« Everything I need to know I learn from TV | Main | Whereupon the author contemplates the various uses for a brick »

Singularly moronic

There was an article and a colloquy last week about "Singular Mistreatment," which recounts research by someone named Bella DePaulo about how academia privileges married academics at the expense of singles. A number of my regular reads are talking about it, and so...

I'm going to leave aside the obvious distortion of including 15-year olds in the graphic so as to make the statistics seem more dramatic, since someone in the Colloquy already called them on it. I'm also going to set aside a lot of what's already been said on the topic, particularly the "children are our future" arguments about why we all should care about other people's children. Most of us, I suspect, already do to the degree that we can set aside our selfishness. Also, having never been set up on a date by a colleague, I'm not going to comment on the "single male colleague fetish."

Two things. One, I hope that everyone reads and thinks about Samantha's question, which went unanswered in the Colloquy, about the implications of describing single people as an "underrepresented minority," particularly at a time when an actual minority is struggling for the right to do what I could do tomorrow if I so chose. The most shocking line for me from Wilson's article:

While her proposal does not offer lots of detailed solutions, Ms. DePaulo believes that colleges should stop treating single professors like second-class citizens. "I don't just think about this as identity politics," she says, "it's about human rights."

This is perhaps the most misinformed, narcissistic nonsense I've ever had the pleasure of coming across in the Chronicle. She doesn't just think about this as identity politics, but I suppose that's because she doesn't seem to have gotten the memo about what identity politics actually is. And then to go on, and claim that it's a human rights issue? Please.

Second, this is off-topic, but bear with me:

"I was no longer content to try to squeeze this passionate interest into the crevices of my professional life," she wrote in a proposal for a book -- called "Singled Out" -- that she began sending to publishers in January.

So let me get this straight. The Chronicle of Higher Education, which refuses to acknowledge rhetoric/composition as a discipline (despite sending representatives to our conferences, taking our money for job ads, and the presence of dozens of grad programs, journals, conferences, and thousands of practitioners), is happy to acknowledge a one-person discipline, one whose "formative text" hasn't even gone through a peer-review process?

My point here isn't to bemoan our ill treatment at the hands of the Chronicle, though. It's simply to point out that it seems like their chronicling has become increasingly provocative in the past few years. I don't mean provocative-good, either. I mean that it seems like they are trying harder and harder to simply provoke response, and this feels to me like a great example. This kind of anecdotal stuff has no business being in the Chronicle, and I doubt it would be, if it weren't riling people up. Maybe DePaulo's book is better, with some sort of actual work that allows for local context but identifies some statistically relevant patterns nationally (ones that don't include 15-year olds in her stats about married people in the U.S.). Let's hope so, because stories about being asked to teach night classes or being set up on dates don't tell us a whole lot.


I've thought of a million responses to this article/topic. I think byron's comment on chuck's blog is probably one of the better takes I've read: being an academic is just hard--period. But just can't stop thinking about the interesting question of Being-Single. I'm quickly learning that Being-Single involves a whole different way of being. You learn how to do it. I used to think that it was the other way around: you learn how to live with another person. But no. We spend our first 18 years (at least) living with an/other(s). I wonder how much of the complaint in academia is that a single academic life is actually a much different life than the coupled life. The single Being is a dfferent kind of Being. Maybe these complaints here and there (like accusations of "discrimination") is a symtomatic manifestation of this difference. I dunno. I'm just riffing here.

But the CHE is trying to make a buck. It's no better than our local news announcing that there's a KILLER lurking in my KITCHEN! (TUNE IN AT 5 TO HEAR WHAT IT IS!)

And soon, Grasshopper, once you are able to snatch the pebble from my hand, you too will Be Single and allowed to walk the earth.

Seriously, though, I think part of my gut negative reaction parallels Byron's response. Academic lives are very demanding, yes. But I can't help but feel that the treatment that most of us encounter is difficult to generalize beyond a specific department and difficult to reduce to a single factor, like this article seems to try and do. There's a point at which anecdotes cease to be representative, and are just stories...