As I reflect now on this essay written in 1973, I’m struck by what has changed—the increasing numbers of women in sociology and their


impact—but also by what has not—the clockwork of male careers. When I was an assistant professor in 1971, at UC Berkeley, 12 percent of all Berkeley Ph. D.s were women, 9 percent of all assistant professors, 6 percent of asso­ciate professors, and 3 percent of all full professors. At Yale the first female faculty member was hired in 1959; at Harvard the first female was appointed to a full professorship in 1947; and, as of 1961, Princeton had no women full professors. As late as 1970 there were only two tenured women in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At Berkeley and other top-ranked research universities there were proportionately fewer women than at U. S. universities and colleges as a whole. Both at Berkeley and in the United States, things have changed enormously. In 2000 at UC Berkeley women made up 33 percent of assistant professors, 39 percent of associate profes­sors, and 17 percent of full professors. And among faculty at four-year col­leges and universities in the United States as a whole, in 2002 a greater number of women appear at every level of academic life. Here are the changes:





Percentage entering freshmen



Percentage earning Ph. D.s



Percentage assistant professors



Percentage associate professors



Percentage full professors



Also on the bright side, the social sciences have begun to reflect the shift. In 1962 little had been written that was explicitly about women. Between 1873 and i960 fewer than 1 percent of all books in the Subject Guide to Booh in Print were expressly on the subject of women. During that time only six­teen history doctoral theses concerned women, one of them, “Recent Popes on Women’s Position in Society,” written by a man. Today we have an aca­demic industry. The task is to pick the pearls from the hundreds of articles that appear each year. Now, there is first-rate scholarship on women of color, on men from a feminist perspective, and on the lesbian and gay experience.

But the other side of the story is telling too. Over the last twenty-five years, many more women have been juggling work and home alone—a sit­uation that is even harder to fit into the clockwork of male careers. Meanwhile, it remains true that academic women today are still less likely to marry or to have children. And if they do have children, they have fewer than their male counterparts. A forthcoming study of women at UC Berkeley shows just how hard it still is to combine a career with having chil­dren. Among tenured faculty in their forties who teach in the hard sciences at UC Berkeley, 70 percent of men and 50 percent of women have children.

Among tenured faculty in their forties who teach in the humanities and social sciences, 60 percent of males and only 38 percent of females have children.27

Students raising families can go more slowly in earning their degree, but then they are seen as delinquent according to a new measure Berkeley has devised called “normative time.” You get financial privileges if you move rapidly through a degree program but not if you don’t. Among ladder-rank faculty, I know of a tiny handful on the entire campus who work less than full-time. There are some part-time lecturers, but they form part of a sec­ondary labor force of instructors hired year to year at lower pay. That’s hardly the answer. The clockwork of male careers has proved easier to join than to change. More women, including women of color, have careers, but the clockwork of careers goes on and on.

Looking back at the culture at large, over the last quarter century, we see that certain aspects of the women’s movement have entered the main­stream of American life through a process Herbert Marcuse described as “resistance through incorporation.” American culture incorporated what of feminism fit with capitalism and individualism, but it resisted the rest. It incorporated the idea of equal pay for equal work and diversity but dis­pensed with any challenge to the priorities of the system women wanted in on. So it looks to me as if the good fight is still ahead.

seek to focus on here—which is between Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism and not between either of these and capitalism itself.

2. A recent Gallup poll showed that one out of three Americans has bought a

“sel f-help book” (Wood 1988). According to Steven Starker’s telephone survey of itooo residents of Portland, Oregon, the average respondent read 2.82 self-help books a year. Women were more likely to buy and read a self-help book, and bought more books on love and relationships, stress and anxiety, and weight loss while men bought more on self-improvement and motivation. women were nearly twice

as likely as nonworking women to buy books on self-improvement, motivation, and love and relationships. Both working and nonworking women were equally prone to buy books on stress and anxiety (see Starker 1989, Radway 1984, and Long 1986). Simonds interviewed 30 readers, mostly white, employed, middle class in income and education, two-thirds single or divorced (1992, chap. 1). All the best-sellers focused on heterosexual love; we lack data on the sexual orientation of readers and lack research on gay and lesbian advice books. On reading the cultural tea leaves of advice books, see Elias 1978, Giddens 1991, and Simonds 1992.

3. In his classic book Distinction (1984), Pierre Bourdieu spoke of “cultural agents,” or intermediaries, who actively shape, rather than passively transmit, cul­ture. Writers of advice books are “cultural intermediaries.” (Most authors of the books I studied were women, and the most common professions were psychologist, counselor, and writer.) Bourdieu applies an economizing metaphor to culture— “cultural capital”—which implies that culture is something we have or don’t have, like table manners, a talent for conversation, and self-confidence ( і 984, p. 4). I use the term “culture” to refer to a set of practices and beliefs that we hold, do, and partly are.

4. For this study I selected books from a list of hardback or paperback (trade and mass-market) books found on the best-seller lists of Publishers Weekly. The criteria used by Publishers Weekly to determine a best-seller changed through the years, and I have followed its changes. I selected books that were addressed to women or cen­trally concerned women’s personal or work lives. I excluded diet books, and inspi­rational or self-development books that did not add ress or directly bear on women. Books excluded from the list on which I base rough numerical calculations-—i. e.( books 1 read but didn’t study—include non-best-selling advice books for women and advice books for men.

The original list includes a “core” of pure advice books modeled on psychother­apy or on a social science study based on interviews. Examples of this type are Susan Forward and Joan Torres’s Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Theni (1987). Adopting the metaphors of “sickness” and “healing," which psychiatry itself adopted from medicine, these advice books tell stories of patients’ emotional symp­toms and cures. Other books quote and interpret hundreds of interviews and report the “findings." …

The list also includes a second type of book, which focuses on social practices— dress, manner—with little discussion of the animating ideas or motives behind them. An example of this type would be Judith Martin’s Miss Manners’ Guide to Rear­ing Perfect Children (1984) or Abigail Van Buren’s The Best (1981). A

more diverse third group of books includes autobiography, humor, and commen­tary. Examples are Bill Cosby’s Love and Marriage (19Й9), Erma Bombeck’s The Grass

Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank (1976), and the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Ourselves and Our Children (1978). (For cross-cultural comparisons, see Brinkgreve 1962, Brinkgreve and Korzec 1979, Elias 1978, and Wouters 1987.)

Although Ї focus on books published between 1970 and 1990, a look back to the turn of the century reveals three types of books, of which the 1970-90 collection reflects two. The three types are traditionals, tradition-for-modems, and modems. By tradition-for-moderns, I refer to advice books that curiously mix a belief in male dominance with an appeal to modem goals (“increased female power”) and/or an evocation of modem dilemmas. Modem advice books, as I define the term here, advocate equality between the sexes. For a study oi nineteenth-century advice books, see Ehrenreich and English (1978). An example of a “plain” traditional advice book is Grace Dodge’s (1892) Thoughts of Busy Girls, which explains the value of modesty, purity, altruism, dedication, and capacity for moral reform, without appeals to empowerment, freedom, or equality, and without reference to the fear, once mar­ried, of being left.


