Comments on: “Marrying up,” and why that could screw up your career History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:58:43 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mark Fri, 29 Oct 2010 17:06:06 +0000 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.

By: PZ Mon, 25 Aug 2008 06:27:01 +0000 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.

By: Historiann Sun, 24 Aug 2008 03:31:19 +0000 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.)

By: Dame Eleanor Hull Sun, 24 Aug 2008 02:51:18 +0000 I did a series about what I gave up for this profession, in April:

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.

By: Historiann Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:25:55 +0000 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!

By: Clio Bluestocking Sat, 23 Aug 2008 02:57:03 +0000 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.

By: Historiann Fri, 22 Aug 2008 16:49:50 +0000 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.

By: Rad readr Fri, 22 Aug 2008 16:14:52 +0000 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.

By: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Romantic Partners and Academics Fri, 22 Aug 2008 15:04:29 +0000 [...] 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 [...]

By: Historiann Fri, 22 Aug 2008 13:00:07 +0000 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!)