Academic Bullies vs Happy Academic(s)

I don’t know if this happens in other professions, but in academia there are so many people who are resentful of anybody who has a good time and digs his or her job that they descend like a pack of rabid dogs on academics who are not (or, rather, do not pretend to be) completely miserable all of the time.

You either whine and complain, trying to outdo everybody else in the misery sweepstakes, or accept being marginalized or even bullied in every academic environment you ever access. This is how the culture of academic misery perpetuates itself.

I feel very sad today because what was pretty much the only voice of reason, passion and joy among all the blogs and websites that discuss academia has gone silent. Stupid Motivational Tricks is a blog that literally changed my life and taught me to be a happy, productive academic. Now, however, its author Jonathan has decided to stop offering academic advice and, instead, “listen to what faculty at a variety of institutions are saying.” And we all know that what they are saying is how they are all hugely miserable and the end of the world will happen tomorrow.

Of course, nobody can or should dispute a blogger’s decision to write about whatever s/he wishes. Still, I feel very sad that there will now be only unrelieved whining and drama in the academic blogosphere. I get more than enough of it in RL, and the idea of seeing nothing but misery in the world of blogging is daunting.

It’s OK, though. After I get tenure in 2 years, I will be the┬ávoice of reason, passion and joy in academic blogosphere.

A friend of mine who is a Full Professor in another field told me that it is important to seek out suffering because it is something that one needs to experience to have a balanced existence.

“There is so much suffering in life already,” I countered. “Why look for more?”

“Is there?” the friend asked earnestly.

I discussed the apocalyptic mentality of the First World people with an acquaintance from South Africa and we agreed that their lives are so sheltered and unproblematic (in contrast to what the rest of the world experiences) that they need to exaggerate their tiny little woes to add some spice to their lives. There is nothing particularly wrong about this, except when people manage to convince themselves that their drama is real and their lives are truly miserable.

This means that if I decide to start a “Happy Academics Club,” I will need to reach out to immigrants and people who were born to poverty. And maybe by that time Jonathan will reconsider and join us, too.


Since we started talking about weight, it seems that, in a way, I’m losing weight, too. Since May 1, I gained exactly one pound. My belly, in the meanwhile, is becoming visibly bigger every day. This can only mean that other parts are getting smaller.

I just have to be weird in absolutely everything.

Different Feminisms

At the baby shower, a friend discovered I was going to have an elective C-section. This is a very excitable and highly principled friend (she wouldn’t be my friend otherwise, for obvious reasons), so she stopped in the middle of the room and offered an impassionate speech about the evils of elective C-sections and joys of “natural” birth.

“Feminism. . . Medicalization of the female body. . . An important experience to have. . . Pain is a part of life and should not be avoided. . . Back in the nineteenth century. . .”

A woman with a very tiny infant in her arms stopped behind my friend and was listening intently. When she paused to draw a breath, the woman with an infant exclaimed, “Vaginal birth is horrible, horrible! It’s terribly painful! It sucks! Don’t do it!”

There was so much real pain in her voice that nobody felt like continuing the debate.

“You are a feminist, how can you choose a C-section?” my friend asked me later.

“It’s because I’m a feminist,” I explained.

My friend is a California feminist and I’m a post-Soviet one, so there are areas in which we are the exact opposites.