The problem for American women of the 1970s was not so much going to work, since over 40 percent of women of working age were in the labor force already and nine out of ten women worked sometime in their lives. The problem is one of moving up, and that means moving into careers. More fun­damentally, the problem for women in academic or other sorts of careers is to alter the link between family and career and, more generally, between pri­vate and public life. Several alternatives seem both possible and just.

First, women might adopt a relation to home and family indistinguish­able from that of their male competitors. Women could marry househus – bands if they can find them, or in their absence hire substitute wife-mothers. Academic women could thereby establish a two-roled life for another per­son (a husband) or divide such roles between husband and housekeeper. If

the housekeeper were well paid and unionized, perhaps we could still talk about justice; otherwise I think not. But neither a housekeeper nor a child­care center would solve the problem completely, since tending the sick, car­ing for the old, writing Christmas cards, and just being there for people in their bad moments—what wives do—still need doing. In my view, even when we have eliminated the needless elaboration of a wife’s role, a humanly satisfying life requires that someone do these things.

Second, academic men who want careers might give up marriage or chil­dren, just as many academic women have. If the first alternative makes women more like men, this one makes men more like academic women, in extending to them the familiar two-box choice of family or career. This would be more just, but it would be a sad justice and I doubt it would be popular among men.

One can understand women who opt for the first alternative, given the absence of other choices. Insofar as it involves a reverse family imperialism, however, I do not see why it is any better than the original male one. Because I value at least the option of family life, I cannot endorse the sec­ond solution either. Since neither appeals to me as a long-range solution, I am led to a third alternative: the possibility of an egalitarian marriage with a radically different career to go with it. This means creating a different sys­tem in which to work at this different career, a system that would make egal­itarian marriage normal.

The university makes virtually no adjustments to the family, but the tra­ditional family makes quite a few to the university. And it is not so much the brisk-stepping man with the briefcase as it is his wife with the picnic basket who makes the adjustments for “the family’s sake” (somehow amorphously connected to his career). I think the reason for this is that it is easier to change families than universities. But the contradictions of changing fami­lies without changing careers leads to either migraine headaches or hearty, rebellious thoughts.

Any vision of changing something as apparently implacable as the career system may seem at first ludicrous or utopian. But as Karl Mannheim once pointed out, all movements for social change need a utopia, built of parts borrowed from different or theoretical societies.-4 This need not be a utopia for dreaming that remains separate from waking life, but a utopia that, like reading a good book, shows us where and how far we have to go, a vision that makes sense of frustration by analyzing its source. At a time when utopias already seem quaint, when public visions seem a large shadow over many small private aims, when jobs are scarce and competition magnified, now more than ever we need a guiding vision.

For a start, all departments of twenty full-time men could expand to departments of forty part-time men and women. This would offer a solution to our present dilemma of trying to meet the goals of affirmative action

within a “steady state” (or declining) economy. It would mean more jobs for women and men. It would democratize and thus eliminate competitive dis­advantages and offer an opportunity to some of those women in the station wagon. In many fields, research would leap ahead if two people rather than one worked on problems. Teaching would certainly not be hurt by the arrangement and might benefit from the additional energies.

While administrative arrangements would be manageable, I can imagine queries about efficiency. Is it economical to train forty Ph. D.s to work part­time when twenty could do the same amount of work? And what of those who simply do not want part-time work? One can point to the glut of Ph. D.s and argue that if those currently teaching in universities would divide and share their jobs, many more might gain the chance to work. The effect would not eliminate but reduce competition for universityjobs.

Part-time work is very often more like three-fourths-time work, for one teaches students rather than classes. If a graduate student moves to Ecuador and sends me his paper, I read it. If a former student comes around to the house, I talk to her. If there is a meeting, I don’t leave halfway through. Part­time often turns out to be a release in quantity to improve quality.

But that raises the financial issue. The sorry fact is that, for financial rea­sons, most men and some women can’t afford half-time work. Maybe work­ers could pay into a fund while they are still childless and draw from it when they have children. Universities could subsidize housing. And much of what academics define as financial need is based on their experience with public support for the general context of their lives. If the public schools were really good, they wouldn’t be so tempted to spend money on private schools. If low-cost housing were readily available in cities, they wouldn’t have to strug­gle to make a down payment. If public transportation worked, they wouldn’t need two cars.

Hearsay has it that a group of MIT male assistant professors, who had worked late evenings because they were in competition with each other for advancement while their wives took care of the children, made a pact to cut down their hours and spend more time with their young children. Maybe many private pacts could lead to a larger public one, but only when those who set the standards are part of it.

While one may debate the virtues or defects of competition, it is an aspect of university life that we need not take for granted, that can and should be modified. Some elements of my own utopia are borrowed from the Cuban experiment, since it bears on the issue of competition. The Cuban revolution has made many mistakes, and not all of its successes are applicable to a rich industrial country. But one lesson to be learned from Cuba is that competi­tion can be modified not only by splitting jobs (which it did not try to do), but by creating jobs to fit social needs. This may seem a bit far afield in an essay on universities, but my analysis brings me to it. for in my view, we can not change the role of women in universities without changing the career sys­tem based on competition, and we can’t change that competitive structure without also altering the economy, the larger fit of supply and demand of workers. We need thus to explore experiments in altering that.

I visited the University of Havana in the summer of 1967 and joined some students and faculty who were working together doing “productive labor” (they don’t think this phrase is redundant), planting coffee plants in the belt surrounding Havana. As we moved along the rows, people talked about the university before the revolution. It sounded in some ways like a more intense version of Berkeley in both the 1960s and 1970s. The com­petition was so fierce for the few professional jobs in the cities that rich stu­dents bought grades. (That is only one step removed from the profitable cynicism of the term paper industries, like “Quality Bullshit” in Berkeley, where students could buy a custom-written paper from some unemployed graduate students.)

At the same time, Cuban students hung around the university cafes drop­ping out and back in again, wondering who they were. Before 1958 there were some 3,000 students at the University of Havana trying to enter the diplomatic service, while there was only a handful of electrical engineers in the whole country. The revolution put the university in touch with eco­nomic realities, and it changed those economic realities by inventing jobs where there was a social need for them. Since the revolution, the task has not been to restrict admission, but to supply the tremendous need for doc­tors, dentists, teachers, and architects as providers for the poor, paid by the government. The revolution simply recognized and legitimated a need that had always been there.

Corresponding to the supply of graduates American universities turn out each year, there is, I believe, a “social need.” There is, for example, a great need for teachers in crowded classrooms, and yet we speak of the teacher “surplus.” Despite the American Medical Association and the fierce compe­tition to enter medical school, we need doctors in our inner cities. We need quality daycare, community organizers, traveling artists. Yet there are, we say, “too many people” and “not enough jobs.” If social need coincided with social demand for skills, if market value were coextensive with real value, we could at least in some fields eliminate needless competition generated out­side the university, which affects what goes on inside as well. I personally do not think “education for leisure” is the answer, for it ignores all the social ills that persist in the rich United States, not to mention many more outside it. II we redefine what a social need is, and design jobs to meet social needs, we also reduce the exaggerated competition we see in universities, a competi­tion that inevitably moves women out. If the division of jobs alleviates com­petition among academics, the creation of jobs can alleviate competition among would-be workers, including, of course, professors.25


There is another lesson to be learned from Cuba. Insofar as American career women become like career men, they become oriented toward suc­cess and competition. Just as manhood has traditionally been measured by success, so now academic womanhood is defined that way. But manhood for the middle-class American academic man is based more on "doing well” than on "doing good.” Manhood in professional circles is linked to “success,” which is kept scarce and made to seem valuable. Men are socialized to com­petition because they are socialized to scarcity. It is as if sexual identity, at least in the middle class, were not freely given by nature, but conserved only for those who earn it. Manhood at birth seems to be taken from men, only for them to re-win it. The bookish boy is defined as girlish and then, with a turnabout, earns his manhood as a creative scholar in the university. To fail to do well at this is to be robbed in degrees of manhood.

