Being a Woman · Nature of Academia

A Day in the Life of (One) Academic Mom

Americanist Bitch is an academic — and a mom. Here, she gives a window into what that’s like in her individual day-to-day.

Because The Bitches really love that this important conversation was started. However, we felt it important to point out that the original description, while amusing and true for the author and for many mothers in academia, was a very specific and, honestly, quite privileged* point of view.  Different institutions and family situations make for very different days!

5:30 a.m. I wake up early, before the kids, to try and answer a few emails I received over night. The more emails I answer now, the more time I have later for class prep and maybe even- dare I dream it- research!

7:00 a.m. The kids are awake and getting fed and dressed. Man, I will be excited when the baby can change his own clothes and isn’t drinking bottles anymore. It’s hard to get dressed myself when he wants to latch onto my leg like a leech, which is most mornings. I need to find a nicer dress, because I’ll be seeing the President of the college at that reception thing later…

8:00 a.m. I take the kids to school, because my hours are more lenient than my full time, regular office-working husband’s. I get asked for the 14th time why I don’t come to more of their morning coffee socials, and could I please remember to bring more changes of clothes for the older one.

9:00 a.m. I’m finally in my office, a glorious hour of uninterrupted work time ahead- just kidding, my door is immediately slammed with student after student. I work at an LAC, where office doors are always open and students are ALWAYS around. Can I advise them which classes to take next semester? Can I sign these forms? Hey, you missed class yesterday, but NO I will not re-teach the entire hour just for you right here in my office.

10:00 a.m. I’m in a committee meeting. We’re deciding which faculty will get sabbaticals next year. I haven’t been here long enough to catch all the references from the old timers, but supposedly that guy in English has been waiting for years so it’s his turn. Hey, if I get tenure, maybe I’ll get a sabbatical! Does sleeping count as scholarly work? I have like, 5 years to catch up on. While they fight over who has contributed to the college longest, I squeeze in 3 extra slides on my PSCI 100 lecture about executive orders.

11:00 a.m. I’m meeting with more undergraduate students. Forget research- they still don’t understand the difference between federal courts and state courts. They really do want to learn (most of them, anyway), but geniuses these kids are not. Remember when I got to do original research on courts? No, I can’t either.

12:00 p.m. I’m teaching, lecturing, guiding, discussing. Classes are small enough that I can call on students by name. This is nice for building an atmosphere of fear, which I need because I’m a young woman in a male-dominated field.

1:00 p.m. Still teaching. In fact, I’ll be teaching for the next 2 hours as well, because my MWF are back-to-back and this is my 4 class load semester.

4:00 p.m. Another committee meeting, or more meetings with students. I MIGHT have five minutes to chat (bitch) with a colleague in the hallway about how the administration might be taking away our free parking spaces. Like I have more room in my paycheck for $50/year parking passes at my place of work?! Shit, we missed that reception thing with the President. We’re going to pay for that later, when they talk about our “collegiality.”

5:00 p.m. I retrieve the kids, and try to remember if we have food to cook in the fridge. Eh, better stop at Wal-Mart anyway because I KNOW I’m out of wine and it’s already been a long week. Is it a bath night? Can I convince my husband to let me work on a conference paper for an hour after dinner? It’s “due” in a week and I haven’t even started.

6:00 p.m. I’m too tired to cook dinner and my husband isn’t home yet, so McDonald’s it is. Those Happy Meals must have addictive properties, because to my kid no other restaurant exists. I get a McDouble with no cheese and that’s it, because I haven’t had time to work out in 6 years so I need to watch the intake. Did I remember to buy an apple to go on the side? Shit, did we have enough money in the account for what I just spent at Wal-Mart?! I think we got paid last Friday…

7:00 p.m. Nick Jr. for the kids because I need time to answer more student emails. They get really touchy if it takes too long (read: longer than 3 hours) for a faculty member to answer, and I have to be sensitive to that because we’re a tuition-driven institution. What time is my husband getting home again? Guess I’m not working on that conference paper until MUCH later. Hmm, I can’t remember what I’m teaching in theory tomorrow… No, theory is not my field, but everyone at my institution has to teach a little bit of everything.

8:00 p.m. Hubby is finally home, exhausted. But glad he’s around, because sometimes he travels for days at a time.  It’s a bath night so to the bathroom we go. We exchange pleasantries about our day while the kids splash. I have my tenure review coming up, so he tells jokes to get my mind off the million ways that could go wrong. He doesn’t really get why academia is so weird, and why I’d work this hard when I don’t even get to do that much research.

9:00 p.m. The kids are put in bed. They won’t be asleep for awhile, but I need to work on that conference paper like, yestermonth. Many faculty members at my institution no longer go to conferences, but I have dreams about moving up so I need to stay up in the field and network my ass off. Is there a conference going somewhere cool next year? I could add a couple days and make it a vacation…. hahahaha just kidding what’s a vacation?

