I'm reflecting on students who've broken my lil' ol' professor heart. They have all been women.
One of my thesis advisees got into Michigan Law School, just like her fiancé. Hurray! They could be together pursuing the career of their dreams in the school of their dreams! But wait--you've accepted an offer from a near-by law school that I've never even heard of?
Yes. You see, they didn't both want to be burdened by the student loans. So she took a scholarship at a minor law school. And he ... didn't.
Then there was the genius thesis advisee, who was so good, I hired her as my research assistant. She got accepted to Harvard Law! Hurray! But .... Oh! Too bad! Your fiancé did not get accepted to Harvard grad school--or even any school near Harvard?
With her LSATs and GPA, she had her pick of law schools, so she went to the law school at the school he did get in to. Not a bad law school, but not, not, NOT Harvard.
Now on to the grad student I had at my old university. I was her MA thesis adviser, and I wrote her many, many letters of recommendation for fellowships. I wrote her a really over-the-top letter that got her into a Ph.D. program. Weird coincidence--I took a job at her new university the following year. She was now in a different discipline, but her new adviser and all the other professors were also over-the-top about her.
But then--oh wow, your fiancé got a great contract job in Africa? Yeah, you should take a semester off and travel with him while he's there. You could write up your dissertation proposal at the same time! "Great idea!" Oh, but where is that proposal? Oh congratulations, you've gotten married! Oh happy days, you're pregnant. Here's a present for baby. Sooooo cute! By the way, I think that starting a new outdoor recreation business with your husband in that remote part of that far-away state sounds....interesting. Yeah, that's it. And it doesn't sound at all like a dissertation.
There have been many more. But these are the ones nearest to the surface.
My most successful grad student? A man, a great guy. He wrote fast, not always carefully, not consistently with great depth of analysis. But he got 'er done! Then he boldly approached publishers and got a book contract! He did not hesitate, did not worry it to death, making those final corrections so it would be just absolutely, positively perfect. Rejections did not phase him--he pushed on! AND he has a great wife with a mobile job perfectly suited (through perfect planning based upon absolute career self-abnegation) to move where he needs to go.
I think he's great. I'm very happy for him.
But is there a trend here? In such cases, feminism for me is not about condemning individual women for the choices they make. Rather, it is about looking critically at the processes that produce relatively more male PhDs, more male tenured professors, more highly paid male lawyers, etc.
But it is the individual women that break my professor heart.