The 7 Presentations You See At MPSA

We are reposting last year’s MPSA countdown post, so enjoy the 7 presentations you will definitely see at MPSA, rated by Chicago landmark. 🙂

  1. The one by the terrified grad student. Their longest section is the lit review, because that’s the only thing they’re confident they know how to do at this point in their career. They’re so cute, in their ill-fitting professional clothes and attempted networking at the Palmer House bar.
    Rating: Sears/Willis Tower, because everyone loves them but can’t quite remember their name
  2. The one by the new parent who is only in town for 24 hours. They’re visibly exhausted, they barely squeaked out a paper, but they needed to get back on the horse so their department doesn’t think they are deadwood in the making. MPSA was the “next” (read: least selective) conference.
    Rating: O’Hare airport, because that’s where they spent the most time on this trip
  3. The one by the person who has no data. They set you up with a nice theory, and maybe even cool methodology, but 10 minutes into their presentation they say, “I haven’t collected the data yet, but…” and you discover you’ve been hoodwinked. Hey, while you’re here, can you help them figure out how to collect that data?
    Rating: Giordano’s Pizza, which is supposed to be legit deep dish pizza but nobody from Chicago would be caught dead there (IR Bitch Note: Go to Connie’s instead)
  4. The one by the person who clearly wrote their paper on the plane to Chicago. Could also be a new parent (see above), but is usually given by a senior scholar who doesn’t really give a shit about presenting and is only there to meet up with his friends from grad school.
    Rating: The Berghoff, obv
  5. The one with 3 co-authors, but only 1 even has a clue what the paper is actually about. Most likely to be found in the methodology section.
    Rating: City Hall, because riding on your friend’s coattails to get a line on the CV is just like Rahm Emanuel riding Obama to the mayor’s office
  6. The one that has been presented at 3 other conferences. What school has this much travel budget these days? Koch University?
    Rating: Alinea, the snobby restaurant that nobody can get in because it’s “the best restaurant in the world.” Like everyone ate at all the restaurants and compared them. And who has time for 100 courses, anyway?
  7. The one by a theorist who has decided that they have something uniquely relevant to say about Trump’s America. No, Trump’s election isn’t the “most interesting thing to happen in American politics in 150 years.” No, you can’t just up and try and make yourself marketable. Yes, we see through your weak attempt to have more than 3 people at your panel.
    Rating: Cloud Gate (the Bean), because who knows what that thing is for

The #MPSAChallenge

All right, guys, we have a challenge that doesn’t involve pouring ice water over your head or eating a teaspoon of cinnamon. Finally, am I right??


We can all agree that there’s almost nothing worse than presenting at MPSA to an empty room. Like maybe you’re lucky and your advisor or your best friend shows up to your panel, but even then, it’s a slim hope at best.  I can’t count how many 3 person audiences I’ve had at MPSA.

So in keeping with our Poli Sci Bitches mission of talking about the challenges our discipline and supporting women in similar positions that we are, we’re going to issue the #MPSAChallenge

It’s pretty straightforward.  Your challenge is this:  at least once during the conference (or maybe every day if you’re ambitious), find a scholar in the program from an underrepresented group who you don’t know, or you don’t know well, and whose research sounds interesting, and go to their panel. That’s it.  That’s the whole challenge.

After the panel, you might introduce yourself to the presenter and mention that you saw their work in the program and thought it sounded interesting.  I can’t even tell you how excited I would be if this happened to me.

While women are often the easiest to identify from the program alone, some Googling might help you here if you’re looking for scholars of color, LGBTQIA, etc.  And, while you’re certainly welcome as part of this challenge to go to a panel that’s likely to be well attended because of others who are presenting, you’ll probably generate more value-added if you find a less popular panel.

So that’s it.  Find someone in the program from an underrepresented group who you don’t know, or don’t know very well, and go to their panel.  It’s the easiest challenge, and I guarantee that the presenters will be thrilled to present to an audience of N>1

Go forth and #MPSAChallenge – and encourage your colleagues to do the same!  May the odds be ever in your favor, MPSAChallengers!




#MeToo and JFC I Can’t Even With You Dudes

Today we tweeted about Liam Neeson’s claim that #MeToo has started a witch hunt – that witch hunts have historically targeted at women and it seems absurd that men are expressing how scary it is that they think they’re the target of one. Mostly, the responses we got were supportive, but of course, OF COURSE, we had a few tweets from men arguing that witch hunts are also/just as bad for men.