I think there is a human propensity to achieve competence, what Thorstein Veblen called simply an “instinct for workmanship,” but it comes to have secondary meaning for manhood. Competition that takes the form of secrecy attached to new ideas before they are in final draft for the publisher, the vita talk, the 6o-hour work weeks, the station wagon wife, all are related to this secondary meaning of work, this second layer of value associated with success and manhood, і t is this second meaning that women feel they must analogously adopt and compete with.

Yet the reputation so won is often totally detached from social usefulness or moral purpose. Kor such men, morality has become a luxury. Women who learn to aspire to this deficiency lose what was valuable from our first train­ing—a training not only to be invisible, but in a larger sense, to "do good” rather than simply “do well.” Insofar as women, like other marginal groups, overconform in the attempt to gain acceptance, we find ourselves even more oriented toward success, and less toward morality, than some men.

The Cuban revolution seems to me to have solved at least this dilemma, simply by trying structurally to equate “doing well” with “doing good,” achievement with moral purpose. The assimilation of Cuban women enter­ing a male-dominated economy does not seem to mean the eclipse of morality. Cuban women have not escaped the doll’s house to enter a career based on “bourgeois individualism.” Despite many other problems, they escaped that as well.

A year after I returned from Havana, still a graduate student, I began the Women’s Caucus of the Sociology Department at Berkeley. Similar groups were springing up in English, history, anthropology, and other departments here and there across the country. It was the time of the women’s move­ment, and women graduate students—facing fhe scene I’ve described, with few women faculty to guide thv way—were dropping out left and right. Apart from one woman—who had long been a lecturer, not a professor, and who was wrongly seen as an adjunct to her husband, a bigwig in the depart-

ment—all the professors in our department were men. Yet a fifth of the graduate students were women, hoping one day to become professors. How was this to happen?

A series of women had come into my office in the fall of that year, each talking casually about dropping out of graduate school. When one highly able student, Alice Abarbinel, said she planned to drop out, something in me snapped. “Why would Alice drop out?” I knew why X or Y might drop out, but Alice? She was doing so well. She seemed so at ease. It was one of those parts that made me question the whole. A week later, after talking with friends, I invited women graduate students to my apartment, where some­thing odd occurred.

We sat cross-legged in a circle on the living room floor, drank coffee and beer, ate potato chips, and felt that something new might be happening. But when I asked whether there was some problem we shared as women that might be causing us to become discouraged, one by one people answered, “No.” “No.” “No.” One woman said, “No, I have an incomplete, but I had a hard time defining my topic.” Another said, “I have been blocked too, but I have a difficult professor, nothing to do with his being a man.” Someone else said, “I’m just not sure I’m in the right discipline.” No one hinted that there might be a link between all these hesitations and being a woman. I remem­ber turning to a friend and confiding, “Never mind, we’ve tried.” But after the meeting was adjourned, a curious thing happened. No one left. Two hours later, graduate students were huddled in animated groups, buzzing about professors, courses, housing, loved ones. An invisible barrier had dropped. After that first meeting we met periodically for several years. We were at our best questioning the basic concepts in sociology, and in trying to picture what sociology would look like if women’s experiences counted as much as men’s. What is social status? Social mobility? These are concepts so central to sociology but how do you measure a woman’s status—by her hus­band’s occupation (as it was done in the early part of the twentieth century) or by her own occupation? And if she’s a homemaker, what then? And does her job affect her spouse’s social status? Do we measure her occupational mobility by comparing her occupation with her father’s? Or her mother’s? How do relations between the genders differ for the rich and the poor?

While we talked much of changing the society within which we sought equality, not much changed about the clockwork of male careers. In those years there was some talk about race, ethnicity, and sexual choice, but these were topics whose centrality was yet to be fully understood.

To talk as I have about the evils of the system as they affect a handful of aca­demic women is a little like talking about the problems of the suburb while (here are people (rapped in the inner city. But there are problems both with

252 SPEAKING PERSONALLY trying to find a meaningful career and with having one on the system’s terms. Both finding an academic job and remaining humane once you have had one for a while are problems that lead ultimately to assumptions about the families that lie behind careers. From the vantage point of the early 1970s, women are either slowly eliminated from academic life or forced imperceptibly to acquire the moral and psychic disabilities from which male academics have had to suffer.

If we are to bring more women into the university at every level, we shaU have to do something more extreme than most affirmative action plans have imagined: change the entente between the university and its service agency, the family. If we change this, we also introduce into academe some of the values formerly the separate specialty of women. We leaven the ethos of “making it” with another ethos of caretaking and cooperation, leaven the gesellschaft with the values of gemeinschaft. It is, after all, not simply women but some feminine values that have been discriminated against. It is not sim­ply that we lack role models who happen to be women, but that we lack exemplars of this alternative ethos.

What I am trying to say is that social justice, giving women a fair break, is a goal that speaks for itself, and a goal that calls for men doing their fair share in private life and for women getting their fair chance in public life.

But there are two ways of creating this social justice. One involves fitting into the meritocracy as it is; the other aims to change it. Insofar as we merely extend “bourgeois individualism” to women, ask for “a room of one’s own,” a reputation, sparring with the others, we fit in nicely with the normal dis­tortion of the importance of success versus moral purpose, the experience of time, or quality of talk that middle-class men have experienced.

The very first step is to reconsider what parts in the cultural recipe of our first socialization to nurturance and caring are worth salvaging in ourselves, and the second step is to consider how to extend and institutionalize them in our place of work. The second way of creating social justice less often speaks for itself: it is to democratize and reward that cooperative, caretak­ing, morally concerned, not-always-lived-up-to womanly virtue of the past. We need that in careers, that among our full professors of either sex. My utopian university is not a Tolstoyan peasant family, but it is also not vita talk­ing to vita. It requires a move in the balance between competition and coop­eration, doing well and doing good, taking time to teach a child to swim and taking time to vote in a department meeting. When we have made that change, surely it will show in book prefaces and office talk.


It is for the minority of academic women with children that the contradic­tions exist in their full glory. My own solution may be uncommon, but not the general contours of my dilemma. When I first decided to have a child at the age of thirty-one, my thoughts turned to the practical arrangements whereby I could continue to teach, something that means a great deal to me. Several arrangements were possible, but my experiment was a prein­dustrial one—to introduce the family back into the university, to take the baby with me for office hours on the fourth floor of Barrows Hall. From two to eight months, David was, for the most part, the perfect guest. I made him a little cardboard box with blankets where he napped (which he did most of the time), and I brought along an infant seat from which he kept an eye on key chains, colored notebooks, earrings, and glasses. Sometimes waiting stu­dents took him out into the hall and passed him around. He became a con­versation piece with shy students, and some returned to see him rather than me. I put up a fictitious name on the appointment list every four hours and fed him alone or while on the telephone.