10:00 p.m. Still writing. Still getting student emails.  Also trying to catch up on bill paying, because I have hospital bills from 4 years ago that we’re still paying off.  The constant thrum of bank account balances and bills is always running through my head.

11:00 p.m. I get in bed, mind whirling. I think about picking up a fiction book to read but no, I need to pull out Rousseau and brush up on Emile for tomorrow (God, I hope it’s Emile tomorrow). I finally fall asleep 30 minutes later, without having read much. Let’s be honest, the students haven’t either.

2:00 a.m. The older one needs to pee, and her yelling wakes up the baby. Fantastic!

5:30 a.m. I’m yanked from sleep by my alarm, so I can try to get another 30 minutes of email writing. A new day begins. I hope I have time for research today! Eventually, I will catch up on emails and student meetings and committee meetings and that new pre-law program the administration wants me to start…

*Americanist Bitch also acknowledges that the above description also entails certain privileges, like the tenure track, and a supportive husband. Non-tenure track or adjuncting moms, single moms in academia- what’s YOUR day like?

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Tenure

Best Strategies for Earning Tenure (by Hogwarts House)

We’ve mentioned that we are untenured women (who are also bitches), which means we spend a good deal of time ruminating on the best strategies for making sure we get tenure when the time comes.  We’ve seen too many of our colleagues (many women, but of course, men too!) be denied tenure. Sometimes the reasons seem relatively clear-cut:  at the R1 university, three publications in six years won’t cut it. At the SLAC, failure to demonstrate enough service via committee participation or undergraduate research.  All the usual suspects.

We’ve also seen some sort of arbitrary reasons for tenure denial.  Crazy deans on power trips.  “Too many publications” (I didn’t know that was real).  Departments that don’t consider certain subfields to be worthwhile (I don’t even mean just gender stuff, either. Try being a Ukrainian elections person, or in some places, a political theorist).  Then the truly whacko reasons, like “took time off to have a baby” or “didn’t like his wife, who teaches in the German department.”

But we must all play to our strengths, and the tenure process is long and difficult.  And, because we’re not just Bitches but also Extremely Nerdy Bitches, we’ve provided some strategies for your success*, based on your Hogwarts House.


There are people who might say that Ravenclaws are most well suited to academia, and those people might actually be onto something.  If you’re a Ravenclaw, you’ve got a brilliant take on your topic, and your work is novel and insightful.  Even if you’ve chosen an obscure subfield, your groundbreaking methods and theory transcend the substantive choice.  Publish a lot. Publish really good stuff.  Publish in great journals, but publish in mediocre ones too, because even your mediocre work is more well written and better political science than everyone else’s best.  Get a bunch of grants, give a TON of invited lectures, maybe start a web series about your little corner of political science.  Then, just watch the votes roll in.


So, your work isn’t always brilliant. You won’t be willing any Nobel prizes any time soon.  But you’re competent, and best of all, you’ve got a knack for strategy.  Pick the field not that interests you the most, but that is the most up-and-coming and sexiest.  Write about experiments or social media or something.  Make friends with the Dean and with the people in your department who “matter.”  Your Slytherin skills should help you identify which those are.  Have a backup plan ready to go: maybe a cushy administrative job in reserve.  Spend your time claiming just the right amount of credit (not TOO much) for being on just the right university committees (but not ALL of them).  Then, if all else fails, Imperius the committee into voting for you.


Never forget that Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, and he… well, he died at the end of the TriWizard Tournament, but let’s not talk about that right now.  If you’re a Hufflepuff, do what you do best. Be nice. Teach well. Get amazing evaluations, advise grad students and make sure they put out their best work. Keep your colleagues happy by asking a few thoughtful questions at faculty meetings and always voting with the majority. Never rock the boat, and publish in some lower end peer reviewed journals where you’re likely to get accepted, even though they don’t have the impact scores. At the end of the day, maybe people will feel too guilty to vote no.


There are the Slytherins, who play the game, and there are the Gryffindors, who fight the system. Go ahead. Take on Gender and Politics as your primary area of research.  And when the department questions your research agenda, call them on their bull shit.  In valiant and eloquent terms, tell them why your research matters, and why equity in political science is so important.  Make friends, but stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone walk all over you at faculty meetings. You probably see the Slytherins as betraying your discipline. Maybe they are (isn’t that a Slytherin quality?) so make up for it by pushing for what’s right!  Now, you’d better have some publications and service on your record (Faculty Senate seems right for you), because all this fighting for what’s right might leave you a bit unpopular on the collegiality scale, but the discipline is counting on your courage and tenacity. Pave the way for future scholars!  For Godric Gryffindor!!

