Archive for March, 2012

March 6, 2012

On the costs of administration

by Lady Day

Hey, Lady!

Yesterday, Our Glorious Institution hosted a panel discussion in which five senior women university administrators discussed their experiences. The good news is that I came away liking them a lot, and feeling (in many respects) good about having them around. However, I can’t shake my worries about a couple of themes we heard from them over and over.

4:00 a.m.

Several of the women on the panel said that, even as senior administrators, they were able to (more or less) keep up with their research by setting aside time to work at 4:00 a.m.

4:00 a.m.! Let that sink in for a moment.

I like research plenty, but really, there is nothing about my job that I like well enough to — and here’s the thing — routinely do it at 4:00. (And I worked for years as a hotel night auditor! If anyone should be able to work at 4:00 a.m., it’s me.)

Not only do I not want to routinely work at 4:00 a.m., I frankly don’t want to work for anyone who regards this as acceptable or promotes it as a norm.

Nannies

The other thing that I keep fretting about as I recall the discussion was the number of panelists who spoke about having full-time nannies.

Let’s be clear. I don’t have any objection in principle to hiring domestic workers. Among other things, I think that actually paying people to do the work traditionally done for no pay by women helps to nudge economists and others towards the notion that the pro bono domestic work done by women is an economic good that must be factored into the accounts. And, more simply, some people need domestic employment, just as some people need domestic help. So, in principle, no problem.

What got me worrying about it though was that the least senior administrator on the panel spoke about relying on a full-time nanny. She is just an associate chair, and so likely doesn’t get paid astronomically more than I do. I mean, she’s not earning a dean’s or v.p.’s salary. So, I got thinking, “How can she possibly afford to have a full-time employee? That must cost at least $40,000 plus benefits, right? Because, no good feminist would want another woman to work for less than that, right?”

I was a food server with a grad student spouse when I had my kid. Between us, we had lots of flexibility and very little money; so, we only ever needed to hire occasional, part-time childcare providers. But even that was pricey. I’ve never been able to figure out how people can afford daycare, much less a full-time nanny.

Well, I looked it up. According to NannyCanada.ca, full-time nannies in Canada earn between $1000 and $1400 per month. Are you fucking kidding me? $1400 per month?! A person is supposed to live on that and make a life for herself (because it’s usually a “her”, right?)? A person whom you trust enough to raise your kids?

Now, I have no wish to cast aspersions at any of the women on the panel. Perhaps they’re all doing the right thing and paying their nannies actual living wages rather than sub-par subsistence wages.

But, I have the nagging worry that, for women, senior administration requires employing some other woman to hold it all together for a wage that is absolutely unacceptable.

NannyCanada helpfully explains that most nannies come from outside of Canada because the booming Canadian economy makes it difficult to hire Canadian nannies. At $1400 per month? No shit! This raises the further worry that senior women administrators rely not just on underpaid domestic workers but on underpaid domestic workers of colour.

Is it really the case that the only way to get the (mostly white) women into the upper reaches of the ivory tower is through poorly paid brown women? If so, that may be too high a price to pay.

So…

So, does this mean that women shouldn’t seek upper admin positions in universities? Hell, no! But, it is unjust and unsustainable for those promotions to be premised on 4:00 a.m. research sessions and poorly paid brown women.

Cecily Devereux begins the hard task of addressing this dilemma in her “What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting” (Susan Brown, Jeanne Perreault, Jo-Ann Wallace and Heather Zwicker, Eds. Not Drowning But Waving: Women, Feminism and the Liberal Arts. Edmonton: U of Alberta Press, 2011. xxi + 472 pp.). Responding to the argument that it is women’s “biological destiny” (99) to bear children that prevents them from reaching the upper echelons of institutions, Devereux urges that if it is impossible for people raising children to take part in all of the travel and long hours that are required to excel in academe, then universities and scholars must change their expectations.

And, hell, even those — female or not — without children deserve a little shut-eye at 4:00 a.m., right?

Your friend,

Lady Day

March 4, 2012

Eat this!

by Lady Day

Hey, Lady!

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I consider my chief talents to be editing, poaching eggs, driving in traffic circles and making (in no particular order) salads, soups and fruit pies. I’ll perhaps say more about editing and traffic circles another time. And, I’m sure that I’ll have something to say about soups and pies down the road too.

With respect to my other talents, here’s my best advice.