Now, I’m not trying to shame any individual tweeters, because I’d hate to start a witch hunt (lol see what I did there?) but honestly, men. I can’t even with you.

Okay, let me give you the benefit of the doubt. You’re concerned, like Liam Neeson, that casual contact like touching someone’s knee is going to lead to a man losing his job.  Leaving aside the fact that why the F would you be touching her knee in any professional situation without her consent, I get that you have concerns.  Let me try to take a deep breath here and womansplain some shit.

I’ve been sexual harassed, sexually assaulted, and raped.  Just to put that out there right now. Hashtag Me. Fucking. Too. I want you to take a god damned SEAT before you come at me with your concerns that #MeToo is a witch hunt out to get innocent men or whatever you’re complaining about.

So before you say a single word (“Well, actually…” “The point is…” “Not all men…” or anything remotely resembling these), be sure you have followed these shouldn’t-be-so-damned-difficult steps.

  1. Express to women, both as a collective and individually, that you are willing to listen and believe them if they want to talk.  Before you @ me with “The important thing to remember…” you better make sure you’ve taken a second to tell me you’ll listen to me and believe what I say about my experiences.
  2. Actually listen.  Don’t just wait for me to finish talking so you can say your bit.
  3. Check your privilege.  Don’t say something that changes the narrative to make men the victim.  Understand and acknowledge that as a man, you’re speaking from a position that is, on balance, more privileged.
  4. Ask questions, instead of explaining back to women.  Instead of saying, “Well actually, men get accused of harassment when they didn’t mean anything,” try, “What are your thoughts about false accusations?”  Then listen.  See Step 2.
  5. Ask the most important question of all: “How can I help?”  And try your damnedest to do what women ask.

Have you followed all five steps? Okay, now you can express a concern!  Trust me, I agree that there are gradients of inappropriate behavior and not all of them should lead to a man losing his job.  I agree that men experience harassment and assault too, and I want to talk about it and listen to your experience.  I AGREE that #NotAllMen are creeps! But instead of just trying to “#MeToo” my “#MeToo,” try listening and learning something.  Otherwise I AM going to start Tweetshaming you.

Women are finally feeling empowered to talk about their horrific experiences.  Don’t undermine that empowerment by “presenting the other side” unless you’re DAMNED sure that you’ve followed all five of the Bitches’ Easy Steps.

We’re even willing to provide graduation certificates. Maybe Obama will speak at our commencement 😉



#MeToo with @sbmitche

A big thank you to Sara Mitchell ( @sbmitche ) for chatting with us about sexual harassment, assault, and the #MeToo hashtag that went around Twitter last week.


IR Bitch:      Hi, Sara! Thanks for joining us. We really liked your comments on our #MeToo post. What do you think about #MeToo generally?

Sara Mitchell: On the positive side, I like how it raises awareness of women’s experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment and shows how widespread these experiences are for women.  On the negative side, though, I found it problematic to equate sexual assault and sexual harassment in the copy and paste statement. There is a distribution of assault/harassment experiences and the general statement dilutes that.  I have worked with students and colleagues who experienced sexual assault and rape and those issues have been extremely challenging for me to handle as a female mentor.

IRB: I definitely agree. Harassment and assault aren’t the same. I also think it’s problematic to make a spectacle out of harassment or assault. Hearing people’s stories is good for context, but also can feel kind of voyeuristic, I guess? And women who don’t feel comfortable sharing (either they’re shy, or maybe their experience is so personal and traumatic that they don’t want to “go public”) could feel strangely left out, as odd as that seems

SM: Yes I agree. It puts pressure on women who have experienced awful things to share them, even though that could be a traumatic experience.

Americanist Bitch: I would tend to agree with your statement about hard it is to confront these issues, even for women. For us Bitches, one of us has been assaulted, while the other has been harassed. It was tough conversation between us- both that the assaulted Bitch felt like she had to tell her story, and for the other Bitch who had trouble coming up with what to say.

SM: I didn’t post anything because I feel like my experiences, while unpleasant on the harassment side, do not compare with the experiences of my students and friends who have been raped/assaulted. I was not comfortable putting myself in the same category.
I have seen how rape destroys women’s lives and felt powerless to help.

AB: Yes, I get that. There are situations where men just need to be more aware/cognizant of sexism – many times harassment or sexism in the workplace can be corrected with some education – awareness that they’re creating a sexist or unwelcoming environment Assault and rape require a totally different “fix”

SM:  Yes. At the same time, the harassment end of the spectrum is something we can address more easily in academia.

