“Diagnosed” with pregnancy in academia

From a guest post at Tenure, She Wrote:

When I read about women who found out they were pregnant as a postdoc or in graduate school, the story often reads like someone who has just been diagnosed with some chronic illness (which is not fair to mothers, or people who have a chronic illness).  I admit that I also felt this way, and I had to search (and sometimes beg) for support from faculty and administration. A professor in my program said to me “I thought about what I would say to a male graduate student who told me they were having a baby, so I have to say ‘congratulations’ to you.” Do I say thank you to your backhanded congratulations?? 

Read the rest there! And have fun poking around the whole blog. TSW is so regularly splendid I could link to it every week.

8 thoughts on ““Diagnosed” with pregnancy in academia

  1. Is it any wonder that some talk about pregnancies in this way given that our own profession likens them to infestations of “people-seeds” in a carpet?

  2. Our PROFESSION does not liken them to people seeds. A particular philosopher did that, and she only did that with the point of drawing analogical inferences for the purposes of philosophical argument.

  3. If the pregnancy/infestation analogue wasn’t a good one, the argument wouldn’t be a good one, nor would many in our profession think it a good one. But I suspect that many *do* think it’s a good argument precisely *because* they think the analogy is a good one.

  4. It’s not exactly an analogy in the essay by Judith Jarvis Thompson. It’s an element in a thought-experiment designed to move us to consider our intuitions.

  5. Have you ever been pregnant against your will? “Infestation of people seeds” isn’t such a bad metaphor for some highly salient aspects of that experience, even if it’s a terrible metaphor for the pregnancy experiences of other women in other circumstances.

    (Which hardly seems to undermine the metaphor in context, since after all the issue being debated wasn’t the desirability of aborting all pregnancies, but the moral permissibility of aborting unwanted ones.)

  6. The analogy is clearly a good one for SOME kinds of pregnancies in CERTAIN respects, as is what we hope for from analogies. You are correct about how most people regard it now: Many of us regard it is a powerful argument precisely because it makes clear the ways in which a bizarre scenario is akin to certain kinds of pregnancies. Your implication, however, clearly was, and is, that we regard all pregnancy as like it in other respects, e.g., as being bizarre, foreign, grotesque, dehumanizing, etc. This sort of baseless, snarky disparaging of wide swaths of us–indeed “the profession” as a whole–is counterproductive and lazy.

  7. I did not disparage the profession as a whole. Both claims I made are true: (1) “some” (I never said “all”) talk this way; and (2) our profession does liken pregnancies (I never said “all pregnancies”) to infestations.

    And calling my comment “baseless” and “snarky” doesn’t help. This was the last place I would expect such microagression, but there you have it.

  8. I thought Randomly’s reply was precisely right: “our profession” does not do anything of the kind. Judy Thompson did.
    Her comparison in no way explains why some people talk about pregnancy as if it were a diagnosis. Nobody speaks about your fetus as if it were a violinist, because people have no trouble grasping the point of Thompson’s thought experiment.

    And your first comment sure came off snarky. I’m willing to believe you didn’t intend it that way, but it does read that way.

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