lawyers, happily scarfing down one free sammich after the other.  We all started sharing our feelings in a safe space of mutual respect about the value of women in the workplace.  One of my senior colleagues offered the following observation: “Women don’t belong here.  They are like wolves at a campsite.  They come and piss all over everything, just to ruin it.”  I was shocked.  Stupefied.  I simply couldn’t believe it.  The lawyers — one of whom had prosecuted a sexual harassment case within the NYC police department which is the lawyerly equivalent of the Sudan gig in Doctors Without Borders — were also stunned into silence.  Tick, tick went the clock and nobody said anything.  After a pause, we … well … we continued on as if in a dream.  Let’s examine this.  What should have happened?  This was actually a perfect opening for a wannabe Ally.  Rule of Thumb: if some dude says some off-the-leash cray-cray shit, and you turn to me and my pupils are dilated and my breathing is shallow and irregular, it is probably up to you to inject an alternative perspective into the discourse.  Maybe I’m just not paying attention.  Maybe I’m distractedly composing a witty blog entry in my head.  OR MAYBE I’M DYING A LITTLE BIT INSIDE.  It’s time to choose sides, my Y-chromofriend.  You’re either with me or against me.  Afraid of making everyone uncomfortable?  Guess what, we passed uncomfortable three exits ago near the boarded-up Waffle House.  You’ve got to step the f*ck up.  “But what should I do?” you implore, “What should I say?” … Well, first off, I wish to stress that these situations must be handled with delicacy and sensitivity.  Ever mindful of this, you should turn to Dr. Bozo, establish eye-contact, and say “SHUT UP.”  Out of the many things that you could do — you could laugh nervously, you could check your phone, you could come to my office later and say, “Well I never!” — I personally recommend that you turn to Dr. Bozo, establish eye-contact, and say “SHUT UP.”  “Shutup shutup shutup,” you add, by way of exposition.  This approach is, admittedly, rude, crass and juvenile.  There are other more mature ways to handle this.  For example, you could instead turn to Dr. Bozo, establish eye-contact, and say “SHUT UP.”  Make sure you tailor your response to your own individual personality.  For example, wear whatever shirt you want to as you turn to Dr. Bozo, establish eye-contact, and say “SHUT UP.”  Let’s all practice, shall we?  I’ll turn off moderation for the comments below, and every time someone calls me a c*nt, one of you responds with “SHUT UP”.  It’ll be like Simon Says, only with trolls.

3.  Remember That It’s About Her, Not Him.  This is also known as “Don’t make the mistake of overfocusing on the harasser.”  I’m not saying this to demonstrate munificence, because I looked it up and it turns out I don’t have any.  I am descended from a Viking warrior who would slaughter you for looking at her wrong, throw your entrails to a Great Dane and then use your skull as a goblet.  It’s just that when you hear a car slam into a pedestrian, you don’t go running over there and say, “Oh car!  Are you okay?  Has your driving record sustained any short-term or long-term ill effects?  Where-oh-where will you park now?  You had such high miles-per-gallon, how could this have happened?  What does this really mean about the manufacturing processes at Kia?” and so forth.  No.  You stop traffic, and you go see how badly the pedestrian has been hit.  You ask her if she wants any help or if she wants you to call the authorities.  You wait around to make sure it gets dealt with.  You take down the license plate and document the details.  Your biggest priority is to get her through this.  Now that we’ve arrived in familiar rhetorical territory where men are metaphoric cars, let me say a little more.  Wide-eyed naiveté notwithstanding, Dr. Bozo is not going to change.  He’s been saying stupid shit since before I was born.  He’s probably saying stupid shit to some poor bastard right at this very moment.  Nope, unfortunately we must simply “anticipate cohort mortality” with a lot of these guys, as my Epidemiologist colleague might put it.  Feminist actuaries have modeled this projection and assure me that we should see marked improvements within the next two-to-four decades*.  But you, as a self-professed Ally, have a responsibility now.  Ask yourself, “What will ensure that the pedestrian survives – no thrives – through this?”  Better yet, ask her what she needs in order to thrive through this.  Then put your heads together and strategize.  And go get it.

