Monday, June 18, 2007

Interviewed by Pseudostoops!

Here's an interesting sort of meme: Pseudostoops was interviewed on her site last week, and she offered to interview interested readers and sister bloggers. When I saw how interesting her answers were, I knew I wanted her to interview me. (If you'd like me to interview you, drop me a comment or an email.)

1. The title of your blog is plain(s) feminist. Feminism is a clear part of your voice and writing- that makes sense. I get the "plains" part, too- South Dakota, etc. Why is the 's' parenthetical? Is this one of those times when there’s an obvious double entendre that I’m missing?

Well, maybe not. The "(s)" makes the title "plains feminist," as you write. But it also makes it "plain feminist" – as in, not necessarily any other "type" of feminist. At the time that I was starting the blog, I knew I wanted it to be clearly related to feminism, but I didn’t want to identify with a particular school of feminist thought. I feel that I am both a part of and between various schools of feminism – Second and Third Waves, a critical sex radicalism, and so on. So I decided that it would be, as the slogan reads, "just plain feminism."

Also, when I write the title, here or on other blogs, I tend to alternate between writing it as two words and as one word, and that’s simply because I get lazy – I picked an annoying title to type, and leaving out the extra space and the capital "F" is just that much easier. And also, because I tend to prefer it as one word, and I might change the title to reflect that one day.

2. Has your career always been in academia? Did you consider any other jobs, or was being a professor something you always knew you wanted to do?

Before I went back to school, I worked for a few years in development, which was not something I enjoyed particularly or was especially good at, but it was and continues to be a field that is wide open (especially to women) and that pays extremely well even for part-time work. I got into it via telemarketing, of all things, and ended up working for a couple of private schools and theaters over the course of a few years. Essentially, I did a lot of direct mail pieces (those letters you get from your alma mater asking for money, for example) and some events, such as phonathons (those calls you get from your alma mater asking for money). I have found that my experience in development has continually been helpful to me, not because I’m good at asking people for money, but because I’ve become good at thinking of ways to raise money.

I never would have thought of the possibility of becoming a professor had it not been for Mr. Plain(s)feminist, who constantly encouraged me. When I first started grad school, it was partly motivated by the fact that I hated my career and didn’t know what I wanted to do. When the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas debates occurred, I was further encouraged to invest in feminist work, and that helped give me the courage to go into Women’s Studies rather than something more "practical."

While I was in grad school, I realized that most of my peers (who were struggling to make ends meet) were unaware of the well-paid work that was available in development, and I had a dream of starting up an employment-matching program for graduate students and local employers who wanted highly-skilled, part-time/temporary, professional employees to do development, marketing, and writing work. I wasn’t able to find the time to do it, but it’s a project I may come back to at some point.

But I’ll add that for most of my life, I’ve had the persistent fear that I am not well-suited to most jobs and thus doomed to unhappiness, and even failure, in my work life. Teaching has been the one career in which I’ve found joy, and so I think my calling really lies there and in writing and other related academic pursuits. (I have thought at times that I’d also enjoy "rock star," but I get bored easily with the same songs over and over, and I also have acute stage fright (though that is getting better).)

3 Your profile mentions that you play guitar. Are you self-taught, or did you learn as a child? Do you intend to put Bean in music lessons?

I took a few guitar lessons, both times from rather weird men. One was the son of a professor at my college, and he always struck me as a leering sort of type. But he did teach me some very useful finger-picking and strumming patterns that I use to this day. The other was a musician who was teaching in a community ed program, and when I confessed to him that I just didn’t have time to practice often (I was working full-time and taking graduate classes), he pretty much told me not to bother coming. (Not that I don’t understand his position, but I took the class to learn, figuring that what I couldn’t learn right then, I could remember and learn later, when my classes were over. Which I did.)

I am not and never have been confident on the guitar, however. I would much prefer to find someone who would play while I sing, so that I could concentrate just on that. But the world is full of singers who need accompanists – most singers who want to perform, in my experience, have had to learn to accompany themselves. The problem is that it’s preferable to sing badly and play well, rather than the reverse.

As for Bean and music lessons – if I could arrange our lives to follow my own hopes and dreams, then yes, Bean would be taking music lessons right now, and we would be playing music together on a regular basis. However, he is a peculiar sort who seems to have his own hopes and dreams, and he is not interested in music lessons. Also, while I think he might want to try an instrument when he gets a little older, right now, he’s got his hands full with gymnastics and swimming.

4 You write clearly and forcefully on difficult, important issues. You also live in a small community where, as you’ve pointed out, everyone knows everyone else’s business, and where, I’d guess, your views are not always in the majority. Is there tension there? Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue for the sake of keeping the peace?

I feel sometimes that I’ve bitten my tongue clean off and still managed to disrupt the peace quite considerably!

Yes, there are tensions, but I feel that they are frequently less to do with people’s actual beliefs (with the exception of emotional moments like abortion rights rallies, in which the pros and antis come together (and the antis heckle the pros)). But very often, people don’t talk openly about controversial issues; they may disagree when the topics come up, but they tend to want to keep the peace. This often makes me feel out of step, because I am more used to speaking up and out and addressing the disagreement or problem and trying to find a resolution. Not only am I used to responding in this way, but I’m also used to having this response style valued. It’s less valued here, though conversely, I have had total strangers walk up and shake my hand and thank me for saying something they agreed with in a public forum.

The tensions I’ve noticed are often related more to people’s conversational style than to their beliefs. For example, being direct will get you in trouble as it is perceived as being blunt or rude. (Usually, people tell me that I’m tactful, but here, I’m considered blunt.) And the result is that anyone who is offended will probably not be direct or forthcoming in addressing it. It is really frustrating, and it makes it difficult to deal with tensions productively.

I do find that my copious, sailor-like swearing has been tamed quite considerably since I've moved here.

5 If you could change one thing about Mr. Plains Feminist, what would it be?

Mr. Plain(s)feminist and I are very different in some ways, and generally, this works nicely because we complement each other. But if I could change one thing about him, I think I would instill in him a love for dance. Though, that would mean that we’d need to pay a sitter every time I felt the urge to put on my dancin' shoes.


Sean said...

I will create a post soon about how I met her. I will tell you now that we met at Sankofa, so that automatically makes her a winner.

bk2nocal said...

Interesting seems from your answers that we have a number of similarities. I am a teacher too. And although I am a little more hesitant about engaging in controversy (strangely enough, as I am a debate coach), I appreciate your comfort in it. I also wish my husband liked to dance more! :)

I would love to be interviewed if you are blog is located at if you would like to check it out.

Thanks for sharing!