(Third)Waving not Drowning
Kim Snowden & Jenéa Tallentire

Well, another year is over and here at thirdspace we are feeling the full crunch of what it means to be feminist academics and produce an academic journal for emerging scholars - to be third(space)waving, not drowning! We started thirdspace initially to give our fellow graduate students working in feminist fields a place to publish their work. As thirdspace evolved, we decided to encourage emerging scholars - senior graduate students, post-docs, and junior academics within five years of their PhDs - to submit to thirdspace so that we could truly be a journal dedicated to publishing emerging feminist scholarship, with an aim to support and add to the necessary CVs that we must all have to survive an academic life these days. To that end, both Jenéa and I have found ourselves in a quandary that is most typical for emerging scholars but perhaps more challenging for the feminists among us - we have jumped head-first into teaching while we try to write our dissertations - and we are struggling to keep our heads above water.

Kim: As the final stages of our PhDs loom heavily over us, we are fully conscious of the fact that soon we will be thrown from the safety of graduate student procrastination, rewriting a perfectly good chapter, and supervisor-avoidance. Soon, we will have replaced the burden of dissertation writing with another worry, for when we don our caps and gowns and walk across that stage, we are also saying goodbye to (more-or-less) guaranteed employment! We have been lucky enough to have access to funding and employment throughout our graduate school careers but, like many of our peers, often found ourselves working more than one job in order to pay both the rent and tuition. There are some great opportunities for graduate students in terms of research assistantships, teaching assistantships and, now, sessional lecturer positions - our resumes will be impressive even if we are too tired to care. But as Jenéa and I struggled to get the November issue of thirdspace on-line while we tried to balance teaching, dissertations, other grad student responsibilities, other jobs, and our lives (or lack thereof), I started to think about the extra pressures we must deal with as feminist scholars facing a job market where feminist scholarship is still highly undervalued and where jobs are scarce. I know that, for me, I try to do everything - whether it’s working, teaching, committees, academic social events, conferences, or various grad students groups - some of it is necessary to earn money and some of it is because I love being an academic. But a big part of me tries to do everything because I am fearful that if I don’t, I might miss out on that one opportunity that will make my CV get noticed, that will get me noticed in a world where most people don’t understand the value of feminist scholarship and where creating feminist academic jobs are not a high priority for most institutions.

As feminist academics, Jenéa and I are both aware of the challenges that we face trying to find work and we hope that the experience of teaching while we are still graduate students will help us to find our way in the big, bad academic world. But it’s exhausting. When I tell people that I am doing a PhD in Women’s Studies I am constantly asked “What will you do with that?” My response is usually “teach” but in reality I really don’t know. Not because I don’t want to teach but because I know how few opportunities there are for a PhD in Women’s Studies. In a world where the word “feminist” on a CV or funding application can cause you to lose out, I have to worry about whether my CV is “too feminist” or if I will have to play the academic game at the expense of following my dreams.

My CV is pretty much nothing but feminist - everything I have done of value to me is related to Women’s Studies and feminism in some way - and it is something that I am very proud of. Since I began teaching in September, I have spent a lot of time worrying about how to manage my time especially with thirdspace. thirdspace is a dream come true for Jenéa and myself and as we exchange hurried emails about editing, submissions, and other journal issues, I began to realize how necessary it is to have a safe, academic space that can be feminist without worrying about a backlash. At thirdspace, we take pride in being as feminist as we can be. I encourage my students not to be afraid of the word feminist and when they openly use the word in papers and discussion it gives me hope and teaches me not to be so afraid myself.

Jenéa: In some ways, I am avoiding some of the pitfalls of the Women’s Studies PhD by being in History. I am squeezing what I can from a traditional department, and that has its compensations of access to funding, more jobs, and less questions about what can I do with this degree. Yet to “play the academic game at the expense of following my dreams” - as Kim fears - is exactly what my position is all about. Slipping the feminist framework of my projects past funding agencies and grad committees has been tough. However, I am gifted by an incredibly supportive advisor who actually wants to see me develop new feminist theories - a situation of inestimable worth, and for me, impossible to go on without.

Trying to cross boundaries between history, feminist theory, and women’s studies can be very fruitful, but also fraught with dangers, the worst being: isolation. I certainly lose big on the community that Kim and other WS grads have in WS departments - as well as the access to the courses, seminars, etc that are much more at the heart of what I want to do than anything offered in my department.

This is why I agree wholeheartedly with Kim that working on thirdspace is so important - a safe space for feminist thinking, or even less thinking than exhalation. And to me, communities like chora-l are also important - even if it’s only a CFP or a small post requesting information, there’s an immediate reminder that we do have a community, that there is a point to the slogging: our collective cacophonic chimera, feminist scholarship. For someone like me, isolated within a traditional faculty, a simple e-mail can mean a lot.

