Dear Lady Professor,
I am totally into your fashion choices – those jaunty scarves and your mid-calf straight skirts with the suggestive yet restrained slit to the knee! Those heeled leather boots and wow, you can still pull off nude fishnets! You are a woman of a certain age who proves that maturity, intellect and the career path get sexier with time. Not only do you take your discipline off the shelf and infuse it with life blood, you show us that literature and feminism still speak to our daily lives in a conversation across the centuries.
In addition, I’d like to thank you for showing me (and anyone else who’s paying attention) that in order to be a woman in academia one doesn’t have to be a rollicking bitch. You’ve successfully avoided being pigeonholed as a sexy fraud or a frigid bluestocking. You’ve managed to make a place for yourself as a serious scholar while maintaining your humanity and genuine care for others. I can only imagine what this has cost you in time, tears and effort along the way.
I’m sorry you haven’t managed yet to escape the last trap of nice women, that is, being relegated to the role of departmental mom. I know that because no one else is willing to act like a real person, you end up pouring out way too much of yourself to needy undergraduate anxieties. I’ll bet you have to be the peacekeeper at many a faculty meeting as well. But in a world, not to mention a profession, that still struggles to take women seriously, you are way ahead of the game.
Bette Davis as a French teacher with a past: