A Man’s Academy? The Dissertation Process as Feminist Resistance

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The academy is a gendered institution that promotes and requires the adoption of a particularly masculine way of learning and producing knowledge. Commonly accepted notions of what constitutes a successful academic devalue emotions, vulnerability, and dependence in interpersonal relationships. Using Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus, our analysis focuses on a collaborative narrative of a critical incident between a graduate student working on her dissertation and a faculty member pursuing tenure. In our analysis we critique the masculine bias of the academic habitus, revealing how graduate student and faculty interactions can replicate gendered power relations in the academy and shedding light on avenues of resistance. We conclude by explaining how the practice of co-mentoring within a feminist framework may help conceptualize a new kind of successful academic-one who sees the rationality in emotions and the emotions in rationality, as well as the strength in vulnerability and the vulnerability in strength.

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NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, v. 1, issue 1, p. 183-203