August
21st 2008
“Marrying up,” and why that could screw up your career

Posted under: Gender, jobs

There’s a new report out on the careers of social scientists, via Inside Higher Ed.  The University of Washington Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education has published a report based on survey data from people trained in anthropology, communication, geography, history, political science and sociology.  (See the full report here.)  Oddly, for the purposes of this report, history is a “social science,” but economics is not.  Wev.  I wonder if econ would have skewed the data because it is still hugely male dominated?)  Anyhoo, the reported results are just another verse in the same song we’ve been hearing all along:  Men’s and women’s careers start out relatively equally at the time they finish their degrees.  (The report suggests that women are slightly more likely to have a tenure-track job, and that men are slightly less likely to have tenure-track positions.)  But, lo:

[T]hese figures reverse themselves 6 to 10 years after a Ph.D., at which point men are more likely to have tenure or jobs outside of academe (generally with higher salaries than those for professors) and women are more likely to have jobs off the tenure track.

Employment Status by Gender 6-10 Years After Ph.D. in Social Sciences

Job Status Women Men
Tenured 30% 33%
Tenure-track, but not tenured 32% 32%
Non-tenure track 13% 9%
Other academic 8% 6%
Business, government or nonprofit 17% 20%

While the women in this study were less likely to be married or partnered, those who are tend to have “married up,” in that their partners are equally well-educated, whereas their male peers are married or partnered with people who have less education.  To wit,

Educational Attainment of Partners of Social Science Ph.D.’s

  Women Men
Partner has Ph.D. 34% 17%
Partner has other doctoral degree (M.D., J.D. etc.) 10% 7%
Partner has master’s degree 27% 35%
Partner has bachelor’s degree or less 29% 41%

Perhaps not surprisingly in light of those statistics, women in the social sciences are more likely than men to report that they changed jobs because their partners needed to move for professional reasons.

This study provides data for what I’ve observed anecdotally among friends and colleagues.  Women, much more often than men, are in marriages that don’t privilege their career tracks.  Should we conclude then that women are to blame for their own professional marginalization if they don’t prioritize their careers?  On the one hand, I admit that I disapprove somewhat of people who earn professional degrees and then choose not to work in their profession.  (That doesn’t mean they have to work for money, or that part-time or non tenure-track work doesn’t count–just do something to pay society back for the privilege of your education, and raising your own children, however worthwhile or gratifying, doesn’t count.  You’re still pouring your resources only into your family instead of sharing your expertise and training with the wider world.) 

On the other hand, there are deeply rooted cultural expectations that continue to demand that husbands be taller, older, better educated, and richer than their wives, so even feminist women seem to prefer mates who surpass them in height, age, education, and wealth.  (Just as there are lots of men who wouldn’t choose a wife who was taller, older, better educated, or richer–it works both ways, of course.)  So, more domestic labor may fall on the person whose career is not prioritized, and who may be engaged in part-time work or in work not as directly related to hir professional training.  (I’m not saying this division of domestic labor is “natural” or even reasonable, just that sidetracking your career usually means that you’ll be the person in your family who plans more meals and does more laundry.)

Maybe it’s because I work in the early modern period, when people understood that marriage isn’t primarily about love or romance, but I think it’s more about work and duty, and creating “a little commonwealth” in which a crapload of work has to get done over the years.  Love is great, but a worthy “yoke-mate” should assist you in the work you’ve chosen to do.  I’ve long thought that if more women thought about their work (both professional and domestic) and chose mates who would prioritize their careers, they’d be better off.  The problem is that many people choose their mates before they complete their educations, and they’re not thinking strategically about their own futures.  What do you think?  Did you think about these issues when you were dating (if, indeed, you’re married?)  Or do you think that our cultural preference (men and women) for male dominance in marriage is too overwhelming to be combatted in heterosexual relationships?  Sing it, sisters and brothers.

31 Comments »

31 Responses to ““Marrying up,” and why that could screw up your career”

  1. rebelleink on 21 Aug 2008 at 1:53 pm #

    holy crap, your last paragraph made so much sense. Well, it all did, but especially the last paragraph.