The baby’s presence proved to be a Rorschach test, for people reacted very differently. Older men, undergraduate women, and a few younger men seemed to like him and the idea of his being there. In the next office there was a distinguished professor of seventy-four; it was our joke that he would stop by when he heard the baby crying and say, shaking his head, “Beating the baby again, eh?” Publishers and book salesmen in trim suits and exqttis-

ite sideburns were generally shocked. Graduate student women would often inquire about him tentatively, and a few feminists were put off, perhaps because babies were out of fashion and because his presence seemed “unprofessional.”

One incident brought into focus my identity and the university’s bizarre power to maintain relationships in the face of change. It happened around 1971. A male graduate student, John, had come early for his appointment. The baby had slept longer than usual and got hungry later than I had sched­uled by Barrows Hall time. I invited the student in. Since we had never met before, he introduced himself with extreme deference, and as I am often tempted to do, I responded to that deference by behaving more formally than I otherwise might. He began tentatively to elaborate his interests in sociology and to broach the subject of asking me to serve on his orals com­mittee. He had the onerous task of explaining to me that he was a clever stu­dent, a trustworthy and obedient student, but that academic fields were not organized as he wanted to study them, and of asking me, without knowing what I thought, whether he could study Marx under the rubric of the soci­ology of work.

In the course of this lengthy explanation, the baby began to cry. I gave him a pacifier and continued to listen all the more intently. The student went on. The baby spat out the pacifier and began to wail. Finally, trying to be casual, I began to feed him. He wailed now the strongest, most rebellious wail I had ever heard from this small armful of person.

The student uncrossed one leg and crossed the other and held a polite smile, coughing a bit as he waited for this little crisis to pass. I excused myself and got up to walk back and forth with the baby to calm him down. “I’ve never done this before. It’s just an experiment,” I remember saying.

“I have two children of my own,” he replied, “Only they’re not in Berkeley. We’re divorced and 1 miss them a lot.” We exchanged a human glance of mutual support, talked of our families more, and soon the baby calmed down.

A month later, when John had signed up for a second appointment, he entered the office and sat down formally. “As we were discussing last time, Professor Hochschild. …" Nothing further was said about the prior occasion, but more astonishing to me, nothing had changed. I was still Professor Hochschild and he was still John. Something about power lived on regardless.

In retrospect, I felt a litde like one of the characters in Dolittle and the Pirates, the pushmi-pullyu, a horse with two heads that see and say different things. The pushmi head was relieved that motherhood had not reduced me as a professional. But the pullyu wondered what the pervasive power dif­ferences were doing there in the first place. And why weren’t children in offices occasionally part of the “normal” scene?

At the same time I felt envious of the smooth choicelessness of my male

246 SPEAKING PERSONALLY colleagues who did not bring their children to Barrows Hall. I sometimes feel this keenly when Ї meet a male colleague jogging on the track (it’s a popular academic sport because it takes little time) and then meet his wife taking their child to the YMCA kinder-gym program. I feel it too when Ї see wives drive up to the building in the evening, in the station wagon, elbow on the window, two children in the back, waiting for a man briskly walking down the steps, briefcase in hand. It seems a particularly pleasant moment in the day for them. It reminds me of those Friday evenings, always a great treat, when my older brother and I would pack into the back of our old Hudson, and my mother with a picnic basket would drive up from the sub­urbs to Washington, D. C., at five o’clock to meet my father walking briskly down the steps of the State Department, briefcase in hand. We picnicked at the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, my parents sharing their day, and in that end-of-the-week mood, we came home.

Whenever I see similar scenes, something inside rips in half, for I am nei­ther and both the brisk-stepping carrier of a briefcase and the mother with a packed picnic lunch. The university is designed for such men, and their homes for such women. It looks easier for them, and part of me envies them for it. Beneath the envy lies a sense of my competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis the men to whom I am compared and to whom I compare myself. Also beneaih it, I am aware of the bizarreness of my experiment with the infant box, and paradoxically aware too that I am envious of a life I would not really like to live.

The invisible half of this scene is, of course, the woman in the station wagon. She has “solved” the problem in one of the other possible ways. But if both her way and my way of solving this “problem” seem to lead to strains, it may be that the problem is not only ours. It may be the inevitable result of a public system arranged not for women with families but for family-free men.


The links between competition, career, reputation, and time consciousness extend to life that is at once outside the university but inside the career cul­ture: that is, to the family and to the faculty wife. The university has no for­mal administrative policy toward the families of its members. I have never heard of the university equivalent to the “farming out system” in early industry or of families being brought into the university the way they were taken into nine teen th-century factories. Certainly we do not hear of a fam­ily winning a Ford Foundation grant, aunts and uncles doing the interview­ing, husband and wife the analysis and writing, leaving footnotes to the chil­dren. While books have been typed, if not partly written, by wives, the family

in the university has never been the productive unit.

Nonetheless, I think we have what amounts to a tacit policy toward the family. Let us consider the following: if all else were equal, who would be most likely to survive under the career system—a man married to a full­time housewife and mother; or a man whose wife has a nine-to-five job and the children in daycare; or a man who works part-time, as does his wife, while their children are small? I think the general principle that deter­mines the answer is this: To the extent that his family does not positively help him in his work or makes demands on his time and psychic energy that compete with those devoted to his job, they lower his chances for survival. This is true insofar as he is competing with other men whose wives either aid them or do not interfere with their work. Other things being equal, the university rewards the married family-free man.

But intellectual productivity is sometimes discussed as if it were a gift from heaven to the chosen few, which has nothing to do with families or social environment at all. If we inspect the social context of male produc­tivity, we often find nameless women and a few younger men feeding the “productive one” references, computer outputs, library books, and cooked dinners. Women, single or married, are in competition not simply with men, but with the heads of small branch industries.

A few book prefaces tell the familiar story. A book on racial oppression written in 1972:

Finally, I would like to thank my wife________________________________ , who suffered the in­

conveniences that protracted writing brought about with as much gracious­ness as could be expected, and who instructed our children,———————————

and__________ , to respect the privacy of their father’s work.

An earlier book, 1963:

In many ways my wife Suzanne should be co-author. She shared the problems of planning and carrying out the field work, and the life of a wife-mother-inter­viewer in another culture was more demanding than either of us might have imagined. Although she did not take part in the actual writing, she has been a patient sounding board, and her concern with individual cases provided a needed balance to my irrepressible desire to paint the broad picture.

Still one more, 1962:

———— . to whom I was then married, helped in the field work, and a

number o; the observations in the book are hers.

These are excellent books, and they have taught me a great deal, but then so have their prefaces.

If this puts liberated men at a competitive disadvantage, needless to say it does the same to liberated women. It is a familiar joke in women’s circles to say, “What I really need is a wife.” Young women in graduate school, according to the 1969 Carnegie survey, were much more likely (63 percent) to have husbands in academe than were men to have academic wives 114 percent). Typed page for typed page, proofread line for proofread line, soothing hour for soothing hour, I suspect that, all else being equal, a tra­ditional male, minus a modern woman, is more likely than anyone else to end up a branch manager.