*Remember, we don’t even have tenure. We have no idea how to actually succeed at this.

Being a Woman · Sexual Harassment

On Protecting Men’s Feelings

Totally, 100% true conversation the Bitches had today.


CAR: I have an older student, nontraditional, who comes by my office often. Sometimes he has actual class questions to ask, but most of the time he just wants to chat about life. I can’t put my finger on why, but he creeps me out.

MT: Did he do something?

CAR: Well, first, he asked me if I was married. I refused to answer, so he guessed. I tried to laugh it off, and he said, “You can’t be married, you’re too-” and stopped. But it was all over his face- he was going to say something like I’m too young, or too pretty, or something. Then, another time, he said he appreciated my looks.

MT: And you don’t feel comfortable telling him to stop?

CAR: I don’t. I don’t really know why- I don’t think he’ll physically attack me or anything- but I don’t like that he clearly doesn’t respect me or my position or authority.

MT: I have a kind of similar situation at my institution. I have an older colleague, very kind gentleman, who compliments me on my outfits/hair/shoes nearly every day. I know he’s trying to be nice, but I don’t like how it makes me feel.

CAR: I don’t think there are many ways a man can possibly comment on a woman’s appearance at work.

MT: I know! But I just say, “Thank you!” and let him go on his way. I don’t have the heart to correct him. He’d listen to me, apologize profusely, and I’d feel so guilty. Why do women feel guilty for telling a man he’s being inappropriate?

CAR: I know why I’m not telling the student in my office that he’s inappropriate. I’m afraid to. What will he do? How will he react? What consequences would that have for me? He’d be so defensive, I know it.

MT: Oh I’m not afraid at all, I just don’t want to hurt my colleague’s feelings. It’s nice to be complimented, and I know he means well, but it’s still sexualizing me in the workplace. The place no one should be sexualized.

CAR: Exactly. You know, we’re both accommodating men here. You don’t want to say anything because “he’d be embarrassed, and I want to protect his feelings.” I don’t want to say anything because “he scares me a little, and I’m afraid of what he’ll do.” Why are we doing this?

MT: WHY indeed?

CAR: This reminds me of an article I found on Buzzfeed. The whole thing is about her feeling uncomfortable but having to be nice about it. It totally resonated with me.

MT: Oh, wow, that is SO true. There is so much pressure on women to make things comfortable or easier for men. We feel pressured to act a certain way to protect men’s feelings, when in our cases the man is the one who is in the wrong.

CAR:  And I know this, but I still just smile and laugh so he’ll go away without incident.

MT: And I just say, “Thank you!”

CAR: whomp whomp


Conferences · Hilarious But True

The 7 Presentations You See at MPSA

The Americanist Bitch will be hitting up MPSA in less than one month! How could I forget- the conference emails me a NYE-like countdown every few days or so. So, in honor of this… achievement?…. we present: 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
Being a Woman · Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True

If You Give a Man a Meeting…

If you give a man a meeting, he’s going to want to change the location. His office. Always his office. NEVER yours.

When you change the location, he’ll probably make you change the time, too.  So, you’ll have to work it out with the Assistant Dean’s secretary so that everyone can be there.

When the meeting is finished, he’ll ask you for an executive summary of everything you talked about. In Power Point form.

Then, he’ll want to look through the Power Point on his computer to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

When he looks at his computer, he might notice the Excel spreadsheet you sent him last week. The one he was supposed to review and suggest changes but never did and is just now remembering it.

So he’ll probably email it back to you with some proposed additions (one of which is actually already on there but he didn’t see it) so he can send it to the Provost’s office.

When he’s finished sending the spreadsheet to the Provost’s office, he’ll want to be sure the new catalog copy reflects the changes in the spreadsheet.

He might get carried away and want to check the catalog copy for every course and program your department offers.

He may even end up checking the website as well!

When he’s done, he’ll probably want to go to happy hour with the visiting scholar while you make all of the corrections.

You’ll have to call and make the reservation for him.

He’ll start to head out to happy hour, but he won’t have the visiting scholar’s CV, so he’ll probably ask you to remind him what she’s presenting about.

So you’ll take a look, and you’ll tell him what she studies, and he’ll get so excited, he’ll want to work on a whole new research project. He’ll ask you to help him get some data.

He’ll write an abstract.  When the abstract is finished, he’ll want to submit it to MPSA.

Then, he’ll want to create a new selected topics course around this research agenda, which means he’ll need a course approval form.

You’ll finish the course approval form for him, and he’ll sit at his desk and look at it.

Looking at the course approval form will remind him that he needs to get the Assistant Dean’s approval to teach this course as an overload.


He’ll ask you to send the paperwork to the Assistant Dean’s office.

