Academia in my home country is unbelievably hierarchical. Don’t you dare approach your professor with ‘Doctor Soandso’ if he really should be called ‘Professor Soandso’, don’t you dare to forget one of her or his titles in the submissive e-mails you nervously write to your superiors. And if do happen to have a tiny modest little request, you better present it on your knees. Literally. Being successful in academia is nearly impossible, you need to know the right people, otherwise you’re screwed.
Wanting to escape this incredibly hostile education system I came to the UK in the hope for more egalitarian structures, more ‘equal opportunities’ – isn’t that the buzzword over here? For some time I was amazed by the fact that I could call my professors and lecturers by their first names (I still feel uncomfortable doing it though) and I felt, if not completely equal, at least taken seriously. This wonderful feeling was short-lived and soon I started to get a more nuanced picture, witnessed hierarchy in a more covert form and saw others struggling without support. And I grew uncomfortable.
Our feminist reading group provided a space to deal with this feeling of unease. We shared our experiences and tried to develop alternatives. I want to believe, like Maddie (and I guess all the others), that what we do does matter and that we can make a difference, even if it’s a small one. So through this symposium we intend to share survival strategies, feminist guerrilla techniques on how to take over academia, and lots of tea and cake.