Last semester, members of my grad cohort had dinner with a very cool queer theorist who was guest speaking at the university. We were thrilled to meet her and discuss her work. We were even more thrilled when advisors later told us, “Professor G loved you! She said you were so [inset gaggle of compliments].” We beamed like kindergartners awarded gold stars.
Then our advisor added, “Professor G was so impressed that you were so uncompetitive with one another.”
That last comment threw me a little, because I’ve never seen myself as non-competitive. Was I losing my edge?
I later learned that Professor G felt the students at her R1 were competitive in a destructive way. They’d ask questions not out of genuine interest in one another’s work, but in an attempt to one-up one another by tearing each other’s work down. That’s competition?
I think back to the members of my cohort. F works on art activism in queer communities of color. C’s work is on trafficking of women. B is looking into transwomen of color in the diaspora. N studies how colonial legal systems have enshrined violence against women. Professor G was right. They’re each doing vital work, and I’ve no desire to try to tear that down.
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