IRB: So what about the critique that #MeToo is still keeping the focus of the conversation on the women who experience harassment or assault, and not on the men who do it? Women “get harassed” or women “are raped.” Passive voice, as though it’s just happening.

SM: Yes we need to shift the conversation to the assaulters/harassers. But the first step is education which does require victims to have voice. Because several women in my department published research on gender issues in academia and engaged in mentoring programs, this helped convince some of my male colleagues to become more active allies.

AB: How did that affect tenure and promotion discussions? Generally, “gender issues” are not a prestigious field to research in political science.

SM: Most women working on the issues were already tenured, but I am fortunate to work in a place that values research on gender/race/ethnicity/etc.

IRB: our last question is – what strategies would you offer young, untenured women in the discipline to navigate a world where #MeToo is still needed, where women still aren’t believed? What can WE do personally?

SM: First, I would keep a record of anything that happens in an academic setting that constitutes harassment or assault (including dates/places/events). Second, reach out to your department chair, dean, or ombudsman office if something happens. Don’t just let harassment continue unchecked. Third, find tenured allies in your department or other departments on campus that can serve as your advocates. Finally, it is important to pay it forward once you are tenured, help junior women navigate these difficult issues.

AB: That last step is one of the most important ones! Well, thanks so much for contributing this conversation. We could probably go on for hours, but at least we have a good place to start 🙂


Academic Council or 1st Grader?

Quotes from my 1st Grader. And from people on Academic Council. Anybody’s guess which is which.

“I can’t even read that.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

“That’s for a totally different class.”

“She doesn’t count.”

“Guys, there’s a really big problem here.”

“Where is my folder?”

“It’s so long from now, do we really have to worry about this today?”

*General Whining and Crying*

“How do I make it show up on the screen?”

“I still can’t find my folder.”

“Thank you!”

“See you next time!”


Conferences · You Know You're a Political Scientist When...

You Know You’re a Political Scientist When… (#APSA2017 edition)

  1. You are praying there isn’t an earthquake/tornado/fire/hurricane/swarm of locusts in San Francisco next weekend, because everyone knows APSA is cursed.
  2. You are still frantically writing the second paper you’re presenting (why did you commit to 2 papers?!) and are still laughing at APSA for demanding you upload it last month.
  3. You bemoan, for the 57th time, why the f*#& we have a major conference on Labor Day weekend right after the semester has started. (Thank God we know how to petition to change that shit.)
  4. You are wondering if you can squeeze in a trip up to Napa while you’re there, and how you could word it that so your institution will pay for the rental car.
  5. You are looking forward to seeing your friends- the ones that could afford the million dollars it takes to conference in San Francisco, that is.

party time

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia · You Know You're a Political Scientist When...

If Job Talks Were Honest…

During the Skype Interview…

Interviewer: So, tell us why you applied for this job.

Candidate: LOL, are you kidding? I applied for every single job on the market right now. Even ones I’m not remotely qualified for.  You’re my third Skype interview this month. I will literally take anything at this point.

On-Campus Introductions…

Faculty Member: Do you have any questions for me?

Candidate: I went online and found your name and one research project you’ve worked on. I don’t care about you at all, but please tell me about that project so I can act interested and seem prepared.

At Interview…

Search Committee Chair: How do you feel about moving to this crappy city?

Candidate: Well, I would never move here in a million years, but tenure track jobs are impossible to find, so I’m going to use this as a stepping stone.

*interviewers nod and take notes*

Candidate: Also, I got divorced and want to get as far away from my ex as possible.

*audible impressed sounds from room*

During Job Talk…

Faculty Member: Tell us more about this project.

Candidate: It’s actually a failed chapter of my dissertation. The topic sounds sexy, but I will never revisit it once I have a job.

At Dinner…

Search Committee Member: Would you like red or white?

Candidate: Anything that can get me absurdly drunk, so that I can complain about my current department and regret everything at 4am.

*wine glasses clinking*

During Last Meeting…

Search Committee Chair: What’s your perspective on diversity, and how will you contribute to our mission of inclusion?

Candidate: I am a woman/minority/LGBTQ/not-old-white-man.

Search Committee: You’re hired!

Candidate: Excellent. I’ve just used this to negotiate a retention offer at my current institution. Thanks for the help!