Thursday, 23 October 2014

I heart PhD students

A friend of mine, who is a journalist, has recently written a not-terribly-controversial article, in which she takes issue with some young female beauty vlogger’s attempt to reinvent herself as a ‘feminist’. The issue being that, if one minute you are claiming that ‘teenage girls should love their bodies and faces and should, like, go out without makeup sometimes!’, and the next you are making money by encouraging them to spend their own cash on your preferred tube of mascara, then there is perhaps something amiss there.

Anyway, she published this article, and spent the next day reeling from an unbelievably savage barrage of assault on Twitter. The tweets mostly ranged from unbelievably mean (and unjustified) comments on her personal appearance, to suggestions that she should be sued/ shot/ killed.
Attempting to make light of the situation, she tweeted a joke, saying that ‘next time she’ll publish an article called ‘Why I hate One Direction’. This resulted in her getting tweets like ‘THINK TWICE BITCH’ and ‘I FUCKING DARE YOU’.

I personally sometimes am tempted to write something slightly more racy than my usual repertoire, and publish an article containing my thoughts on feminism/ body image/ global politics/ capitalism/ whatever. The thought of saying something which might be deemed controversial, however, and then having to read stupid and horrible comments about myself all day long, is something which has previously entered my mind, and has more than once stopped my hand from hitting ‘Publish’. Now I remember why.

It made me think, also, that I really DO know how to pick my audiences, don’t I?... I have chosen to write a blog which is more likely than not to be ready by only PhD students. Who, in my experience, are basically the nicest, most logical, rational, sensible people there are. PhD students do not, by definition, read something and immediately react with ‘What utter crap. DIE, BITCH!’… No; the very nature of their training and profession means that they consider evidence carefully; they read critically, but with an open mind; they say things like ‘While one might be tempted to respond by saying ‘DIE, BITCH’, IS there really enough EVIDENCE to suggest…?’ and so on. Things are not just black and white to a PhD student, and anything we do not immediately understand or agree with does not automatically get consigned to the dustbin.

It made me appreciate the fact that I work with, and deal with, and write for, academics and PhD students. It made me remember how, when I was on the verge of PhD despair, a Graduate School Guru who was speaking at a seminar on motivation made me feel better by pointing out that there are many things in this profession to be grateful for, one of them being the company of clever, wonderful colleagues and friends.

You are all pretty wonderful. Keep at it. That would be all.

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