Potnia, why are you not working towards X?
Where X is: outreach, gender equality, affordable childcare, affordable eldercare, Queerrights, evolution in schools, taking back the Senate, saving the turtles, the rainforests, the tundra, the icecaps?
All of these are things I care about passionately. These are all things I have given some financial support to. Well, maybe not the tundra. Keeping NSF funded, keeping NASA funded, vaccine education, science education, freedom of speech, the integrity of our constitution, a safer and welcoming world for transgender people, the Deaf, people with physical disabililties, people with mental disabilities, the Chesapeake Bay. Women in countries that deny them a vote. Countries where no one gets to vote.
There is a long list of what I care about. My family, my students, my trainees, the young women in my department, the URM in my University. The homeless, the disenfranchised. They are often tree rings that circle out from me – some are closer in my life everyday, some every week, and some not so often.
I cannot do all of these things. I cannot even do several of these things and still be the scientist and teacher and mentor that I consider my primary job. And that is cold, hard reality.
But there is one more thing.
I was talking with a very smart, very active woman of my age, who I met on vacation. She is a prof in a related field, and is Famous. She is very good. She is very active. We were trading war stories, although her sub-field may have traditionally had more women than mine, we are still of an age where we were often “The Woman”. She had changed much in the world and fought for people who could not fight for themselves. I told her some horror stories about the Chair from Hell at my old MRU, and she took me to task for not recording them and “leaking them”. I had thought briefly about doing that at the time, and had rejected it. I was pretty sure that it would cost me my job, and I was not yet ready to leave MRU. I was doing active parent care at the time and I couldn’t up and move for a new job. Or if I had to because I was fired, who would take care of my parents?
And therein lies the problem. We all make compromises. None of us is perfect. Sometimes it is cowardice and unwillingness to face what must be done. Sometimes its weighing two things and deciding which is more important, right now. And sometimes we just run out of steam.
If you do not see this, go read Toni Morrison on what mothers will do for children.