And chances are, if he asks you to send the paperwork to the Assistant Dean’s office…

He’s going to want a meeting to go with it.



Being a Woman · This Week in Bad Journalism

This Week in Bad Journalism: Sex Sells, We Know.

An article was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that got picked up by the Guardian.  The Guardian provides a lot of cute charts and, in short, concludes that lesbian women are having a lot more orgasms than other women, and that women need a “Golden Trio” of deep kissing, oral sex, and genital stimulation to orgasm.

Well, first of all, let’s start by getting it out of the way: #notallwomen

Right? But beyond that, we can dig into the actual article a bit more to see where the cute charts and Golden Trio advice might not quite match up with the research itself.  Because all the cute charts in the world are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.


First, let’s take a look at the study itself, because there are some methodological issues that the authors do, in their defense, mostly acknowledge.

  • The N is massive.  Yes, a large N is good, but with 52,000 observations, everything is going to be significant. Because of this, the authors select a cutoff point for the coefficient size: any coefficient less than 0.09 is not reported as significant. I’m not sure this makes much  methodological sense, but at least they’ve acknowledged that sometimes, there IS such a thing as too big.
  • They run three (six) models when I think they should have run one (two).  Rather than controlling for, or even better, creating interaction terms for, the authors run three separate models for straight, gay/lesbian, and bisexual individuals.  I’d rather see a model of all women with some indication of how (straight * oral sex) affects the likelihood of orgasm.
  • Their causal arrow might go the wrong way.  I know. I KNOW. Always my critique. But is it the case that the number of orgasms is caused by how long you’ve been together, or do you stay together longer because you’re getting lots of orgasms?  The authors partially acknowledge this by running a model in which they take out relationship satisfaction as a variable (because it might be circular, in the sense that satisfaction causes orgasms which causes more satisfaction), but at the end of the day, we’re not proving that orgasms are actually caused by any of this.

The Guardian article, however, decides not to take a very nuanced approach to reporting on this. Sex sells and talking about orgasms is a great way to get likes and shares (it worked, obviously, because we’re talking about it here), but this article makes some pretty strong claims about what’s happening in the bedroom that aren’t backed up by the data.

The cute chart with the waterworks?  Percentage who saw they “Always” orgasm? Is that really the appropriate level of comparison? ALWAYS? Always is a lot.  The article itself does include information comparisons between groups on whether they “usually/always” orgasm, but the chart is what you look at, and it’s not really telling a good story about how heterosexual and bisexual women are enjoying their sex lives.

There is a bit of a throwaway statement that another question might be to find out whether women are happy with the frequency with which they orgasm. Actually, I think that’s a much BETTER question!  It’s quality, not quantity, folks (I haven’t got any data on that).

And we haven’t even begun to talk about the problems with asking people to report on their own sex lives.

Overall, I think Dr. Lloyd’s hope that women will “talk about [the Golden Trio] with their partners” is a great one, because we can probably all agree that more communication about what we want in order to be sexually satisfied is probably a good thing (yes, I know, where’s the data?).  But this is Bad Journalism. It’s making strong claims about sexual behavior that result in lots of clicks, without enough support to back it up.

Let’s be honest:  if Sociologists aren’t careful, we’re going to lower them in the Social Science rankings. Watch it, Sociology!

Conferences · Hilarious But True

The Definitive #ISA2017 Drinking Game

We consider ourselves extremely good at drinking and at inventing drinking games.  And when Peter Henne (@pehenne) asked the Twitterverse for help with an ISA drinking game, the IR Bitch knew it was her time to shine.

First of all, ISA looks amazing this year, especially in the wake of the Executive Order on Immigration.  If it weren’t happening in my own country, I would find Trump’s regime fascinating in terms of its impact on the international system.  I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of great panels on Friday and Saturday (the only two days I get to be there), and I definitely hope to make part of the Academic Freedom and Professional Organizations panel before I have to head to the airport, because it is such an important discussion right now.

But, back to the drinking.  And get ready to get hammered. And please add to the list as you find necessary!

The Definitive International Studies Association Drinking Game

Drink every time:

Presentation that starts with explaining the theories of international relations we have all already heard 5,781 times.

Trump administration mentioned.


Putin mentioned.

Good-natured teasing at American Politics scholars’ expense. (sorry)


Brexit mentioned.

Someone tweets asking for the Wi-Fi password.

“Bowling Green Massacre” and/or “Sweden Incident”


Take a shot:

Conference shade.

Audience question-asker cites himself.


Putin and Trump administration mentioned in same sentence.

Economist pretending to be a political scientist.


Take seven shots:

If you find yourself saying Feminist Theory and/or Gender Studies isn’t important enough to have its own set of panels. Because you DESERVE that alcohol poisoning, sir.