This total situation is often perceived as a “woman’s problem,” her role conflict, as if that conflict were detachable from the career system itself. It is her problem to choose between a few prepackaged options: being a house­wife, or professor, or trying to piece together a collage of wife, mother, and traditional career. The option we do not hear about, one that would make it a man’s problem or a university problem as well, is parenthood with a radi­cally new sort of career. Affirmative acdon plans aren’t talking about this.

Given the academic career as it is now, women can only improvise one or another practical solution for fitting their families to their careers. Many professional women of my generation either waited to have children until two years into their first “real” job or had them before beginning graduate school. One had her children in between and resolved the dual pressures by using her children as data for her books. Those who waited until they were in their late twenties or early thirties often did so precisely to avoid prema­ture discrimination, only to discover that the real pressure point lay not behind but slightly ahead. Nearly half the women who remain in academic

life solve the problem by not marrying or not rearing children at all. In a 1962 study of 21,650 men and 2,234 women scientists and engineers, women were six times more likely than men never to marry. Those women who married were less likely than their male colleagues to raise a family: 36 percent of women and 11 percent of men had no children. Those women who did have children had fewer: the families of women scientists and engi­neers were, compared with those of their male counterparts, one child smaller.20 Among graduate students, the proportion who consider dropping out increases for women with each new child bom, but remains the same for men.21 Another study of people who received their doctorates between 1958 and 1963 in a number of fields found that only 50 percent of the women had married by 1967. Among the men, 95 percent had married.22

Half of the women and nearly all of the men married—it’s a painful lit­tle statistic, and I say that without being derogatory to single women. It is one thing for a woman to freely decide against marriage or children as issues on their own merits. But it is quite another matter to be forced into the choice because the career system is shaped for and by the man with a fam­ily who is family-free.23


The academic career creates a culture of its own and a special sense of self. This is especially true for the elite and aspirants to it, but it holds for the

stragglers and misfits as well. The marketplace is somewhere “out there” in the great beyond of supply and demand; it insinuates itself into the very fiber of human communication about things that matter.

Apart from writing, the main thing academics do is talk, and talk is per­haps the best illustration of the effects of this culture. Talk anywhere is influ­enced by the context in which it goes on. I f a Cuban or a Wintu Indian hap­pened to walk down the fourth floor of Barrows Hall at Berkeley, she or he might get the impression of a bare mustard yellow tunnel, long and dimly lit from above, casting ghostly shadows on the under-eyes of its “trespassers.” Closed doors to left and right offer a few typed notices of class meeting schedules, envelopes containing graded examinations, and one wry sign, posted several months earlier by a man who had just won tenure: this machine is not in order. It might be experienced as a place where no one lives. It’s the one place professors are supposed to be available to students, but since students unwittingly block the extension of one’s vita, it’s the one place from which professors are curiously absent. Only instructors not yet in the tenure race and older professors on the other side of it might answer to a knock. The rest are seemingly lost between their several offices (the insti­tute, the department, the home). Often they pick up their mail at dawn or dusk when die department office is closed. The French call them the “hur­ried class.” On a day when the printed notice says a middle-rank professor will be in, a small society of students assembles on the floor against the wall. They have penciled their names on a posted sheet that marks time in fifteen-minute pieces, and they may be rehearsing their lines.

In the fall of 1971 a male graduate student signed up for an office visit. On my door, in large, bold letters, he wrote: Thompson. That the name was larger than the others led me to expect a large, imposing figure. In fact, Thompson was three inches shorter than I, and I suppose he felt less impos­ing as well. For after he had seated himself carefully, slowly crossed his legs, and hunched down in the “student” chair, he began, without prodding on my part, to give a long, slow description of his intellectual evolution from mathematical models at the University of Michigan to historical sociology’ to possibly, just possibly—and this was why he was in my office—the sociology of the family. It took about half an hour to say. The remarkable thing was how slowly and deliberately he spoke, as if he were dictating a manuscript, qualifying each statement, painfully footnoting his generalizations, and offering summaries at the appropriate places, rather like the chairman of our department. After the interview was concluded, with a fumble over who should open the door (Whose doorknob was it? Is he a student or a man? Am ] a woman or a professor?), I could hear Thompson behind me, talking with a graduate student friend, in a brisk, conversational dialogue, laughing a bit, rambling. He was talking normally. He wasn’t selling smartness to a professor.

Thompson thought he was being judged in that interview against other graduate students. And he was right. Every month or two I do receive a confidential form from my department, asking me to rank from mediocre to excellent a series of ten to twenty graduate students. Professors are the last people most students come to with an intellectual problem, and the first people they come to when they have it solved. To expose their vulnerability or confusion is to risk being marked “mediocre” on the confidential form.

The culture of the career system is not, alas, confined to the office inter­view. Despite the signs of otherworldliness, the Volvos and blue-jean patches and beards, the university is a market world, a world of conspicuous con­sumption. It is not gold brooches and Cadillacs that are conspicuously con­sumed; it is intellectual talk. I sometimes get the impression in the corridor outside my office, at dinner parties, and in coundess meetings, that vita is talking to vita, that tenure is being won in a conversational tournament, that examinations have slipped out of their end-of-semester slots and entered the walls and ceiling and floor of talk. The intellectual dozens, Leonard Kriegel calls it in his book Working Through. It is academic street-corner talk at which one is informally tracked as excellent, good, fair, poor, or terrible. If you bring someone out (as women are taught to do) instead of crowding him out, you get bad marks. Not to learn to talk this way at this place is like living without a skin; it is a required language.

It is often said that women do not speak up in class as much as men do, and I have noticed it too, occasionally even in my graduate seminar on the sociology of sex roles. The reason, I suspect, is that they are aware that they have not yet perfected the proper style. (It is often older women, not yet aware of the stylistic requirements, who speak up.) Some say also that women are ignored in conversation because they are sex objects; I think they are more often seen as conversational cheerleaders to the verbal tournament.

The verbal tournament seems also to require a socially shared negativism toward other people’s work. It is often considered an evening well spent, for example, to tear down Merton’s theory of anomie, or to argue that Susan Sontag is overrated, that Erving Goflfnan is passe, that Noam Chomsky’s lat­est article, like most other things one has read lately, says nothing really new. It is as if from these collective wreckings of intellectual edifices the partici­pants will emerge, in some small way, larger. But the negative talk about the stupidity of academic conversations, the drivel in the American Sociological Review, which one proudly claims not to have read in two years, also estab­lishes a floor of civility, a silent pact to be friends or associates, regardless of one’s rise or fall in market value. In a sad way, it says, “Despite the griddcd walls around us, you and I share something in common after all.”

There is still another kind of talk, not in one’s private office, or in the halls, and rarely at parties, but in the main office: faculty talk to secretaries. That talk generally is brief, smiley, and rich with campus gossip or news ol

the Xerox machine or good places to eat It obeys the rules of civility and obscures the irritations or jealousies that might momentarily stop work. It also tends to foster the secretaries’ identification with the professorial career. In the 1970s we happened in my department to have a “liberated” secretarial pool, who saw this kind of talk through a feminist prism as con­descending and manipulative, a sort of oil and grease of the machinery that maintains a pay and status for them far below what an early estimate of potential would have predicted. Unable to change their essential condition, they jealously guarded their poster of a Vietnamese woman on the wall in the main office and gave up smiling at anyone who daily invaded their pub­lic space, they having no private space at all. Their new model of talk was that between a union negotiator and business representative. Here it was not vita talking to vita, but worker talking to boss, be it man or (assimilated) woman. The administration considered the secretarial pool a “problem,” but their new style was more basically a challenge not only to their inferior status, but to what about talk holds it in place.

