THE CAREER CULTURE AND THE FAMILY
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