I am a woman and I am a mother and I do DH

Day of DH 2012 warrants an introduction to my new blog at tanyaclement.org. Hello (again) world.

And I want to introduce this new blog with a post about why I don’t blog and why I don’t tweet and what that has to do, in the wake of Miriam Posner’s post, with my being a woman and a mother.

That said, I do blog and I do tweet. But I don’t like it and I force myself to do it out of a sense of DH obligation. I’ve been blogging since 2003 (on and off), mostly with a fine bunch of folks over at WordHerders including Lisa Rhody, Chuck Tyron, George Williams, Jason Jones, Kari Kraus, Jason Rhody, and Matt Kirschenbaum (among others). Many of these folks were friends (are friends) before they (and I) were followers. And it’s appropriate to salute them and all of the other people with whom I’ve fostered feet-on-the-ground relationships over the last (oh geez) thirteen years I’ve been involved with DH (before it was called DH) because flesh and blood is what has me hooked to the humanities. My DH trajectory began before I was married, before I had kids, before I returned to get a PhD or get that tenure track job, the day I walked into IATH at UVA in 1999 for a 10-hour-a-week GA-ship to do data entry. My first days in DH boded well. Even though I was lowest woman on the totem pole, I distinctly remember sitting at a meeting at a table shoved in a crowded corner of the IATH cubicle suite with John Unsworth, Worthy Martin, and Steve Ramsay and listening in as they talked about what I would now say is my branded area of interest forever more: scholarly information infrastructure development.  I was hooked: not only by the prospects of such interesting work, but by the thought of working with (dare I say) some of the nicest and smartest and most generous (woman, they are generous), academics I have still ever yet to meet.

I write about these flesh and blood friends (and there are so many others, many of the Women in DH–Martha Nell Smith, Susan Schreibman, Bethany Nowviskie, Julie Meloni, Rachel Donahue, Kari Kraus) because these friends and supporters, are and have been the best part of this wild ride into academia for me as a woman and a mother. There are more but to go on would be name-dropping ridiculousness and I can’t possibly thank them all for their support in my struggle to do DH. I write about them more specifically because they are and have been flesh and blood friends I value. My problem is that I realize that I am supposed to be garnering some sort of online following–“eye balls” as we used to call it in the 1990s and early 2000’s–for the sake of, ultimately I guess, getting tenure. And I hate that shit. This is why I write this post on the Day of DH in the year I get my “dream” job and all of my babies are out of diapers (and HEALTHY) and I live in a place I really like.

I am a woman and I am a mother and I do DH and I start with talking about my flesh and blood friends and mentors because I want to say it loud: I hate blogging and I hate tweeting. And I feel, in the wake of Miriam Posner’s post, that I want to say why and what that has to do with DH and my being a woman and a mother.

So, a little bit about me personally: I was always good at school, especially math and English, but I went to public high school in Florida and I was the only girl in my advanced math classes and I was the only girl of my friends (ok they were party girls, but I still love party girls; yeah Madonna) who wore the honors metals and took A.P. classes and I was mocked and ridiculed and embarrassed when I got into Harvard. You? They said. Luckily, when I got there I realized there were more and different people in the world and that Florida was a kind of an odd place to grow up (as the current news will show). BUT, the point is, I slunk around as an adolescent trying to make sure no one looked at me, no one noticed that I was smart and “had thoughts” and apparently, was “going places.” Because I had no real model of a smart strong woman who did smart strong things and was proud of it, everything I’ve ever done I figured out myself and I thank from the bottom of my heart the female and male friends I’ve found who have served as awesome examples and have encouraged me in ALL my life choices. BUT, I’ve dreaded (even yesterday) every class and every talk I have ever given for fear that someone will find out all of the ways in which my identifications as a woman, a friend, a mother, and as a DH academic do not follow the way everyone else who has identified themselves as such might define those same identities. Ok. So what? So, that’s the hint of a background (oh there’s so much more) about growing up as a girl who had to figure out (as most of us do) that being different, smart, vocal, obstinate is nothing to be ashamed of. The work in it is that you can’t ever stop reminding yourself of it. Tell a person they’re not worthwhile long enough and it’s hard for them not to believe it.

Which leads me to tell you about a few experiences being a mother in academia and in DH. I made my choices. I had those babies. I know how they’re made– I love them. I cherish them. And they are, in many ways, my closest and dearest friends. BUT I will also tell you that it I have the same feeling of “embarrassment” at the audacity of being a mother of three in academia that I had as a smart girl in high school.  There are a few men have as many children or fewer or are nice and supportive about it. There are a few women who are insanely perfect role models (Nowviskie!), but there are other DH scholars who are blatant mommy bigots: I have been told by a well-esteemed and long-time DH male scholar: “You shouldn’t go on the tenure track because you have young children at home”; I have been told by a woman in a well-esteemed DH group from a long-time DH center that a job for which I was applying “was not the kind of job where you can go home at night and kiss your kids to sleep”. I was told by another DH male when discussing my dismay at the job market and the difficulty of finding an academic position in a place that would not only work for educating and raising my brood but would also work for my partner’s career that his “wife had a job too” which was to take care of their kids (and if you don’t know why that’s a pissy response I’m not the gal to inform you). Clearly, I am still angry about those comments and I hesitate to bring them up now because these are not bad people (which honestly makes it worse because if they were bigotted in any other way, they would be considered bad people!). You? They said. To be sure, I am in a job that I like and I have made these choices and will (perhaps) have to face the consequences if, because I have made these choices, my kids are all hoodlums and/or I don’t get tenure as a DH scholar because (and I’ll get to this in a minute) I don’t “make the time” to blog and I don’t tweet.

So, here’s why I don’t blog and I don’t tweet. I’ll say it: sometimes it’s too out there for me. That’s not how I was raised to behave as a girl. I’m out there when I give talks but these are prepared. I’m out there when I teach but these are flesh and blood people who have a responsibility to respect the community we are building in the classroom. Further, the fast back-and-forth of tweeting isn’t for everyone, for those of us who are inherently convinced that we have to be more careful about what we say. Is that “care” a woman’s thing? I don’t know, but I know it’s this woman’s thing. Honestly, in tweeting and blogging, I struggle against the feeling every day that I should be nice and keep my thoughts to myself because what I have to say doesn’t really matter any way. BTW: I’m not asking for you to tell me I’m important and that my blog and tweets matter (with a little pat on the head). I’m just telling you what goes on this woman’s head. Finally, I don’t blog and I don’t tweet, because I’m a mom. I have all kinds of little shit I have to do from 5:30 in the morning before I go to work to 9:30 at night when I pass out. I don’t go to lunch. I don’t drop by colleagues’ offices. I don’t go to happy hours. Oh yeah, because my “job” is to take care of my three kids too. It’s also their father’s “job,” in our house at least. But, it’s true that even with the kindest and most gentlest of partners, Mommy often takes on the lion’s share of the little things even when it’s figuring who the hell is going to take care of the little buggers (what will they eat, where will they go, what will they do, what will they wear) when mommy is doing DH.

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