Feminism 3.0: Fieldwork


Summer has been overwhelmingly boring, yet stressful; these states of being do not exist well when one jumps from one to another.  I have also been agitated, underemployed, and lonely to boot, reading books and watching films has either added to or subtracted from my overall essence.  Though teaching one online class, strike that, facilitating one has been interesting, my absence in the classroom has led to me to either think a.) I should really be taking a break anyway to avoid possible burnout or b.) I should be doing fieldwork, I have the time.  Unfortunately since I have decided the college attendance gap that shows more women than men are entering and receiving diplomas from universities is a problem and that it begins as a malignant reality in elementary education is itself a problem, since everyone is on break.

Of course, I have been reading what the “other side” says and this is basically that men still have an advantage even without a degree, they can go into a trade, for instance.  Having been married to someone in a “trade”, I still wasn’t convinced that this was something that anyone would really want to do, it’s hard, grueling work.  But then I saw the film The Company Men and I changed my feelings on this for 3 days or so.  I had a week previous also watched the film Margin Call, which like the former film dealt with the Great Recession.  Both made me cry and both made me realize that although men may be less able to accept their sudden unemployment in these times, due to machismo or something, it affected women too and where were we represented? The Recession took away a chunk of my 30’s, not the best time to be idle, really, although I was lucky enough to know it was coming.  Having graduated with my Master’s in August 07′, I went immediately into magazine advertising and other marketing ventures.  I had my hand in no less than 5 jobs out of college with 2 of them being promising on the resume and 3 being transient catering/waitressing/freelancing stuff to make money, so I could keep up the guise of being successful in the 2 that mattered.  Yes, Ben Affleck, we all know the importance of keeping up with your contacts at the country club.

Of course, the people with money and lots of it, were the ones I would go to for advertising space.  It became clear very soon after I began this that people were not letting go of their money very easily.  I was warned….I remember that at some point a very wealthy potential client told me soberly that things were going to “get bad”.  I knew the concept of things getting “bad”, so my only question was “how long?”.  I can’t remember the exact answer of if it wasn’t an answer at all, but just a look.  I was as prepared as any new graduate could ever be, I suppose.  But I never thought that my moving in with my parents in December 06′ on my birthday(my 30th) just a week after my divorce would end up in me being there 5 years.  Had I not had two small children, I would have went to any of the four corners of the earth rather than be there, but they needed stability, life was horrible.  I was the sole breadwinner, not primary, but sole breadwinner.  Only in my darkest hour did I ever ask for child support.  That was over 5 years ago and though I see the same dark cloud looming over me, this will never be an option. So yes Ben Affleck, I felt the same feelings that your character did, I was afraid of my children losing faith in me and I felt like a “loser” too only I didn’t have a supportive wife, who went back to work in the nursing field and I didn’t have an uncle to give me a construction job….a construction job?

I too remember those years of looking for work after the magazine fell apart and the internship at the marketing company in New York just.ended.  I was either underqualified or overqualified and the rejection after rejection ate away at me until I couldn’t even do it alone anymore.  My parents in their archaic baby boomer mentality criticized me nonstop, I was told by my kids’ school that I was technically “homeless” because I was “doubling up” with another family; my parents.  I gained weight, I got a job coach, because I qualified for that assistance.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I realized it when I watched the films that if the Recession had been caused by a terrorist attack, if people actually saw mass casualties right on CNN or Fox or whatever, it wouldn’t have been so bad.  We wouldn’t be looked at as “losers”, we wouldn’t have felt like losers.  People would have seen that this was real and not because of a lack of trying, and trying, and on and on…

But then I got my 3rd choice of a career as a professor, actually we are called instructors where I work or adjuncts or no one realizes we exist, except for our students and the Department Chair.  My career coach or whatever his title was, considered this a success and I did too.  Three years later and my full time teaching load has been cut in half due to Obamacare and every other person unlucky enough to not be full time or tenured is in the same boat.  But life goes on, people understand if a bomb actually explodes in front of your face your life forever changes, but like with the Recession, no one actually sees this.  Life goes on and people go on vacation and they feel secure, and they might blame you as a woman for remaining single, although being a wife was the job I was always the worst at.

Suddenly I began doing odd things like sending off for free samples or clicking on emails to get two cents, because those two cents will eventually add up to that $30 check that can put gas in the car.  I went on more interviews, I was asked if I “had issues with urine and feces” or if I would “enjoy working with small children”.  I felt my Feminism raging because of course I had a problem with feces and I didn’t go to school to work with small children.  Couldn’t I just build something?  What the hell was I thinking even caring about this college attendance gap?  Then today I finished a book and I got an email.  It has changed everything.

I have always been a “field person”, as a Sociologist there is nothing I love more than being “out there” and the farther out, the better.  My first day of Spring Break, I interviewed at a farm, horticultural only.  I was told I could work with migrant farm workers and others come July when the fields were ready to be picked.  I figured it would solve my money problems that always came with the lack of courses to teach in the summer, even if it would only make a difference in buying my boys new or used football cleats or allow us to go to the county fair for a night and actually buy something instead of going just to get free stuff in the merchants tent.  I had just finished reading Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski and I wondered why I didn’t just trek off to Thailand or some other place.  But that email “what is your availability next week?” saved me.  I wasn’t building anything, but it was hard work and it could be again like it was in my first practice fieldwork, I would be immersed in Spanish like I had been with the immigrants that lived just a county away.  Maybe Anthropologists might understand this more or maybe they are as depressed as I was if they aren’t tenured.  But, buying a new pair of cleats is the best I can do for my youngest, who is the only one who hasn’t lost faith in my ability to make their lives okay.  My oldest two have decided that I will always be poor and have given up and given in somewhat to “free fun” like sneaking in to the pool for homeowners and not renters.  Of course when I announced I would be a farmer next week, they assumed I would get something free out of it….we all know that nothing is free, but actually I will get some fresh produce out of it and I won’t feel like a loser, because I picked it in the sun and in the dirt and in the heat and in the rain.  So please don’t tell me I’m not trying.

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