  2. ej on 21 Aug 2008 at 2:12 pm #

    I do wonder how many of these women are getting their PhDs “on the side” so to speak. I didn’t see much of this in my program, which was history, but my husband sees it all the time in education. Women with husbands who are gainfully employed who have grown or almost grown children enter the program, but really have no intention of searching for tenure track employment. Or full time employment of any kind, for that matter.

    I think it would be interesting to track the marital status of people when they get their Phds and start their first jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised if those who prioritized their job searches and were willing to move anywhere were single at the time.

  3. Knitting Clio on 21 Aug 2008 at 2:19 pm #

    I just wanted to point out that it’s difficult for women to “choose” a mate who prioritizes their careers when there are a significant number of males who feel threatened by women who are better educated and/or make more money than they do. Also, I think the crappy academic marketplace is a significant factor in why women “choose” not to “do anything” with their degrees (as if raising children isn’t a valuable contribution — haven’t we moved beyond this? BTW, I don’t have children).

  4. ej on 21 Aug 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    But don’t men face the same crappy academic marketplace? How many of them “choose” to get degree for their own edification, without even trying to get a job?

    But perhaps I’m bitter, as one of those women who refused to put aside her professional ambitions for a relationship, and saw that relationship end. In this respect, I do wish women could “have it all”, and not have to chose between career and relationship. Why is it still so hard to find a partner who is okay with a 50/50 split?

    And is this all a gender thing, or do same sex couples find themselves splitting along the same lines, with one member’s job taking priority?

  5. mary on 21 Aug 2008 at 2:59 pm #

    Hi historiann. It was good to see you in person again yesterday.

    I think your exactly right when you said “many people choose their mates before they complete their educations, and they’re not thinking strategically about their own futures.” I have seen this strain several of my friends’ relationships. Because of this, I vowed not to get married until I was at least 30. But as fate would have it,I was lucky enough to find a partner who prioritized my career at only 22. Before we decided to get engaged, we sat down and figured out how we could both pursue our careers and fortunately for us, it wasn’t difficult. After graduation next May, he’ll continue his job with the USDA, which pays well and essentially allows him to live anywhere, and I’ll continue pursuing my PhD or law degree. He also doesn’t have any expectations about who does what around the house. Still, I think my circumstances are more exceptional than not—and I still fall into Historiann’s category of a feminist woman who is marrying someone who is taller, older, and richer (although that last one isnt difficult to achieve).

    And I also think that cultural expectations are slow to change. My brother has now moved twice for my sister-in-law’s career, the most recent time giving up a good job opportunity of his own, and now people are constantly asked when he too will stop playing the “man-wife” and get a real job.

  6. vitpil on 21 Aug 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    As the female half of a two-anthropologist couple I am discouraged by this study. Especially if it proves to be predictive: at present I am the one with the TT job and my husband is teaching part-time.

    Regarding ej’s question about women doing their PhDs “on the side”: this isn’t something that is easy to do in anthropology, which on average takes 10 years to degree because of the 1-2 year field work research trip required. I should note that anthropology is a field that currently produces more women PhDs then men.

  7. Historiann on 21 Aug 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    Mary–I didn’t know you got engaged. Congratulations! (Although I don’t know if this thread is really the right place to say that…;))

    Just to clarify: I don’t think people have to work full time the rest of their lives to fulfill their obligations to their community and their profession, and childrearing certainly is valuable work. I just think that people who take professional degrees in a field have a responsibility to use their educations for the better of society. That doesn’t preclude some spells of underemployment, volunteer employment, employment outside the field, or unemployment by choice to see to family obligations for a few years. But, people who have had the privilege of a graduate education really should give back to society, and hoarding all of that cultural capital to pour back into one little family seems a little short-sighted and selfish. (And I won’t even get into what message that might send daughters…)

    And rebelleink and vitpil–welcome! Please continue to comment. Vitpil is right: anthropologists are hard core!

