What harm can it do? The emotional cost of asking for something in academia

Kylie Smith is Assistant Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University in Atlanta.

She is a historian, not a nurse, and loves working with nurses as colleagues and students.

Kylie teaches history, ethics and social justice to nurses, and undertakes research on the history of psychiatry. She tweets from @drkyliesmith. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-9249-0355


 

Photo by Keagan Henman | unsplash.com

In academia, people tell you all the time to just go ahead and ask for what you need. ‘What harm can it do?’, they ask. Or, being a woman, they say, “Think what a man would do and do that”, as though it’s literally that easy.

Of course, it should be that easy, but we all know that it’s not.

It’s well understood that women are socialised to undervalue our authority, to put other people’s needs ahead of our own, to think we are not worth what we are actually worth, to not want to be a bother, a burden, or to annoy people by asking. And we all know we should just be our feminist hero selves and get over it, as studies repeatedly show how embedded sexism is in the academy. Sometimes, though, there’s more going on than just gender socialisation.

A recent experience of mine demonstrated how many layers there are to a simple ‘ask for what you need’ instance, and how much more there is to overcome than what society has already told you. For me, I realised how much my own emotional baggage shaped my fears, and how very realistic fears generated by the deliberate precarity of the academic workplace make it genuinely hard to ask for what we need. Read more of this post