Entering into my 40th hour of coding this issue (yes it does take that long!), I am confronted by the fact that I have four, count ‘em, four other ‘vitally important’ projects on my desk, only one of which is my dissertation. Yet I understand that this is a price we pay (feminist academics, even more so) for the chance at the big prize: the academic career. Except the prizes often seem few and meagre, and the responsibilities great, on this road to… what? I have yet to determine if trying to practice as a feminist scholar within the academy is the right choice. I am working out some of my thoughts on a less-than-should-be-written-in blog - http://www.medusanet.ca/ - give me a holler if you’re in the neighbourhood.

While we still believe that, as feminist scholars, we have to work that little bit harder, have to work one more job, publish one more paper to get ahead, we are also encouraged that feminist scholarship still holds new and exciting potential for many. And, until things change, and we do not have to continually prove ourselves as worthy in academe, until feminist scholarship is valued as it should be, thirdspace will continue to publish new feminist work and to create a safe space for feminist academics - even if it takes us until January to produce the November issue!!!

With that in mind, this issue of thirdspace includes some of the best and diverse emerging feminist scholarship out there. We have a number of articles and some great essays about feminist academics in general.

In her article, “Techno-Maternity: Rethinking the Possibilities of Reproductive Technologies,” Nadia Mahjouri utilizes ‘corporeal feminism’as a tool to “uncover the maternal bodies produced when reproductive technology meets pregnant flesh.” Thinking through the pregnant body ‘at risk,’ as an ‘in/visible’ body, and as a ‘commodified body’ in medical and social discourse, Mahjouri opens up an interesting challenge to an oppositional model of reproductive technologies as liberation/oppression.

Elizabeth Johnston's paper on the poetry and criticism of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (“Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Textual Bodies and the Rhetoric of Gender in Nineteenth-Century Critical Discourse”), explores the contradictions and anxiety found in the critical discourses about her poetry. As Johnston suggests, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry became inextricably linked to her ailing body and critics were unable to focus on her work alone, ultimately using her body as a means to read her poetry. Johnston's exploration of 19th-Century critical discourse around Elizabeth Barrett Browning reveals that the critics' anxiety about her poetry manifested itself into anxiety about Barrett Browning herself and resulted in “bodily” critiques that presented the poet and her work as a paradox - "simultaneously innocuous and dangerous." Johnston explores the various critical discourses and responses to Barrett Browning and her work and reads the critics' anxiety about her body and poetry within the context of a more general anxiety about women writers in the 19th Century.

The compelling images of Iranian women in Shirin Neshat’s photographic art is the focus of Nina Cichocki’s paper, “Veils, Poems, Guns, and Martyrs: Four Themes of Muslim Women’s Experiences in Shirin Neshat’s Photographic Work.” Cichoki seeks to unravel the imagery used in Neshat’s photographs, which use themes and symbols that are unfamiliar to most Western viewers but instantly and powerfully communicative to most Muslim audiences. Cichoki argues that Neshat’s work can rightly be open to interpretations that rely heavily on Western stereotypes of the oppressed Muslim woman, yet a “closer look at her imagery will reveal that Neshat disclaims any reductionist and totalizing views on Iranian women’s experience.”

The spaces of home - both in a material and ideological sense - are constructed and deconstructed in Lan Dong’s discussion of Gish Jen’s Typical American (“Gendered Home and Space for the Diaspora: Gish Jen’s Typical American”). Gender relations are key to the interplay of the three main characters of the novel, first-generation Chinese Americans who strive to find ‘home’ between the 1930s and the 1960s. Drawing upon critical perspectives in Asian American studies and feminist geography, ‘homing’ is Dong’s term for the complex and unceasing negotiation of identities in the Chinese diaspora.

Our two essays for this issue both deal with other obstacles facing feminists and academics. Heather Tirado Gilligan's essay - “Why I Don’t Do Wine and Cheese: The Price of Admission for the Bi-Racial Subject in the Academy” - focuses on her experiences as a graduate student and her attempt to complicate the boundaries and categories of race, class, and ethnicity that threaten to define her graduate student experience. As a grad student applying for minority funding, Gilligan discusses the challenges she faces because she is forced by her peers and colleagues to ask the question “am I ethnic enough” for minority funding. Gilligan's essay raises important questions about how we define ourselves and how others would like to define us, particularly in the context of graduate school and the politics of funding.

In “Mom’s the Word: Musings on Being Childless,” Amy Leask also focuses on the ways in which, as feminists, we often find ourselves having to defend our choices. Leask's essay discusses the challenges that she faces as a woman on the brink of thirty who currently chooses to be childless. Many of us have probably been faced with the questions that Leask has been asked and, like Leask, have had the challenge of dealing with people who think that by choosing not to have children, we are somehow failing in our role as women. Leask's essay answers back to those questions and asks us to take a critical look at the discourses of motherhood in which our society continues to be so invested.

And in our resources section, Candis Steenbergen and Robyn Diner have developed an excellent primer for writing the dreaded academic essay, highly useful for your students and indeed yourself. Please see “A 12-Step Guide to Research and Writing: One Essay at a Time” as well as the included “Checklist for Essay Writing” and “Essay Outline Template” - both in .PDF format.

We are proud to again present you with another fine issue of feminist scholarship - also available for download in its entirety in a handy .PDF format document. Enjoy!