  8. Historiann on 21 Aug 2008 at 3:44 pm #

    And, as for ej’s comment:

    I think it would be interesting to track the marital status of people when they get their Phds and start their first jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised if those who prioritized their job searches and were willing to move anywhere were single at the time.

    I think this is essential, at least in history. Job candidates need to conduct a national search, and to be prepared to move to East Bumbershoot to take a term job or a TT job with a 3-3 or a 4-4 load. So, realistically, most academics will need to do at least two national searches in order to get to a job with a 2-2 load. Most of my friends are on their second TT jobs, and most of us also taught at other institutions in term positions or as adjuncts before breaking into the TT. Therefore, having a partner who is supportive and flexible is crucial.

    This is also why so many women I know have never married, as opposed to the male academics I know. It’s hard to find a partner and get married once you move to East Bumbershoot.

  9. Janice on 21 Aug 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    I married someone who was younger and had less education than I did. That wasn’t significant: what was important was that our values meshed, our interests aligned and we really hit it off very well. Yeah, it’s love!

    Because of all of the above, he was willing to pick up stakes and move with me to a remote northern town when I got the t-t job (and he’s stuck with me for sixteen years and counting). If his career had come together first, however, we might have put all of our eggs in his basket and I’d have used my Ph.D. training differently, I hope. But it takes a real team effort and acknowledgment of the sacrifice the trailing spouse makes to be fair, all around!

  10. mary on 21 Aug 2008 at 3:50 pm #

    Thank you. I’m sorry historiann, I thought you knew! I certainly didn’t mean to break the news online. Engagement news is odd for a post titled “Marrying up,” and why that could screw up your career.

  11. Dr. Crazy on 21 Aug 2008 at 4:04 pm #

    Clio’s comment about the “threat” that the PhD can pose to potential partners seems like a really important one to me, as does your follow-up comment, Historiann, about how potential to find a partner and get married can go down in certain geographical locations. In other words, I think the marketplace means that men and women (and non-heterosexuals) have challenges when it comes to living in the same place as their partners, but I think (straight) women can have a more difficult time in finding a partner once they’re on the academic track (after grad school) than do (straight) men in the same position, and this has to do with the way our culture has traditionally conceived of the man as the “dominant” partner. Is this surmountable? Perhaps, but at least in my experience, even though I’m not in East Bumbershoot, it’s not easily surmountable. Most men I know of comparable education are already partnered, and men whom I meet who are not comparably educated have typically felt threatened by the level of education that I have attained. With this being the case, I think that it’s possible that many women, if they desire to have a long-term, committed relationship, can feel like they need to be more “flexible” about their career aspirations or situation, if having a long-term, committed relationship is a priority, too. So it’s cultural expectations that are in play, but I think perhaps that women make these choices pragmatically and not only because they have internalized cultural expectations, if that makes sense.

  12. Sisyphus on 21 Aug 2008 at 5:40 pm #

    While the women in this study were less likely to be married or partnered, those who are tend to have “married up,” in that their partners are equally well-educated, whereas their male peers are married or partnered with people who have less education.

    Just to nitpick, I thought that “marrying up” meant you had _less_ money or education than the person you married.

    By defining “marrying up” as women who are _less or equally_ educated than their partners and men who are less educated, you’ve written the possibility of equality out of the definition for women. It’s a small point but, since one of my pet peeves is the use of too-restrictive (or too exhaustive) definitions of what a woman have to do to be a success, it’s annoying. (as in: you have to do a very specific thing and also have to have it all.)

  13. Historiann on 21 Aug 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Sis–well, considering that the Ph.D. is the highest degree that the university offers (trumping M.D.s and J.D.s), it’s quite impossible for women with Ph.D.’s to “marry up” in terms of educational attainment. However, it’s still possible to “marry up” in age, height, and financial staus. You are correct that it’s not really “marrying up,” but it is interesting that women Ph.D.s are married to other Ph.D.’s at such high rates compared to their male peers.