*The younger generation of misogynists are a whole other ball of hateful wax that I’ll post about later or someday.

The Worst Part Is Not

This post first appeared as a guest post*

The worst part is not when it all blows over just as you thought something was going to finally happen.  When everything goes on as usual, except that your colleagues pass you in the hall with a wider berth.  That when all the shock and outrage dies down, the only job that changed is yours.  You used to be a valued mascot.  Now you’re a traitor.  You’ll never be Department Chair or Dean now that this has happened.  How dare you throw all the Monopoly pieces in the air – we were letting you play!  But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is not when his wife and his employees come to you and say please don’t do this to us.  Our mortgage, our children, our paychecks are at stake.  When they ask you if you care about anything besides yourself.  When they tell you the full story, which you never wanted to know.  That there’s a rotten root of sickness and betrayal underneath it all.  That this is your big chance to be the bigger person and walk away, proving that you are actually more compassionate than you seem.  This is not the worst part.  Although that part is pretty damn bad.

The worst part is not when you see it happen all over again to a woman young enough to be your daughter.  What is the right thing to tell her?  That twenty years ago you remember holding tight to the idea that twenty years from now it would be different.  That grief and surprise are two different things, one you will feel forever, and the other you will never feel again.  That she should let this harden her towards the field, and soften her towards those she loves.  To be careful who you trust, and don’t trust any one too much, or for too long.  Trust them until you don’t.  This is not the worst part.  But it is sufficiently bad.

The worst part is not that your expectations have changed.  That you’ve given up on the National Academy, the HHMI, the Ivy League job.  It’s unreasonable to expect to be made MVP of an all-boys team.  You should just be grateful that they drafted you at all.  That your highest career goal has become to be left alone to do your job with the people that you actually trust.  This is not the worst part because maybe that’s not it after all.  Maybe it’s you.  Maybe you’re just not good enough.  Maybe it’s that huge chip on your shoulder.  Maybe … Lather, rinse, repeat.

The worst part is the pivot.  The click.  When the switch flips.  When you press down, turn the child-proof cap, and the thing breaks in your hands.  When it dawns on you that this isn’t an interview, it’s a date.  That there’s no study group, it’s a date.  That this isn’t office hours, it’s a date.  That it’s not a promotion, it’s a date.  That it’s not a field trip, it’s a date.  It’s a weird f*cked up date and you had no idea, you dumbass.  You’re just as stupid as he thinks you are.  Why are you carrying a backpack full of questions, homework, manuscripts, resumés and various other homely hopeful aspirations?  All you needed to do was to show up.  Show up for this weird f*cked up date.  Sucker.

You fight for some control.  You sit in the back and avoid male eyes.  You listen for which classes to avoid, and turn up sick before certain field trips.  You don’t exchange numbers with your lab partner.  You make sure you study twice as hard and do twice as much as they ask for.  And you slowly realize that you want this twice as much as any of the boys.  And this keeps you going, and it keeps you safe.  A good professor is the one you never met and who never knew your name.  He was smart and intense and assigned the right readings, and lots of them.  Who never knew how much he changed your thinking because you never told him.  Who gave you an A in permanent ink, that you gathered up with all the others and cashed in like poker chips for a ticket to graduate school, where the whole thing started all over again.

But the best professor was a terrible teacher.  He spoke from yellowed, cracked old notes with a thick accent for hours, unbothered by the possibility that no one understood him.  When you went to tell him that you were dropping his class his wife was with him, and they invited you in.  They gave you a cookie and asked what was wrong, and you said you didn’t know.  They said come to the theater with us, you Americans don’t go to the theater anymore.  And bring your transcript.  While they ate they said you have done well, and you are good inside, and you will change the world.  And they let me pay my own way.

*big thanks for letting me guest on @Drew_Lab ‘s blog “The Drew Lab” at Columbia University