Women compromise with the career culture in various ways. It is as common among women as it is among men to consider market talk gauche—who got what job, was awarded what grant, or had an article accepted by which journal. On the other hand, a woman is “unserious” or fuzzy-headed if she appears to be out of it altogether. The compromise some women affect is to publicly endorse anticompetitive or noncompet­itive values while privately practicing the competitive ones. One publicly discredits the “rat race" and then, at home on weekends, climbs quietly onto the revolving wheel.

Academic talk reflects academic life and academic life reflects a market­place. Ideas become products that are “owned” or “borrowed” or “stolen” from their owners, products that through talk and in print rise and fall in market value, products that have become alienated from their producers. The marketplace pervades the life of conservatives and radicals alike; for both, ideas are “products.” Even if, with the growth of giant monopolies, the country as a whole is no longer capitalist in the old-fashioned sense, in a peculiar way the university, especially for its junior members, is.

I suspect that a different system would produce a different talk. And

women trained to this career unwittingly learn to admire in others and per – feet in themselves the talk that goes with the system—for it is uncompeti­tive, undressed, nonproduct, supportive talk that is, in the last analysis, dis­criminated against.


Even writing about career talk in cynical language, I find that, bizarrely enough, I don’t feel cynical; and I have tried to consider why. I think it is because I know, in a distant comer of my mind, that the very impersonality that competition creates provides the role of the “humanizer” that I so enjoy filling. I know that only in a hierarchy built on fear (it’s mislabeled


“respect”) is there a role for those who reduce it. Only in a conservative stu­dent body is there a role for the “house radical.” Only in a department with no women are you considered “really something” to be the first. A bad sys­tem ironically produces a market, on its underside, for the “good guys,” I know this, but somehow it does not stop me from loving to teach. For it is from this soft spot, in the underbelly of the whale, that a counteroffensive can begin against women’s second socialization to career talk and all that goes with it.


It is not easy to clip and press what I am talking about inside the square boundaries of an “administrative problem.” The context has to do with the very clockwork of a career system that seems to eliminate women not so much through malevolent disobedience to good rules as through making up rules to suit half the population in the first place.15 For all the turmoil of the 1960s, those rules had not changed a bit by the early 1970s. The year 1962 was an interesting one to come to Berkeley, and 1972 a depressing one. The free speech movement in 1964 and the black power and women’s liberation movements following it seem framed now by the fifties and Eisenhower on one side and the seventies, Nixon, and Ford on the other. The questions t hat lay flat under the book in the lecture hall in 1963 stood up to declare themselves in that stubborn public square that refused to be incorporated by the city-state around it. I t was like slicing the Queen Mary in half: from boiler room to top deck, the chains of command within, the ties to industry and the military without, in what had announced itself as an oth­erworldly search for Truth—ail were exposed for a moment in history. And then recovered, the boat made whole again and set afloat. It was what did not change that was most impressive. Now the free speech movement, black power, and women’s liberation appeared as dissertation topics: “FSM, a Study of Information Dissemination," “Black Power as Status Mobility,” “The Changing Image of Career Women,” amid yet newer ones such as “In the Service of Light; a Sociological Essay on the Knowledge of Guru Maharaj Ji and the Experience of His Devotees.” Each movement left a the­ater of its own, and frosted dinner-table conversations that at the end of the evening divided again by gender.

What did not change was the career system, brilliantly described by Clark Kerr in The Uses of the University.,f> But there are some things about competi­tion uncritically implied in that book that I must focus on here. The first is the understanding, taken for granted, that work is shaped into a “career” and that a “career” comprises a series of positions and accomplishments, each tighdy and competitively measured against other careers, so that even minor differences in achievement count. Universities and departments compete to get the “big names,” and individuals compete to become the people who are competed for There is competition between Berkeley and Harvard, between Stony Brook and New York University, between sociology and history, between this assistant professor and that one, the competition trickling down from level to level. The people at each level carefully inspect the relatively minor differences among a surprisingly narrow band of poten­tial rivals for scarce but coveted rewards. This is perhaps more apparent in the almost-famous than the famous universities, and in the hard sciences, whose scientists have more to sell (and sell out), than in the soft. It is more apparent at professional conventions than in the classroom, more in grad­uate student talk than in undergraduate, more among males than females. The career itself is based on a series of contests, which in turn are based not so much on doing good work as on getting credit for doing good work.

A colleague explained this to me in a letter. {І had written him asking why employers are not more enthusiastic about part-time work for men and women.) Speaking about scientific and artistic creativity, he noted:

Being the first to solve some problems helps you be the first to solve a prob­lem which depends on the solution of the first [intellectual problem], pro­vided that you get to work on the second problem before everybody learns how you solved the first. I think clienteles work pretty much the same way, that if you start being known as a good doctor in a certain social circle, or a good divorce lawyer, then if two of the person’s friends recommend you as a good professional you are much more likely to get his business than if only one does. Where clienteles come in off the street or in response to adver­tisements, as in real estate, then it doesn’t matter so much whether you work full time or not,

“Being the first” to solve the problem is not, under the career system, the same as getting the problem solved; “getting his business” away from some­one else is not the same as meeting the client’s needs. In the university, this means “being the first” in research and, to a much lesser extent, “getting the business” in teaching. To borrow from movement language, one can man­age in this way to get a reputation in the “star system.” Wanting to become a “star” or knowing you have to want to become one or becoming even a minor one is what women learn in man-made careers.

A reputation is measured against time—that is, against the year one is bom. A number of studies have shown that, in modem times, intellectual achievements tend to come surprisingly early in life. In Harvey Lehman’s massive study of eminent men in science, the arts, letters, politics, the mili­tary, and the judiciary, the average age of peak performance is early: for chemists and physicists the early thirties, in music and sculpture the late thirties, even in philosophy the late thirties and early forties. The link between age and achievement for many specialties housed in the university resembles that of athletes more than that of popes or judges. Interestingly,

achievement came later in life for men before 1775—before the massive bureaucratization of work into the career system.17 A reputation is an imag­inary promise to the world that if one is productive young in life, one will be so later also. And the university, having litde else to go on, rewards the promise of the young or fairly young.

Age discrimination is not some separate extra unfairness thoughtlessly tacked on to universities; it follows inevitably from the bottommost assump­tions about university careers. If jobs are scarce and promising reputations important, who wants a fifty-year-old mother of three with a dissertation almost completed? Since age is the measure of achievement, competition often takes the form of working long hours18 and working harder than the next person. This definition of work does not refer to teaching, committee work, office hours, phone conversations with students, or editing students’ work, but refers more narrowly to one’s own work. Time becomes a scarce resource that one hoards greedily, and time becomes the thing one talks about when one is wasting it. If “doing one’s work” is a labor of love, love itself comes to have an economic and honorific base.