    I think the issue for women who are married to other Ph.D.’s is that if they’re marrying up in terms of age, they’re therefore usually marrying men who earn their degrees first, and therefore they’re playing catch-up with their careers.

    And, Dr. Crazy: your comments are spot-on, and jibe with my anecdotal observations. I have many more unmarried female colleagues than unmarried male colleagues. But, it breaks my heart to think of women leaving their careers for the sake of marriage. (Marriages end! Even good men can drop dead! But, you’ll always have your education and professional training…sorry to sound like Auntie Margaret, but there it is.)

    If a partner says “I love you, but you must quit your job to be with me,” that seems worse than saying, “I love you, but you must get plastic surgery to make your boobs the size I prefer to be with me.” It’s a fundamental rejection of your you-ness, and therefore evidence of a superficial or counterfeit love, not real love.

    (I’m sorry if this thread is bumming anyone out.)

  14. Dr. Crazy on 21 Aug 2008 at 8:37 pm #

    I’m so on board with your response to my comment, Historiann. It’s probably why I’m still single :)

  15. Historiann on 21 Aug 2008 at 8:39 pm #

    You didn’t get the boob job, then?

    (Kidding!)

  16. Liz on 21 Aug 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    This is an interesting issue for me too, as I’m now on my second marriage. I kicked the first husband out after a year of grad school and I was very wary about the second because of my concerns for my career. I’m in a field of history that requires “field work” for a year and I’m on my third gig in as many years (now a t-t with 2-2 load). My spouse has followed all along and is an equal partner in the house. HOWEVER, he has gotten a job of equal status to me for his field recently (MLS, not PhD) and has begun expecting me to pick up more slack around the home, etc. I’m happy to be in an equal partnership, but if it becomes unequal – I’m with you Historiann, a job is for life, marriage, eh, not so much.

    I noticed how many of the men with PhDs were married to women with MAs. That suggests to me that they may have met in grad school and the woman chose (for whatever reason) to prioritize the man’s degree and career. I can’t tell you how often I saw this in grad school. In fact, at my grad institution, if a female grad student got married, their advisors generally warned them “not to get pregnant”. (I did end up having a kid in grad school).

  17. Geoff on 21 Aug 2008 at 10:32 pm #

    Some of the conclusions reached by the posters assume that career aspirations are equal for both partners in the relationships being discussed. That is, if one wants to conclude that women are subjugating their professional aspirations in favor of their husbands’ desires, one would have to show that the couples in the study started out with relatively equal ambitions.

    My anecdotal observation is generally the same as Historiann’s — that more male PhDs are married than the other way around. But tracking the careers of those who were in my cohort at Texas (entered 1995), I recall no cases where the female partner stepped aside so her husband could take a job. What I do find multiple instances of is male PhD students marrying women who did not have a strong career ambition, or rather whose primary ambition was to settle down, start a family, and perhaps find part time occupations to satisfy their social and intellectual needs. In fact, there were few relationships formed between graduate students headed for PhDs in our department. I recall two such relationships, one of which did not last and the other in which both ended up with tenure-track jobs at the same school.

    Another anecdotal observation has been that there have been multiple instances at a certain local school where the female PhD led both partners to a new job. I am in such a marriage myself. Fortunately, my skills are portable. Anecdotal evidence is just that — but what it points to for me is that among recently minted PhDs, the female is just as likely to lead a couple to a particular location as the male. In general, I have a hard time drawing conclusions from this study other than general ones such as who is marrying whom.

    I had a relatively brief career as an academic/intellectual — I left grad school after two years, mostly due to job market anxieties — but I have never had such an intense involvement between my work and my personal intellectual life. It was a beautiful thing, and a very exciting period of growth and exploration. While I envy those who have managed a successful career in academia, I also understand that there are excellent reasons for leaving or pursuing other work. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to walk away from something one is talented at, or one has been encouraged to pursue. Academia isn’t providing stable employment for many of the MAs/PhDs it is producing, so how could we ask those people to stay in their fields?

