Language and fatherhood

It seems to be baby season lately. Friends and colleagues are just popping them out all over the place, and newborns are featured in most of the online photo albums I look at lately. Discussions about childrearing happen on and off on my favorite feminist blogs, and come up here and there on science blogs when careers are being discussed, too. In short: babies on the brain.

So today I saw this article in the NY Times blog Motherlode. My first reaction is shock that something even vaguely feminist would show up in writings even tangentially associated with the Times, everyone’s favorite fauxgressive news outlet, where any news featuring women is relegated to the Style section and every article is blatantly written for a default white, straight, able-bodied, male audience. Maybe since it’s a blog it doesn’t really count, especially since I suspect the readers of a NY Times blog about parenting are mostly women. But maybe it does mean that more gender equality in parenting is an idea that is gaining traction.

Anyway. I have mixed reactions to Drielsma’s article. Although he says he doesn’t “want to play the role of the ‘woe is me’ father,” he kind of does. He’s absolutely right that saying something like “babysitting” instead of “caretaking” when it comes to fathers actually caring for children is infuriating, and for the reasons he mentions, among others. But he repeatedly phrases his complaints in terms of equality for fathers — because it’s so hard and unfair for men to be excluded from mother-oriented activities. As though that’s simply discriminatory against fathers, and not actually the result of the relegating of women to an undervalued and restricted social role.

I find “Daddy Day Care” offensive for the same reason I cringe when someone in the workplace (and I count myself among the occasional offenders) talks about “manpower”, “man hours”, or facing a problem by “manning up”: the team of co-workers investing the “power”, the “hours” or the “up” consists both of men and women, and our language should reflect that. Just as the parenting team (in traditional family settings — I don’t want my own language to exclude single or same sex parents) should consist of mom and dad on an even footing, not mom as “parent” and dad as “day care provider”.

This is problematic, IMO, mainly because it’s equating exclusion of fathers from caretaking with the disappearing of women from behaviors and activities that are most highly valued (e.g. strength), and from the workplace. Those things are not equivalent. I completely agree that equality of parenting is a critically important goal, and that language plays a role in that, but broad social inequity is not, say, hurting men as much as it hurts women. It hurts both, and women more. He’s focusing on the experiences of men here, and that’s valid, but the language of equivalency is bothering me.

Mirror, mirror

The topic of this month’s Scientiae is “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall”: what we see, what others see, what we want others to see, etc. etc. when we look in the mirror.

I haven’t explicitly thought about my self-image in a while. If we’re talking body image, I’m past most or all of the issues I had as a girl and teen, the issues that most or all teenage girls have with thinking their bodies have problems because they don’t fit the beauty ideal. So physically, I generally like what I see, though everyone has their bad days when they notice all the little imperfections, and I’m no exception to that.

But I do get contemplative about where I’ve come in my career and in my life. Overall I see that being goal-driven has served me well, in that I’ve successfully gotten degrees and obtained a job in academia, which was my goal. I’m pretty happy with those things. I also see the privilege that got me here – being white, being middle class, being able-bodied (a huuuuge privilege in geoscience), being thin, being not model-hot but conventionally not-unattractive. Being pretty smart and a good test-taker, by virtue of genetics and class. So I see a good amount of luck. In general I like what I see, but I try to be conscious of the luck part.

Unrelated to careers, I also see my struggles with having a fulfilling social life. It’s tough to keep that up with all the moving an academic career entails. It takes time to make good friends and build up a local social network, and all the relocation makes it a bit lonely (except for science meetings). That’s something I see that I don’t like so much.

I don’t truly know what others see. I wonder about that. On the work side I expect that being organized and someone who gets things done efficiently is a big part of what people see, because while it takes me as long as the next person to get something published, I can push paper better than most. (It’s actually a little deceptive. When I’m stressed out about the important workload, like writing manuscripts or preparing lessons, I deal with the stress by compulsively checking all the other things off my list. It doesn’t really help me get the big things done, but it feels satisfying. It also creates the unfortunate illusions that I am just far more efficient than most overall, that I’m a good person to dump extra things on, and/or that I must not have much on my plate.) And on the social side I worry about what people see more than a bit, unfortunately.

I’m really curious to see what the rest of this carnival looks like. I feel like I have more self-confidence and a better self-image than a lot of people, especially women (thanks in large part to attending a women’s college) — but maybe not when compared to other successful academics. So I’m waiting to see how I measure up against my more-or-less peers!

New Accretionary Wedge: Inspiration

I will be hosting the next Accretionary Wedge carnival right here at the Magmalicious Blog! I’m very excited.


A rather inspiring field trip, though not the one that sucked me in.

I once had a conversation with our provost about how almost no one goes to college planning to study geology. (The exceptions always seem to be children or other close relations of geoscientists.) For the rest of us, a general lack of exposure before college seems to keep it off most of our radars as a career option, and then somehow, sooner or later, we fall into a great class or a fun research project or an exciting field trip, and we get sucked in. That means taking up geology is very often a switch from another planned career track. I think that’s a pretty interesting aspect of geoscience — the stories that got us here are so varied, and people come to it with such passion.

So July’s topic is about your inspiration to enter geoscience. Was it a fantastic mentor? Watching your geologist parents growing up? A great teacher, or an exciting intro field trip? How did it happen? Deadline of July 10, and leave your permalink in comments when your post is up!

quiet times

Things have been quiet around here. I have different responsibilities and things going on during the summer, so my routine is a bit different, and I’m also a little burnt out on the internet for the moment. But for the time being, the new Accretionary Wedge has gone up and is a lot of fun. Watch for the next one, which I will host here! I’ll put up the announcement for it around the end of the week. I am delighted to get to meet some of you lovely readers in Davos next week, although of course, you probably won’t know it’s me! Hint hint: I will be one of the couple thousand people at the meeting.

Accretionary Wedge: Time Warp

This month’s Accretionary Wedge is the time warp! What time in geologic history would I like to visit (no livable conditions required) with this magical new technology? There are so many! How can I choose??

This fancy moon picture was on Wikipedia!

This fancy moon picture was on Wikipedia!

With the space warp component included, this is especially difficult. Do I want to see if a plume starts at the core-mantle boundary? (yes!) Do I want to see what happens to plumes and/or subducted slabs at the transition zone? (yes!) What about the production of a LIP, or a major caldera-forming eruption? (yes! yes!) But although I’m really a volcanophile, I think I feel a little more traditionally geologic about this. I want to see a mass extinction — a big, catastrophic, geologic-record-punctuating event. The formation of the moon would be really fun, too, but it’s not as controversial anymore (to most people). There are still poorly-understood mass extinctions — in particular, the biggest one of them all: the P-T. I want to see who’s right and who’s wrong, and I want to see what happened, all for myself.

Though I suppose it would be damn depressing to watch all that death. Maybe I should stick with the moon?

This week

I have not yet posted anything on the subject of the assassination of Dr. Tiller, though I have been very upset about it. I encourage you to read the many great posts about it around the internet. I can’t come up with a whole lot more to say than has been said in posts like these. It was a terrorist act, an infuriating piece of violence, and it’s exactly the kind of thing people have been warning that inflammatory rhetoric by the right is encouraging.

I also want to point everyone in the direction of the Silence is the Enemy project. There are already quite a few great posts up about this initiative to actively draw attention to the systematic rape occurring on a truly massive scale in Liberia and elsewhere around the world. It’s a crushingly devastating thing to think about, and it’s hard to know what to do to help. But talking about openly so people can’t pretend it isn’t happening might do a little bit.