This conception of time becomes in turn an indelible part of the career – self.19 Male-styled careers introduce women to a new form of time con­sciousness: it is not age measured against beauty, as in our “first” training, but age measured against achievement. That measure of age, as I have noted, is related to what else a person does, for example, in the family.

The career-self experiences time as linear and the career itself as a mea­sured line, other parts of the self following along. Time is objectified in the academic vita, which grows longer with each article and book, and not with each vegetable garden, camping trip, political meeting, or child. One’s mul­tifold potential is treated much like a capital investment in an initially mar­ginal enterprise. What is won for the garden is lost to the vita. For the career-self, casual comparisons to colleagues working on the same problem are magnified into contests: He got his article published first. His good news is my bad news. These comparisons become mental giants, while the rest of the world and self are experientially dwarfed.

If work, conceptualized as a career, becomes a measured line, the line often appears to be a rising one. Very often the rising career line is also, despite a residual cynicism about power, associated with a pleasant belief in the progress of the world. Even those who have refused to fit this profile know very well that they are measured against it by others who rise to the top and, from this top-of-the-career worldview, set the prevailing standards.


It is often said that a good female “role model” can make up for the perva­sive discouragement women find in academe. By role model I mean simply a person whom a student feels she wants to be like or could become. It is

someone she may magically incorporate into herself, someone who, inten­tionally or not, throws her a psychic lifeline. A role model is thus highly per­sonal and idiosyncratic, although she may nonetheless fit a social pattern. I am aware of being part of an invisible parade of models. Even as I seek a model myself, I partly am one to students who are, in turn, models to still others. Various parades of role models crisscross each other in the univer­sity, and each goes back in psychological time.

For example, I distincdy remember my mother directing me at the age of sixteen toward a model of a professional woman who followed her husband from place to place outside the United States. My mother worked hard in support of my father’s work in the foreign service, and while her own situa­tion did not permit her a career, it was something she had always admired. At one cocktail party, crowded and noisy, she whispered in my ear, “Mrs. Cohen. Go talk to Mrs. Cohen. She’s a doctor, you know.” I hesitated, not knowing what I could say or ask. My mother made eye signs and I ventured over to Dr. (Mrs.) Cohen. As it turned out, she was the hostess of the party. One of her three small children was complaining that he couldn’t unlock his bicycle. A tray of hors d’oeuvres had spilled and Mrs. Cohen was hyster­ical. She was ignoring her son and the spilled hors d’oeuvres for the moment and concentrating on stuffing some eggs, every fifth one of which she ate. As I began preparing the eggs with her, she explained how practic­ing psychiatry outside the country was impossible, that moving every two years messed up the relations she might have had with her patients, had she any patients. She popped yet another egg into her mouth and disappeared into the crowd. Yes, Mrs. Cohen was a model of something, the best model my mother could find for me, and only much later did 1 begin to really understand her situation and my mother’s.

Actually it was not so much Dr. Cohen herself as it was her whole life, as part of what Hanna Papanek calls the “two person career,”13 that became, for me, the negative model. From the perspective of the 1970s, 1 imagine that in twenty years young women will, in the same way, scan individual mod­els to sense the underlying situation, the little imperialisms of a man’s career on his wife’s life. Dr. Cohen’s husband had one role, and his role cre­ated two for her. Male careers in other fields, including academe, differ from this only in degree.

This is the second sense in which we can talk of models—models of situ­ations that allow a woman to be who she gradually gets to want to be. Models of people and of situations, some appealing and some distressing, march silently across the university grounds. Among the inspiring leaders < >1 this parade are also some frightening examples of women who lack the outer symbolic or material rewards of accomplishment: the degrees, the higher-level jobs, the promotions, the grants that their male counterparts have. In some cases, too, these women show the inner signs: a creativity that

may have cramped itself into modest addenda, replications oi old research, or reformations of some man’s theory—research, in sum, that will not “hurt anyone’s feelings.” What is painful is not simply that a particular woman may have been denied a job, but rather that she may face the daily experi­ence of being labeled a dull or unpromising dutiful daughter in research. The human pinch for such a woman is not simply having to choose between a full-time commitment to her profession or a family, but what it means to remain single among couples, to have her sexual life an item of amused curiosity. For others it isn’t simply the harried life of trying to work and raise a family at the same time; it’s the premature aging around the eyes, the third drink at night, the tired resignation when she opens the door to a sparkling freshman who wants to know “all about how social science can cure the world of war and poverty’.”14 There are other kinds of models, too. By the early 1970s women had earned degrees and good jobs and, with it all, some had established egalitarian arrangements at home. But I think they are likely to remain a minority because of a tight job market and the career system itself and because women inside academe are often con­strained from lobby mg for more women. It’s not professional Speaking only for myself, I have found it extremely hard to lobby for change while sitting in a department meeting with dozens of senior male professors, among them my mentors. I have felt like a totem or representative more than an agent of social change, discredited for being that by some professors and for not being more than that by some feminists. Of course when I do speak up, it is with all too much feeling. It is immeasurably easier, a joyous release, to go to the private turf of my classroom, where I become intellectually and morally bold. If I had to locate what has been my own struggle, it would be right there in that committee room.

Women respond not simply to a psychological lifeline in the parade, but to the social ecology7 of survival. If we are to talk about good models we must talk about the context that produces them. To ignore this is to risk running into the problems I did when I accepted my first appointment as the first woman sociologist in a small department at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Some very strange things happened to me, but I am not so sure that anything happened to the department or university. Sprinkled thinly as women were across departments there, we created a new minority status where none had existed before, models of token women.

The first week there, I began receiving Xeroxed newspaper clippings and magazine articles praising the women *s movement or detailing how bad the “woman situation” was in medicine or describing Danish women dentists. These clippings that began to swell my Шее were invariably attached to a friendly forwarding note: “Thought you’d be interested” or “Just saw this and thought of you.” I stopped an older colleague in the hall to thank him for an article he had given me and inquired what he had thought of it. He

hadn’t read it himself. I began to realize that I was becoming my colleagues’ friendly totem, a representation of feminism. “I’m all with you people” began to seem more like “You be it for us.” And sure enough. For every paper I read on the philosophy of Charlotte Gilman, the history of the gar­ment union, the dual-career family, or women and art, 1 wondered if I shouldn’t poke a copy into the mailboxes of my clipping-sending friends. I had wound myself into a feminist cocoon and left the tree standing serenely as it was. No, it takes more than this kind of “model.”


The second explanation for the attrition of women in academe touches pri­vate inequality more directly: women sooner or later cool themselves out by a form of “auto-discrimination.” Here, inequality is conceived not as the

mark of a chairperson’s pen, but as the consequence of a whole constella­tion of disadvantages that alter what a woman wants to do.