    One last note — I think that most couples do think seriously about their roles when choosing their mate. However ten years later, ambitions may change. People may find what they thought would be satisfying when they were 25 doesn’t hold true for 35 or beyond. I wonder what role that may have in the degree breakdown in the study, because it seems (again anecdotally) that the female partner is the one more likely to go back for more education after some time spent with a family. (In my case, it may be the opposite!)

    Great thread.

  18. Notorious Ph.D. on 22 Aug 2008 at 12:47 am #

    Okay, this is sparking some very personal reflection here. First of all, my current relationship (9 months-ish) is with a man who is both several years younger and less advanced career-wise than I am. He also makes less money, though that is related to my being a bit further along in the career. (He is taller, though.)

    Here’s the catch: like many academic couples, we’re long-distance. And this year, there are a number of professional opportunities for me. But for the first time, I find myself hesitating to go for them, and the reasons are specifically related to being in this relationship. If I get opportunity X, would it mean closing the door on a chance to live together anytime in the forseeable future? Would I accept a step down in my career to gain more relationship satisfaction? Would he?

    These are all new questions for me, and they’re making me uneasy on a number of levels. So I’ll keep reading this thread with interest as it develops.

  19. Rose on 22 Aug 2008 at 5:52 am #

    There was a really telling article in the AAUP’s _Academe_ several years ago (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2002/ND/Feat/Maso.htm) that adds some additional and depressing context to these statistics. The study there looked at the relationship between having children pre-tenure and the tenure decision, and it’s shocking (though I suppose it shouldn’t be) how many fewer women who had children before tenure were likely to *get* tenure than men who had children pre-tenure.

    So, we’re back to the maternity leave issue. Just had a conversation with a colleague here last night who’s expecting her first baby in November, and heard the whole sorry tale of how relentlessly she had to fight to get any kind of time off; the chair, apparently, was trying to discourage her from taking even *unpaid* leave, suggesting she could teach all her classes in one day, and bring the baby to campus with her. Hello?!?!?

    Fortunately, she has tenure, so she pressed hard for what she wanted. But how many untenured folks would feel they could do that without risk?

    Real. Policies. Benefit. Everyone.

  20. Knitting Clio on 22 Aug 2008 at 5:59 am #

    Just to continue with Geoff’s excellent observations — it certainly does take courage to walk away from academia.
    I have a feeling it’s also more socially acceptable for women to “give up” in favor of marriage and family, while for men there’s the danger of being seen as a failure or a wimp. I have several friends who are stay-at-home dads who have put their wives’ high-powered careers first and they get ridiculed all the time for not being “manly.”

    I’m also wondering whether colleges and universities are now willing to do more to address the “two body problem” now that there are larger numbers of men who are the trailing spouses?

  21. Rose on 22 Aug 2008 at 6:07 am #

    The point being: you can marry someone who supports your career, get the tenure-track job, start a family, and still not be out of the woods yet.

    Sorry; still early in the morning here, where I just realized that the above comment had more to do w/Historiann’s previous post than this one, but I’ve been thinking about that one a lot, and read this one in light of my thoughts about the previous entry.

  22. Historiann on 22 Aug 2008 at 7:00 am #

    Liz, welcome and thanks for stopping by to comment! You are hard-core–I hope you like your current job, and that it all works out with this husband.

    KC–you’re exactly right about the fact that it’s easier for women to walk away from a profession. There’s already a script for them, and a role to play that’s culturally acceptable.

    Geoff, you are unusual in being the “trailing spouse,” from my observations over the past decade. In my current department, there are two women (out of 10) who brought male partners with them, all but one man who was married at the time of the job offer brought his wife to town. (And we’ve only hired 3 unmarried men, out of a total of 14 men.) In my previous job, there was only one married woman who relocated with a husband, whereas (again) every single man who was married had a wife who had followed him. These are just two anecdotal examples, so take them for what they’re worth, but given the fact that so many women in my department were and remain single, and it all adds up to very different family opportunities for male vs. female academics.

