There are apparently some comp/rhet endowed chairs who are very bad at reading. Male, White, highly-successful endowed chairs who are damn sure they got everything they have because they worked hard and earned it, and who want to make sure to pull rank and remind Untermenschen such as myself just how worthless we are–while at the same time insisting that the scathing judgment of your academic peers should have no bearing on your personal worth (and while at the same-same time insisting that one’s position as an endowed chair is an accurate marker thereof).
Self-righteous Endowed Chair Jeff Rice has decided that because I dared to mention, yesterday, that Ian Bogost makes a lot of money (comparatively, for an academic, in Georgia), that that means I resent others’ success and am just jealous of it because Ayn Rand bootstraps Howard Roark supply and demand meritocracy. I also got a comment last night full of faux incredulity that apparently I don’t understand that certain disciplines, like mine, are not in demand, and I should not resent Ian Bogost success in one that is.
Methinks the Capitalist teat-suckers doth protest too much. If there is one thing in my life I don’t care about as long as I have a bare minimum amount of it, it’s money. I live in St. Louis, where the $30,000 or so a year I cobble together from my three jobs is enough to make me a straight-up baller. I get manipedis, and Frappuccinos, and see movies in the theater, and I own two–two–pairs of jeans, and each cost over $100 (I only buy jeans made in the U.S., and if you do that, and you want your ass not to look like Barbara Bush, you gotta shell out). There’s a lot I dislike about it here, but it’s so cheap it’s going to be hard to leave if I finally get my shit together someday to do so. So you live in Kentucky or Georgia and make seven times what I do? Congratumotherfuckinglations, now pay your damn taxes.
My use of Ian’s comfortable salary is simply to demonstrate that he–whom I like, by the way, and with whom I had an hour-long discussion on teh Twittarz yesterday in which it was determined that except in the case of Zac Ernst’s ire at the University of Missouri, we agree on literally everything in the entire world–is operating from a position of immense fortune. Thus to get down on someone for leaving the profession, when he himself has never had to do so, and especially not under duress (like me) or acrimonious circumstances (like Zac), is not a particularly compassionate act.
Ian went out of his way on the Twittarz to tell me that he was not talking about people like me (I make everything about me, because that is the central tenet of Secular Schumanism), but rather people like Zac who leave one successful position for another. He was actually quite OK with my argument about how it hurts to have other people tell you “tough titties” when you have given a decade-plus of your life in the service of an industry that does not even grant you the chance to start working in it–he just pointed out, rightly, that I was arguing against a straw man that was not him (and I amended the post accordingly).
But, thanks to Jeff Rice, I don’t need a straw man anymore, because I have a real, live, self-righteous White male meritocrat (who, by the way, LOVED moving all around the country to different jobs–perhaps because he was able to cart his wife and kids with him everywhere he went?), and he’s here to tell me just how my fault it is that I wasn’t good enough, and how it’s not HIS fault that he just works so damn hard and is so damn good, even in a discipline that not everybody deems worthy (although comp/rhet is currently the least competitive field in the humanities, for what it’s worth). Check this out:
The factors that have gone into my success including actors such as “I worked hard” but they also include other factors as well. One factor may be: “My work is important to me.” But it also may be: “studying rhetoric and network theory is not the most important thing to other people or the world.”
Did you hear that, my fellow marginalized scholars? First of all, our work just isn’t important enough to us. Second of all, he’s schooling us in the ever-obscure fact of disciplinary supply and demand, a similar “schooling” I got in a comment this morning (possibly from one of Jeff Rice’s paltry trickle of referrers):
Gosh, could it be that patterns of disciplinary supply and demand might have something to do with who gets a tenure-track job and who doesn’t?
I DON’T KNOW! COULD IT?!?!?!?!??!?!?!? Is THAT why fields like Engineering are so robust, except people have a hell of a time finding tenure-track jobs in them, too, because adjunctification affects all disciplines??
Every week or so I get a comment confidently informing me of something called “PhD overproduction” in the face of “dwindling supply,” as if I had mono for all of seventh grade and did not know that already. I understand the rules of supply and demand perfectly well. I just don’t think they should govern how universities are run, because universities are not businesses. Universities don’t need to make a profit (at least legitimate ones don’t), and as such they should not be so subject to the idiotic whims of a general populace that thinks a bachelor’s degree should be 100% vocational training.
You want to let the free market dictate what people study in college? Then I look forward to my school opening a major in Kardashians (and I hope I get appointed its endowed chair, because that may involve literally endowing me with breast implants). The point of college is that it’s supposed to learn you shit you don’t already know, and that’s good fer you. That involves, ever so minutely nowadays, teaching you how to read, write, think, and amass basic non-proficiency in a language that isn’t Text Message English. These disciplines still exist, however pitifully, because even the businessiest university recognizes their inherent worth (for now).
The reason that I went into German studies is that
a) I had no idea what the academic labor market was, and didn’t think it applied to me anyway, because I would just go back to being a writer (which, by the way, I did, so congratulations 27-year-old-me, you were right about exactly one thingI), and
b) I couldn’t see six years into the future anyway, because what 27-year-old has a six-year plan? One who is not living in NYC and subsisting largely on Pringles and cigarettes, that’s for damn sure, and
c) I recognized that the discipline has inherent worth, that is completely disconnected to whether some Wall Street fucko or Walmart exec values it.
So chastising me, or anyone else, for not properly recognizing my (lack of) worth in a system I loathe and which I do not believe should govern my worth at all, is rich indeed. Almost as rich as determining that the academic labor market is a wonderful meritocracy–because, after all, look at you!