It is admittedly hard to distinguish between women who remove them­selves from the university and women who are removed or who are moved to remove themselves. For me, there were innumerable aspects of graduate school that were not quite discriminatory and not quite not discriminatory either. Some things were simply discouraging: the invisibility of women among the teachers and writers of the books one read or among the faces framed on the walls of the faculty club; the paucity of women at the infor­mal gathering over beer after the seminar. Then there were the prelecture jokes (to break the ice) that referred in some way to pretty girls as a dis­traction or to getting into “virginal” fields.12 There was also the continual, semiconscious work of sensing and avoiding professors who were known to dislike or discredit women or particular types of women. One professor in my department seriously suggested adding more mathematics to the methodology requirement in order to reduce the number of’women under­graduate majors, in addition, there was the low standing of the “female” spe­cialties—like sociology of the family and education—which some early fem­inists like me scrupulously avoided for that stupid reason. The real thing to study, of course, was political sociology and general theory: those were vir­tually all-male classes, from which one could emerge with a “command” of the important literature.

Women can be discouraged by compedtion and by the need to be, despite their training, unambivalent about ambition. Ambition is no static or given thing, like having blue eyes. It is more like sexuality—variable, sub­ject to influence, and attached to past loves, deprivations, rivalries, and the many events long erased from memory. Some people would be ambitious anywhere, but competitive situations tend to drive ambition underground in women. Despite supportive mentor’s, for many women there remains something intangibly frightening about a competitive environment, about competitive seminar talk, even about argumentative writing. While feminists have challenged the fear of competition—both by competing successfully and by refusing to compete—and while some male dropouts crossing over the other way advise against competing, the issue is hardly settled for most of us. For those who cannot imagine themselves inside a competitive envi­ronment, the question becomes: How much is something wrong with me and how much is something wrong with my situation?


When I entered Berkeley as a graduate student in 1962, і sat with some fifty other incoming students that first week in a methodology course. One of the two sociology professors on the podium before us said, “We say this to every incoming class and we’ll say it to you. Look to your left and look to your right. Two out of three of you will drop out before you are through, probably in the first two years.” We looked blankly to right and left, and quick nervous laughter jumped out and back from the class. I wonder now, years later, what each of us was thinking at that moment. I remember only that I didn’t hear a word during the rest of the hour, for wondering whether it would be the fellow on my left, or the one on my right, or me. A fifth of my incoming class was female, and in the three years that followed, indeed, three-quarters of the women (and half of the men) did drop out.5 But a good many neither dropped out nor moved on but stayed trapped between the M. A. and the orals, or the orals and the dissertation, fighting the private devil of a writing block, or even relaxing within that ambiguous passage, like those permanent “temporary buildings” that were still standing on the Berkeley campus decades after World War 11. Some even developed a humor to counter the painful jokes about them, “What do you have in your briefcase there, samples?”

This happens to men, too, but why does it happen so much more to women? According to some analysts, women leave academe because of dis­crimination in such matters as getting fellowships, job offers, or promotions. Helen Astin, for example, concludes that this is a major reason, citing the fact that a full third of the women Ph. D.s she studied in the 1960s reported discrimination.6 Others, such as Jessie Bernard, suggest that “it is only when other grounds for rejection are missing that prejudiced discrimination perse is brought into play.”71 suspect that Bernard is more on the mark. While a third of academic women reporting discrimination is a great number, it is also remarkable that two-thirds did not report it.

Much of the discrimination argument rests on how broadly we define dis­crimination and how trained our eyes are for seeing it. Women have accli­matized themselves to discrimination, expect it» get it, and try to move around it. It is hard to say, since I continually re-remember those early years through different prisms, whether I experienced any discrimination myself. I don’t think, so, unless one counts the time I entered a professor’s office to discuss my paper topic for his course. We had been assigned a reading that involved the link between mental illness and social class. Social class was measured, I had learned, by the Hollingsliead and Redlich index of social class. Somewhere along in the interview, in the course of explaining the paper I was hoping to write, I was pretentious enough to mention the Hollingshead and Redlich index, which involves education, occupational prestige, and residence. The professor stopped me dead with a stony gaze. “Are you a graduate student?" (not an wr? dergraduate). It was like a punch in the stomach, and it took me a few seconds to recover." і he interview trav­eled on as if this exchange had never occurred and I left the office, with a lump in my throat, went to the women’s bathroom, and cried. I blush now at my anxiety to please. But of course the problem was not that I was too pre­tentious, but that I did it badly. In the many imaginary rehearsals of second encounters (I never went back), the conversation went like this: “Hollings – head and Redlich index, mmmmmmm, it’s better than the old Warner

index, of course, but then it misses some of the more sophisticated indica-


tors of the Chapin scale, dated as it is.” By the time it occurred to me that the mans occupation and education were taken as predictors oi the social class of his wife and children, I stopped imagining conversations with this particular professor.

In a 1970s Carnegie survey of 32,000 graduate students and faculty, 22 percent of the men and 50 percent o! the women graduate students in soci­ology agreed that the faculty does not “take female graduate students seri­ously,” and in fact a quarter of the male faculty agreed that female gradu­ate students are not as dedicated to the field as males.”!When the graduate students were asked the same question, a quarter—men and women alike—agreed that “women are not as dedicated.” Only the female faculty refused to be recorded this way, perhaps feeling as I did when I filled out the questionnaire that there was no place to say, between the yes and the no, that dedication has to be measured against the visible or felt incentives to go on, and that lack of dedication may be a defensive anticipation of being ignored.

For women in particular the line between dropping out, staying on, and moving out has been a thin and fluctuating one. The Carnegie Commission study asked graduate students, “Have you ever considered in the past year quitting graduate school for good?” Only 43 percent of the women and 53 percent of the men had not considered it.10 I considered it to the extent of

interviewing at the end of my first miserable year for several jobs in New York that did not pan out. Beyond that, my uncertainty expressed itself in virtually every paper I wrote for the first two years. I can hardly read the papers now since it appears that for about a year and a half I never changed the typewriter ribbon. As one professor wrote on a paper, “Fortunately the writer’s exposition and analysis are a pleasant contrast to a manuscript which in physical appearance promises the worst. A nice job of comparing Condorcet and Rousseau. . . . The writer would possibly have profited by. . . more systematically resolving at least tentatively the problem raised—for pur­poses of relieving her own apparent ambivalence on the issue.” I am less sure now that it was Condorcet and Rousseau I was ambivalent about. That ambivalence centered, I imagine, on a number of issues, but one of them was probably the relation between the career I might get into and the fam­ily I might have. I say “probably" because I didn’t see it clearly that way, for I saw nothing clearly then.

Powerful people often justify the categorical judgments that they apply to particular women on the grounds that family comes first. Now we call these judgments “discrimination.” One department chairman caught in print before 1967 said what many chairmen probably still thought but no longer said:

My own practice is to appoint women to about 50 percent of our graduate assistantships and to about 30 percent of our instructorships. My fear that this is too large of proportion of women appointees arises from the consid­erations: (1) that women are less likely to complete the degree programs upon which they embark; (2) that even if they do, marriage is very likely to intervene and to prevent or considerably delay their entry into the teaching profession; (3) that even when they do become full time teachers… their primary sense of responsibility is to their homes, so that they become pro­fessionally recognized only to a limited degree; {4 that they are far less likely than men to achieve positions of leadership in their profession.11

Such official judgments are not completely absurd. They rest on empirical evidence of categorical differences between men and women, regardless of special exceptions. To ignore this fact does not make it go away. In ignoring

it, we seem tacitly to agree with university officials that the family is, after all,

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a private matter out of official hands. It prevents us from asking whether there isn’t something about the academic system itself that perpetuates this “private” inequality.