I have always been one of those people who tends to do too much. In high school, I took a full load of college-prep classes while serving on student council, working in the theatre, and managing the basketball team (talk about a fun job for a high school girl — we were considered part of the team and thus got to sit in the back of the bus with the boys, while the cheerleaders seethed up front at the gender segregation imposed on them. It was only later that I thought about the retro gender politics of this. But I digress). In college, things were similar — full load of courses, more time in the theatre than some theatre majors, German club, multiple part-time jobs, etc.
And now? I’ve got a full-time job directing the UMKC Women’s Center, a part-time gig serving as Acting Director for the Women’s & Gender Studies Program, and will be teaching two classes this fall. Oh, and I serve on a gajillion University committees and am active in community groups. I say all this not to play the “I’m busier than you” game, but because the academic blogs have been full of conversations lately about (in Historiann’s words) the “gendering of service as feminized (and therefore volunteer/underpaid/unrewarded)” work thanks to the publication of Michelle A. Massé and Katie J. Hogan’s new book Over Ten Million Served: Gendered Service in Language and Literature Workplaces.
In particular, what I’ve noticed more and more is that many of my colleagues performing these service-oriented activities are almost exclusively women. One example: in the fall, I am teaching a section of A&S 100, an “intro to college” course for first year students. Only one of the 19 instructors is male–the rest of the instructors are female and primarily staff or non-tenure track faculty (which brings up a whole other conversation about the division of labor in higher ed that I will not get into for now). What I’ve been wondering lately is how much of my tendency to do too much is tied to gender identity. Is my desire to teach A&S 100 really due to a desire to beef up my CV with a new teaching experience? Or is it that I want to take care of students and this is just a different way to do it? I don’t know the answer, but I do know I might want to start thinking about re-learning how to say no.