[updated 4. May 2013 6:00 pm. Edited for length and excessive vitriol.]
First of all, I am very sorry if the following missive hurts your feelings. Your ad hominem attack under the official and ordained masthead of the University of Michigan certainly hurt mine, and that was not at all fun, so I know how it feels. That said—girl, you trolled me. So now this is happening.
I see you one Contemplatively By a Book and raise you a Glasses!
Granted, my target is not you personally, but the institutional ideology that empowered and emboldened you to make the command—one I am aware that many of your fellow graduates students are taking as gospel—that I, along with my partners in crimes against the Humanities, William Pannapacker, Sarah Kendzior, et. al., should just shut up already.
It’s not sufficient that you get off the Internet and go back to your Aeschylus: we Untouchables who dare state incontrovertible facts about the academic job market and the exploitation of adjuncts need to begone forthwith!
You do realize that’s the same line of argument homophobes use about gay people. They are so skeeved out (titillated perhaps?) by the very fact that gay sex exists that it’s not enough to just, oh I don’t know, refrain from watching gay porn. They want to make sure every LGBT who’s dared crawl out of Gomorrah for long enough to throw a parade stays cowering in the shadows in shame.
You know what, University of Michigan bigwigs who put it into Amy Pistone’s head that she should tell me, and Bill, and Sarah, and the rest of us, to shut up and go away? You don’t get to tell me to shut up. My days of cowering silently while I’m assured that “the good people get jobs” by people who got jobs—and thus, of course, if they benefited from a system, that system must be fair and just—are in the rearview mirror, and I’m here to tell the people who made you think you were in the position to tell me to shut up: no thanks.
Do I dislike you, personally, Amy Pistone, even though you have misunderstood the dark humor in an article I wrote, one that by the way was not aimed at you, but rather at people who have not yet joined your ranks? And even though you chose to respond with condescending ad hominem attacks about my poor “career choices,” which by the way are identical to your career choices? No, on the contrary, you remind me of a far more earnest version of myself at your stage (I’d say “at your age,” but I spent seven years working in the private sector between college and grad school, which is more than two, in case you’re wondering).
No, my reaction to you, personally, is “Oh, bless her heart—she’ll learn soon enough.” Because it’s not your fault—there are people in charge of mentoring you who are making you think this way, and my beef is with them. To them, I say: sure, keep telling me to shut up. See how that goes for you. Keep telling Sarah Kendzior to shut up—her superpowers are such that such admonishment just makes her stronger, and as a result her next piece for AJE will probably get ten million Facebook Shares.
And please, please, please keep telling William Pannapacker to shut up—people have been telling Pannapacker to shut up since back when I had a fake ID and a real nose ring. Pannapacker breakfasts every day on the “blinkered posturing” of grad students who have never even defended a dissertation proposal, much less gone onto the job market, and yet can’t wait to tell us that our pain at the receiving end of a system that survives on exploitative labor is due to our personal failings. I’m sure he’ll skulk back into his office now, duly chastened.
Amy Pistone, you are far from the only person to disagree with my article, but you are disagreeing with it for the wrong reasons. There are many who’ve disagreed for the right reasons: Tressie McCombs Cottom and Annemarie Pérez, for example, who have both argued in different ways that advanced degrees are necessary in the fight against institutional racism and scholarly underrepresentation. But neither of these badass scholarly women dispute for a second that the job numbers are grim and that the adjunct world is exploitative: they dispute instead—and rightly so—my woeful view, upon exiting graduate school, that anything other than tenure-track employment constituted failure, and that said employment was the only reason to finish the degree.
So, Amy, my article wasn’t aimed at you—if it had been, it would have consisted of two sentiments.
One: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WRITE A DISSERTATION AIMED AT ALT-AC EMPLOYMENT AND KNOW YOUR OPTIONS NOW. NOW NOW NOW. Do not listen to anyone who tells you “the life of the mind” is preferable to any other; like you yourself said, all jobs have their ups and downs, including tenure-track academic ones, but your betters (many of whom are miserable!) will tell you that any strife you encounter in the Ivory Tower is due to you being unfit for the Life of the Mind because you “don’t love it enough.” DO NOT INTERNALIZE THESE VOICES.
Two: Graduate school may very well change you into a person who internalizes these voices.
So: sorry, but the articles will not stop. In fact, I’ve got a new one coming out next week. It’s about the different ways the cult mentality of graduate school changes people until they don’t recognize themselves anymore—and I suggest you read it carefully.
Yours in not-shutting-up perpetuity,
Rebecca Schuman, Ph.D.
PS I did not write the headline for that Slate article. No journalist writes the headline for her own article; editors write headlines. Just ask Mitt Romney.