Bad Female Academic: Shameless Self-Promotion

My blog recently hit 50,000 pageviews:

And, I accumulated over 2,000 followers on Twitter:
Some of my followers on Twitter asked me how I got to these benchmarks, and I have one answer: Shameless Self-Promotion. Good Female Academics are mild and quiet and work away at their jobs, hoping to get noticed, but well aware that any attempt at blowing their own horn will be met with derision and dismissal. Bad Female Academics put themselves out there. Repeatedly and persistently.
Don’t believe me? Read the comments on this recent post on self-promotion for women in academia or this recent piece in the Times of Higher Education on self-promotion. It is unseemly and beneath academics to promote themselves in such a fashion, and even more so for a woman in academia. We might be mistaken as ambitious or loud. Or self-confident.
When I was about 12 or 13, I remember standing in the school’s bathroom with my best friend as she ran through the list of things she wanted to change about herself. Then she asked me what I wanted to change about myself, the things I didn’t like. I shrugged my shoulders and said that there wasn’t anything I wanted to change. She looked at me and spat out, “Well, that’s awfully arrogant, isn’t it?” 
This is the message we’re sent as girls and as women. To believe in ourselves is arrogant, unfounded, untrue. It takes an immense amount of confidence to put yourself out there, to promote yourself, to tweet your writing, to submit your name and your work for judgement and recognition. I believe that my work and my writing is good enough, maybe even great. And if it’s rejected, I take the critique, integrate it, and send it out again. I blog as myself because if I want the recognition and respect, it has to be as myself.

My advice for reaching these milestones is just simply to take chances, to put yourself out there. Follow those people who you admire, engage them in conversation, tweet and retweet your work and theirs. Bring it their attention. Post your work in the comments of relevant blogs or articles. Look for both traditional and non-traditional opportunities, from going to conference in your field to submitting more traditional op-eds to stuff that really out there (I’m applying to SXSW this year!).

To use an absolutely sexist and negative term, be willing to whore yourself. How is that for a loaded expression when it comes to self-promotion?

Above all, be patient and be persistent. Be relevant and be accessible. Be open and have thick skin. Don’t give up. Find a supportive network of people who will push you and encourage you and be honest with you. But above all, don’t let that voice inside of you win.

It’s my birthday today (August 14th). In the spirit of honestly, I’m 34. My world in nowhere near where I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I took a lot of chances, none of them I regret. I put myself out there and I don’t regret it at all. I want to thank all of your for helping me be the best Bad Female Academic I can be.

No, a better one. Because shameless self-promotion isn’t about just you; it’s about being better because of the people you’ve reached.  

14 thoughts on “Bad Female Academic: Shameless Self-Promotion”

  1. Thank you so much for this. You should have a look at the impact of compounding gender and social class. It's a double whammy. You've given me food for thought on my own bad ass self. Many thanks.

  2. So true. Especially for those of us young in the game. How many times have I been told implicitly to wait for those ahead of me to get their time in the light first? A few direct times too!!! Thanks for this, BFA. Happy to aspire to your badness!

  3. I have no problems with trying to get my name out there. Indeed, I do it as much as I can, and I'm involved with projects and people that actively encourage me to do so. I think that makes a difference. My mentor said this week that more people probably know about my as yet-to-be completed editorial project than about his 5-years-complete one on the same author, and he's a big name in our field. Gotta love the age of social media.

  4. Congrats and happy b-day, Leo-ness!

    Self-promotion is a great skill in any field, though women are chided for in in every field. But it still works. I just pimped my mad web design skillz to my dentist, while I was in the chair. That's one alternative to whoring, btw, "pimping" though it's not exactly better. I spent all weekend adding a third column to my site, the better to have space for advertising…and SXSW pimping, ha!

  5. I remember very similar conversations when I was younger, especially with older women. One of the most powerful things about Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is the way it explores how women police the behaviour of other women.

    Your advice is relevant to any woman who blogs. So in the spirit of the promotion you suggest, here is a link to my communications blog, The Analytice Eye:

    Good luck with your SXSW proposal.

  6. I just referenced this post in my current blog post! It's funny, because the post couldn't have come at a better time. I've literally been discussing this issue with several of my academic friends as well as several publishing professionals. We've been talking about how writers really hate to self-market and how women and academic writers are even less inclined to put themselves out there. So thank you for such a timely post!

  7. Another fantastic post, and something solid for us ladies just beginning our long journey through academia to think about. I find self-promotion really difficult and awkward. I do feel the womanly burden of being modest. Having a network of women willing to play by a different set of rules, though, enables me to envision a different model of behavior.

    Happy birthday! 🙂

  8. very useful blog,but according to my point of view Self promotions define as to promote yourself without looking self promotional. Self promotion is an art to deliberately getting yourself in front of others

  9. I'm sitting in an office full of men at least 10 years older than me. And I am intimidated. I have been at my new job (my first graduate job) for a month and it has taken me a long time to start coming out of my shell- those who know me personally would never have believed it. But self confidence can be hard to come by, especially when you feel like a silly 21 year old waaaay out of her depth! But this blog post has me smiling, in an almost smug way. "willing to whore yourself" is a sexist term because the opposite sex decided so- I'm by no means a feminist and I love this term. It reminds me a lot of the Slut Walk even that took place in Glasgow this summer; its all about empowerment. And you oooooze female empowerment; it's infectious…. so I'm going to shamelessly put myself out there. This is my Blog, it's new and very much a working process. But I love to write and I have so much to share (more than just the educational content currently there). I hope you will check it out and follow my progress 🙂 I will definitely be keeping up to date with yours! Thank you

  10. Loved your blog post! I've always been one of those 'bad female academics' who aren't afraid to put themselves out there – but mostly this has been helped by having the encouragement and support of supervisors, colleagues etc. Recently I've felt a lot less confident but reading things like this really help! And while I'm here, I'll shamelessly self-promote my blog as well (I write a lot from a personal perspective about being a woman in a very male dominated research field)

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