    And Rose–don’t worry about conflating the two threads! They’re very related, and they both boil down to the fact that women are still the ones expected to fit the reality of their lives around the ambitions and expectations of others, whether those others are male partners, families, or institutions like universities. Outrageous! But, I think there are some possibilities to resist performing these contortions, and insisting that both partners and institutions perform some contortions of their own.

    I started thinking, mid-way into this discussion, that this thread really goes back to the two-body problem. More on that later!

    Confidential to Notorious: apply for those jobs! At the very least, you can use them to get a counter-offer. This is your last year to apply as an assistant prof., right? How would that be bad for you and the BF? (And you never know–he might follow you down the road!)

  23. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Romantic Partners and Academics on 22 Aug 2008 at 9:04 am #

    [...] has an interesting post entitled: “Marrying up,” and why that could screw up your career in which she notes: There’s a new report out on the careers of social scientists, via Inside [...]

  24. Rad readr on 22 Aug 2008 at 10:14 am #

    Well, as long as everyone is being so revealing…academia has been horrible for my marriage. Over the years my wife’s career has taken a hit a couple of times. Granted I was the one in grad school when we got married, but my first tenure-track job meant she left a fairly successful business and spend a few years of unhappy (professional) living in a college town. Then when she finally got herself settled, I landed a better job in a better part of the country — and we moved again. She wasn’t happy. You could say that some of it has to do with the man (me) priviliging his career and yes, some of our problems are personal, but in hindsight I have seen that this profession (generally speaking) is not particularly good for relationships, in part because it demands geographical movement. That’s why I always tell prospective graduate students — are you ready to take a first job in a part of the country where you do not particularly want to live? One very talented young woman thought about it and went to law school.

    So I would want to add to historiann’s question about choosing a partner one about choosing a career. For people who want a satisfying partnership and family, perhaps it’s best to think strategically about a career that doesn’t expect its success stories to be happy about moving to another part of the country, earning relatively little money, and being under the gaze (and sometimes hazing) of the tenure track.

  25. Historiann on 22 Aug 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Rad, I couldn’t have said it any better myself, and good for you that you warn your students. They should know sooner rather than later.

    Someone recently–I think it was Squadratomagico, had a post and thread about “what have you given up in order to pursue this nutty profession.” I’ll let you know if I find the link, but many of the tales told were rather heartbreaking.

  26. Clio Bluestocking on 22 Aug 2008 at 8:57 pm #

    I no longer date or pursue romantic relationships partly because of this issue. The other part is my horrible taste in partners who either say that their allegedly superior income trumps the importance of my work, or, when I make more than they do, their work is supposed to be more important than mine thereby trumping my superior income. I know how to pick ‘em! But that is my issue.

    Something interesting here is the negotiaton of relationships and academic work. Just from observation, I have seen more creative constructions of relationships when at least one of the partners is academic. By creative, I may actually mean something more along the lines of “not traditional” as in long-distance relationships (even when children are involved), the likelihood of the male in a heterosexual partnership will shoulder more of the child-rearing if he is the academic, and insane commutes for both partners if they have jobs that are in separate cities in the same state. I’m sure there are other examples out there of ways that couples have negotiation very non-traditional living arrangements as a means of accomodating (and respecting) at least one academic in the family.

    Incidentally, I haven’t noticed much of an institutional accomodation beyond spousal hires, and that only works if both are academics.

    Yet, I get the sense — totally unscientific — that once geography has been dealt with, the academic is considered as having the more flexible of the roles. If the academic is a woman, then it appears to conform to gender roles in regard to housekeeping and child-rearing. If the academic is a man, he is either considered emascualted or praised for being such a mensch.

    I also wonder if there is more sympathy and understanding for the academic partner if the non-academic partner has either been with the academic partner through the grad school process or is even a former academic themselves.

    Just some thoughts from a confirmed spinster.

