Questions I hear alot

Since my daughter’s diagnosis, I’ve been meeting with a lot of different therapy, service, and healthcare providers.  I’ve also been meeting a lot of new people just by virtue of having recently moved to a new state.  Recently I’ve noticed that I tend to get the same two questions over and over, and I have mixed feeling about them.

The first, and most common question I am asked is “Do you work outside the home?”  This is always asked with pretty much that exact wording.  It seems strange to me because in the place we moved from (a major city in California) I was never once asked this question.  In the place we live now (a medium sized midwest town) I gather it is far more common for women to be stay-at-home moms; thus the question.  I have mixed feeling about this one, since it’s based in a realistic observation (many women in this area don’t work outside the home) but it’s still inherently sexist (my husband has never been asked this question).  My usual answer is “Yes, I am a professor at (University Name).”

That answer often elicits a surprised look, followed by the next most common question I am asked, namely, “Oh, what do you teach?”  Again, this question gives me mixed feelings.  Yes, I do teach 1 class at the moment.  But I am a tenure track professor at a research university, so I see my job as much more than teaching.  The accomplishments I am most proud of are my published papers and my recently funded research grant.  The question is based on the misconception that a professor’s sole job is to teach.  I’m not quite sure how to answer this one yet.  I usually just give the name of the class I teach, but in some contexts I have attempted to inform the asker of the other aspects of my job, if I thought they might be interested.  I can’t help but wonder though if the same assumption, that a professor’s job is just to teach, is applied to older white male professors.  I happen to be a young white female professor, and I suspect that may have something to do with it.

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