>K’zoo report #1: Love the dance, hate the dance

>Bullock thinks it’s really weird that we have a dance at the International Medieval Congress. (For those of you who don’t know this, it’s true, we have a dance. Really.) Frankly, I think it’s a little weird, too, but it’s also fun. I didn’t dance much this year — mainly because I didn’t really want to get all sweaty in my good clothes — but I had great fun chatting with people and doing people watching. And it’s always fun to see some of the, uh, creative styles of dancing some people have. And seeing scholars you respect and even fear do the white-man’s overbite helps to humanize them.


There’s the ever-present problem of inappropriateness and trying to figure out where the boundaries lies. Last year one of my friends was absolutely horrified by the number of very old men who wanted to dance with her. And I’ve spent more than one year trying to stay out of sight of certain senior medievalists with other than professional interest in me. There’s one in particular who has been hitting on me routinely every year we’re both there. One good thing, at least, is that if I use the phrase “my boyfriend,” he backs off. So as uneasy as he makes me, at least I know he has some boundaries he won’t cross, which makes it easy to get him to back off. He’s a good guy at heart and I think his interest in me is actually sincere, if misguided; in other words, he’s not going to turn into an ass-grabber.

But the dance makes boundaries a little blurry. I have no doubt that the medievalist above would ask me to dance if he saw me there. Certainly dancing can be a completely platonic activity, especially the way most of use who’ve grown up dancing to rock do it. There’s little touching involved in dancing to rock and pop. But the person discussed above might be asking me to dance for other than platonic reasons. So when he comes to the dance, I avoid him.

He wasn’t there this year, so that wasn’t a problem. But his case makes me wonder about others. For instance, this year a senior scholar I don’t know very well asked me to do the “Time Warp” with him (no, that’s not a euphemism — I mean the song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show). I believe he really was just inviting me to join the fun, and wasn’t doing anything untoward, but I said no for all sorts of reasons, one of which was simply because I had my purse with me and I was far away from my table where I might have been able to leave it. But another reason was comfort level. I don’t know this scholar well, having only been introduced to him that day, and so my inability to read the situation — and my knowledge that some requests are less innocent than others — made me err on the side of caution. But then I worried I shouldn’t have turned his request down, that dancing at K’zoo is a form of being collegial.

So, I told this all to Bullock and he said, “That’s exactly why there shouldn’t be a dance at a conference.” Or maybe those of us who like our professional/personal lines to stay intact shouldn’t go. But then I do enjoy dancing with my friends with whom I have clear relationships. And I think many of the graduate students really get a kick seeing their profs let their hair down. But then the creeps who horrified my friend last year certainly shouldn’t be the ones to ruin it for the rest of us, shouldn’t make us (women, that is) feel like we can’t go or have to watch how we dress or have to hide from them or whatever. But it’s not really the creeps that unnerve me so much as those not-quite-inappropriate-but-not-exactly-professional cases such as what I described above. (I should note, too, that in the case of Mr. Flirty above, not only do I think his interest was sincere, but he also never flirted with me until I was tenure-track professor.) It’s always awkward when someone likes you and you don’t return the interest, but it’s especially awkward when you have a professional relationship. And when there’s a status difference, there’s obviously still a power difference. And I doubt very much that the male grad students and assistant professors feel quite as conflicted about all of this as I do.

And the dance is not just an opportunity for leering old men to see pretty young things shake their booties (although it certainly can foster that). It really is part of what makes K’zoo a more relaxed atmosphere. It also allows for much easier mingling than a banquet would, and on some level breaks down categories of position, status, and power. Seriously, how can you be intimidated any more by someone you’ve seen act like a fool on the dance floor? It’s awesome!

But then, if I’m still wondering about whether I should have danced the Time Warp with that senior scholar, then there’s a problem. Of course, it’s a problem that’s bigger than the dance itself. It’s a problem of gender inequity and sexism that isn’t going to go away by getting rid of the dance or by me absenting myself from it. Sigh.

[Btw, future K’zoo posts — including the one about the Blogger Breakfast — will be much more cheery and positive, I swear!]

>K’zoo blogger meet-up update

>Moving this to the top and keeping it here until I leave for K’zoo so everyone sees it. Tonight (Tuesday) I’ll send an e-mail to everyone who said they hope to show up and I will include a picture of me in it. (I’m too lazy to sort out the people who know what I look like, so everyone will get one.) If you don’t have an e-mail address on your blog somewhere, drop me a gmail: drvirago2 (you know the rest).