  27. Historiann on 23 Aug 2008 at 7:25 am #

    Clio B.–thanks for your thoughts. I’m sorry that you’ve had so much trouble on the dating scene. It’s interesting how both scenarios you describe boil down to the man’s work being more important.

    I think you’re right when you write, “I get the sense — totally unscientific — that once geography has been dealt with, the academic is considered as having the more flexible of the roles. If the academic is a woman, then it appears to conform to gender roles in regard to housekeeping and child-rearing. If the academic is a man, he is either considered emascualted or praised for being such a mensch.”

    The preceding discussion suggests that it’s a big deal to get your partner and family to relocate for your job, so I think that it’s reasonable for the academic partner to take on more of the housework, if necessary, because of the flexible schedules we have. (So long as we can get part of the weekend to make up for the work we’re not doing after 3 or 4 p.m. on the weekdays!) But, that only seems operational if your partner has a job–too often, the tagalong spouse (who is usually a woman) is unemployed or underemployed, so she not only made the sacrifice to move, but she’s then left to do more low-status care work. Kind of a double-whammy!

  28. Dame Eleanor Hull on 23 Aug 2008 at 8:51 pm #

    I did a series about what I gave up for this profession, in April: http://dameeleanor.blogspot.com/2008_04_01_archive.html

    I married equally in education, down in height, up in age and income, although Sir John obtained his degree later in life than I did. And we met after we’d both finished our PhDs and got jobs in the area where we now live. By the time we met, I was old enough to think strategically about these matters, and I’m glad of it; when I was younger, I was a romantic idiot. Sir John found it attractive that I was passionate about my work. While we usually share household chores pretty evenly, in periods of particularly heavy professional demands on me, he has taken on the lion’s share of the household and pet care.

    Biologically speaking, it might be smarter to ensure one’s genetic posterity. I don’t see what one owes to society, though, if one has put onself through graduate school on TAships and tuition waivers. Teaching freshman comp for indentured-servant wages clears the societal debt, in my opinion.

  29. Historiann on 23 Aug 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi Dame Eleanor–thanks for stopping by to comment. It sounds like you found a relationship that works for you, and even better, you can actually live together and both have jobs! (This is the Holy Grail for so many dual-career academic couples, of course.) I looked through your series of posts on what you feel you gave up, and what you like about your life now–very thought-provoking. (And, you provide a link to that discussion at Squadratomagico that I referenced above but didn’t link to–thanks!)

    I agree that the debt to society can be cleared pretty quickly if teaching adjunct sections of freshman comp is one’s lot. I guess my point was that women should take their educations and careers as seriously as men take theirs, and see that their educations are not their personal possessions to use or squander as they see fit. I’ll give this to the guys: in general, they don’t screw around about work. A whole lot of men, even relatively lucky professional men, work at jobs they hate so they can take care of their families and live up to their responsibilities. Because work is central to masculinity, men don’t think that they have the option of quitting and allowing someone else to take care of them. I think more women should think like that, instead of seeing their careers as frivolous entertainment or only optional if they happen to marry an affluent man. (Think of all the men who might be freed from their crappy jobs, and have the opportunity to re-train in a field they really love, if their wives were willing to share the burden of providing for the household!)

    But, I’m not a person with a title like Sir John, so I grew up assuming that I’d have to work all my life! ;) (Terribly middle-class.)

  30. PZ on 25 Aug 2008 at 12:27 am #

    I’ve long been told you should marry WAY down if you’re a woman – enough so that there is no competition. Blue collar. That way, the man will necessarily be an individual not intimidated by your education, attainment, and so on. If he were, he wouldn’t have been interested in the first place. He’ll be an expert at something really different, like airplane repair, will be happy with your success, and won’t “connect” with fine points like the distinction between Associate and Full, and your marriage will not remind you of the office. It’s food for thought.

  31. Mark on 29 Oct 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Women rarely marry-down.

    Women generally demand that a man earn as much or more as they earn. Men, on the other hand, are fine with women who earn less and have less of an education.

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