So I promised a story.

 There was a small tempest, earlier this week, over at Dani’s blog.
Some Mommybloggers I greatly respect discovered they were included in a Master’s thesis, available online. I was, I admit, fascinated with the thesis, their response to it, and how that response evolved online.

But in my comment to the original post, I alluded to how it all reminded me of a story.
I could relate to the pressures of trying to tie together a paper that really wanted to go in a billion directions at once.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I studied linguistics. This does not involve, contrary to popular belief, and fortunately for me, actually learning a whole whack of languages. Instead, it concentrates on theories about language and languages. I love that stuff.

Anyway, for one of my courses  (I think I was following up on some theories posited in earlier research) I decided to look at gender differences in language – by studying graffiti. Chosing this topic involved some serious short cuts to make it manageable – I’d look only at one set of bathrooms (men’s and women’s) on campus, documenting and reviewing what I found. 

On the walls in there,  I  found a striking difference – men made assertions, women sought community or affirmation. But in the process of trying to winnow down my thesis into something manageable, I really missed any possibility of producing anything generalizable.

Plus, I must say I had a hell of a good time seeing the reaction on faces of students hanging around, observing both my boyfriend and I heading into our respectively gender-designated cans, then coming out some time later, each trying to shake the kinks out of his or her hand. And commiserating with each other about “how exhausting that was” – while being visibly excited to compare notes… Yeah, that must have looked good.

I had enlisted his help to record the comments in the boy’s room, and it took quite a bit of doing to jot down all that he saw. Our hands were worn out from transcribing, folks, transcribing!

Need I mention this was before the day of cell phone cameras? Nowadays it would be a breeze to just nonchalantly photograph the walls of the stall for posterity.

My point being:  I wonder whether the authors of some of those discussions (and I did record some surprisingly personal, lengthy discussions) ever thought their work would be the subject of “academic” review?

Maybe this new media, creating more public space, also creates such a sense of community that it becomes really easy to forget who else can wander by and use your words, draw conclusions about your life, and cast aspersions on your ideals. Made me want to write a couple of theses myself – despite my propensity to dissolve into a puddle of procrastination at the sight of my work being reviewed.  

But hey, bring on the aspersions! That’s what I’m signing up for.

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2 responses to “So I promised a story.

  1. I find this evaluation of bathroom comments to be extremely interesting from a feminine dialogic perspective. What did you end up doing with the research?

    • I churned out a last minute paper for the class, and then focussed back on pursuing bliss with boyfriend. It was a pretty frivolous period.

      But I do remember that sense of inching toward an epiphany, in the late, late hours before the paper was due, realizing that there was a theme there I could really sink my teeth in. Some time.
      Ah, youth!

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