Updated Post:

OK, by my count 18 people have said that they could make a breakfast meeting on Friday morning of the conference (May 11). That *might* be a little big for this place, but since not everyone will show up at once, and some people might duck out early, and some people might oversleep, it could still work. (Follow the link to that place; for some weird reason I don’t want to spell it out to make a text search easy.) Plus, it has the virtues of being accessible to those without cars and not so overwhelming to negotiate as the cafeteria would be. Oh, and there’s better coffee. (And for those of you who already bought breakfast tickets, you could always eat some real food there first and then join us for coffee.)

I thought maybe we could meet officially from 7:30 to 9:30, so that those who want to come early and still make the plenary could do so, and those who want to come a little later and get a little more sleep can also do so.

If you don’t already know me in real life (or haven’t figured it out), drop me an e-mail (see sidebar) and I’ll send you a picture so you’ll know which group has the bloggers in it.

To review: 7:30-9:30, Friday, May 11, at this place (the one with the picture at the top).

Comment here or send me an e-mail to let me know who definitely to expect. If it starts to get even bigger, we may have to go to a plan B.

Original Post:

Just wanted to let youse guys know I haven’t forgotten you. I’m going to tally up how many people (so far) have said they hope to be there and figure out what the best option is. I’ll replace this post with a substantive one tonight. It’s been a hectic last week of school, followed by a piratical visit and a tearful goodbye to Wiley. Sniff. He just left with the Pirate 20 minutes ago and already I miss him. His hair, on the other hand, is still here.

Anyway, more meet-up news later, probably tonight.

>More K’zoo blogger meet-up business

>UPDATE: Moving this to the top AGAIN so everyone sees it. The operative question is still where? — though some good suggestions have been made in the comments. Also, some people are rallying have rallied for a dorm breakfast, and I think I have a plan that might make that work for those folks who don’t know what any of the rest of us folks look like. BUT, some people who are protective of their anonymity might be uncomfortable in that setting. (Don’t let me speak for you — I’m just guessing here.) And again, see the new suggestion at the end of the comments (made by Deeni and seconded by Tiruncula) and let me know if that works for you. So other proposals/ideas are still welcome. Also, some of the usual suspects haven’t said anything — perhaps you’re not going this year?

OK, in the last post, the vast majority of you said you could make a Friday breakfast. (Apologies to The Swain, but it seems there’s never a good time for everyone. And since my maternal grandmother was a Swain, I feel especially bad.) Some of you have 10 am sessions to chair, speak at, and attend (silly people!), but no one seems to mind missing out on the plenary. (Side note: I usually go for a run during the plenaries, but the one time I went to one I fell asleep!)

Last year, having a longish, drop in when you want meet-up seemed to work, so we could do something from 8:00 to 9:30, giving enough time for everyone to get where they need to be by 10. Or if you crazy people are *really* morning people, we could start at 7:30.

What say you all?

Next issue on the agenda: where????? Does anyone know if the University Roadhouse opens for breakfast? And if not, is there any other breakfast place within walking distance for those on campus without cars? If that’s not the case, we may have to arrange caravans. I’ll have my car.

I briefly thought that if we started at 7:30 we could meet at the dorm breakfast, but then I thought, “How on earth would we find each other in that crowd???” I can see it now: “Excuse me, are you a blogger? No? What about you folks? No?…”

So, any ideas?

>K’zoo meet-up query – updated

>I’m a little behind on blog reading, but Medieval Woman asked me if anyone has said anything about another blogger meet-up at K’zoo. If no one is already trying to organize one, I’m happy to do it again, but only if you all put in pre-orders for my book at the book exhibition.

Tehee! Just kidding on that last bit.

Seriously, though, two questions: 1) Has anyone started organizing this yet? And 2) If not, do you want to start thinking about it now?

UPDATE: OK, there’s some stirring of interest in thinking about this now, and I’m happy to be the organizer again. First things first: Who’s going to be there and who’s interested? When would you like to meet up? Last year we did it late afternoon/early evening on Thursday, I think, and that conflicted with a least one group of people who always have a meeting then. (Oy, I should look this up. I will later.) Anyway, because of that, someone suggested that this year we think about a breakfast meeting. How do you feel about a breakfast meeting?