Poached eggs

People always say to put vinegar in the water to poach eggs. That’s ok advice for a beginner, but it’s a scaffold that should be thrown away as soon as possible. Vinegar in the poaching water makes the eggs taste a bit (wait for it –) like vinegar, and makes the whites a bit rubbery. I’m not sure what exactly happens there, but it’s like the albumin gets all “Oh, no you didn’t!” and toughens up.

So, if you don’t use vinegar, how do you keep the eggs from falling apart in the water? Here are my tips:

  • never poach more than two eggs at a time. Any more than that, and you can’t watch them closely enough. Moreover, if the pot is smallish, more than two eggs will cool the water too quickly. (So, what do you do if you need, say, six eggs? Cook ’em two at a time and then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Once all six are done, you can briefly return the cold ones to the boiling water to warm them up for service.)
  • The foregoing is relevant because it is the heat of the water that firms up the egg whites so that the eggs don’t fall apart. But, be careful, if the water is on a rolling boil, that motion will tear the eggs apart. So, you need to bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down a couple of notches before you add your eggs.
  • And then, before adding your eggs, use a spoon to swirl the water in the pot in a circle to make a little whirlpool. This motion of the water keeps the uncooked whites from dissipating just long enough for them to cook a bit (and thereby keeps the eggs from falling apart).
  • Now, and this is super important, add the eggs one at a time. Crack the egg into a ramekin or a small, shallow bowl, bring that bowl close to the surface of the water, and then just tilt it slightly so that the egg kind of rolls into the water (as opposed to being dropped in it).
  • When the eggs are done, remove them one by one with a large slotted spoon. Let them drain in the spoon for a few seconds before tipping them into the waiting dish.

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Oh, and, once you have your perfectly poached eggs, you can now put them on top of just about anything savoury. I love poached eggs on a salad or on top of a spicy potato hash or on top of chilli or or or… You cut into the egg and the lovely gooey yolk is a perfect natural sauce that trickles over whatever’s below making it even yummier than it was to begin with. Mmm. I want one right now.

Salads

Well, let me save my generalizations about salads for another post. (But, make no mistake — I’m prepared to make many generalizations about salads.) For now, let me tell you about a super salad that I invented last night and that I plan to make constantly from now on. It takes five minutes and is healthy, delicious and elegant.

Start by making the dressing. Finely mince one shallot. Put it in a lidded jar along with a little bit of dried mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper. (What quantities? Sorry. I’m very good at driving in traffic circles, but I’m not very good at paying attention to what quantities I use when I cook. Let’s just say that everything is “to taste.” That’s cheating, isn’t it?) Ok. Now, put the lid on the jar and shake it until well blended.

Now, compose the salad.

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Start with a big pile of baby spinach. Top this with one fresh pear (skin on), cored and sliced. Top that with big lovely ribbons of padano or a similar hard cheese. (And, here’s a tip that everyone should know. The best way to produce these ribbons of cheese? Just use a potato peeler. Works like a charm. So pretty.) Now, take a handful of pecans and toast them very quickly in an ungreased cast iron pan. Just as they begin to smell like toasted nuts, take the pan off the heat and drizzle some maple syrup over the nuts. Toss ’em around until coated and then top the salad with the warm maple-glazed pecans. Now dress it. Now gobble it up. So freaking good, right?

So, that’s what I’ve been eating lately. And, there are a couple of my talents for you.

Once upon a time, we said we’d blog about food; so, I thought I should. Next time, I’ll be back in feminist-activist-scholar form. I have (separate) things to say about breast feeding and special pleading. Take this as a promissory note.

Your friend,

Lady Day.

March 3, 2012

by Lady Day

Here’s a useful and sadly all too apt reminder about the prevalence of rhetorical attacks on women speakers *because they’re women speakers* from the RAIL (Reasoning, Argumentation and Informal Logic) blog.

RAIL

Rush Limbaugh’s recent dismissal of Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” reminds me of how much more vulnerable women are than men to the abusive ad hominem.  There is a a greater number of abusive words associated with women:  add “whore,” “bitch,” “cunt,” “old maid,” “hag,” “bag,” “jezebel,” “hoochie mama,” etc., as opposed to “prick,” “dick,” and “boy toy.”  Plus the feminine insults tend to be considered so bad that people often won’t actually say them, but only allude to them, for instance in saying “the c-word.”

On top of that, women tend not to be listened to, so the ad hominem may always be more effective against women.  Merely pointing out that a speaker is a woman may act as reason to ignore her. The same would apply to any marginalized people.  One’s very identity can undermine one’s claims and one’s reasons.

Lorraine Code has argued in…

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