Misha Hill \ Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

Three weeks from graduation, and I’m still deep in my study of Black women who inspire me to do more and more great things. For me, this means focusing on my future that will involve some combination of work as a sociologist and educator, examining policies that affect those who look like me, and mentoring Black and Brown people to be the strongest leaders they are all capable of being. My future is becoming more clear and visible each time I hear of other Black women’s’ experiences.

This week, I share an eye-opening interview with Misha Hill, State Policy Fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, who told me about variety of her experiences, insights, and work. While Misha was pursuing her Master’s in Public Policy at George Washington University, she was an intern with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Family Income Support team. In addition, Misha also interned with the Women’s Health Division at the Kaiser Family Foundation through the Person Foundation Fiscal Policy Internship. This is what she had to say:

TC: Taking your experience in working within policy, what challenges have you overcame that got to where you are now?

MH: My biggest challenge was lack of knowledge about policy careers. When I was applying for MPP programs [Masters in Public Policy], I didn’t know the difference between working at a think tank or a private consulting firm, and in undergrad I barely knew those types of organizations existed. I did not have many people in my network who worked in public policy, and my university didn’t provide a clear pre-professional path either. Those challenges are unique to my experience, but I think they also represent structural challenges for men and women of color interested in this career field. Because public policy organizations are still predominantly white spaces (Policy Link, the Urban League, and Unidos are a few critical exceptions) most Black folks don’t have many people working in public policy in their networks.

I overcame those challenges with reading, research, and reaching out. I read about policy topics I was interested in, researched the organizations that were writing on those topics, and utilized every aspect of my personal and professional network to find and build professional connections.

TC: What advice do you have for women of color who are interested in pursuing a career in public policy? 

MH: My advice to young women of color interested in pursuing a career in policy is the same advice I’d give young woman of color starting any career in the U.S. The system was not made for you to succeed. It may be hard to get your foot in the door, and you may take a path that’s longer and more roundabout than your white or male counterparts. That’s okay and the insight you gain on the journey will likely help your white and male counterparts if they’re willing to listen. Use LinkedIn and offline networking, strategically. Even if you don’t know someone working in the field you may have a mutual connection or be affiliated with the same school or organization. Don’t be shy to ask for an introduction or reach out to a stranger. Know your worth and ask for what you need to succeed. Channel the confidence of a tall, middle-aged white man and assume that people will give you the things you ask for. And lastly, stay in touch with people who have helped you out along the way. An email updating former supervisors or people who have written you letters of recommendations once or twice a year shows those folks that you appreciate the investment you’ve made in them and keeps you on their radar for future opportunities. 

TC: You do a lot of work focused around gender, specifically women, and wrote an article looking at the “tax perspective on International women’s day” that highlights the work that has been done and still needs to be done surrounding gender inequality. Knowing that the U.S has a long way before they start incorporating a gendered lens into their budgeting practices, how do you foresee gender budgeting, something you mentioned in your article, being used in the United States helping women? Specifically, how do you see it helping women with a variety of intersecting identities: immigrant, Black, Transgender, low-income, etc.?

MH: I don’t see the US incorporating gender budgeting, especially not on the federal level. My view is pessimistic and jaded. But this country has a collective refusal to acknowledge that inequitable policies negatively impact all of us, not just the marginalized groups that are hurt most. Setting that pessimistic view aside, I do imagine a world where a gender equity lens was applied to how governments develop their budgets and financing. A first step would be to analyze the differential impact of a proposed budgets on men and women. The U.S. does currently have programs on the revenue and spending side that inadvertently target women by linking benefits to children. But these programs are of little help to women without children. And current investments in these programs are inadequate at best, and often these programs are losing public investments. Hence, my pessimism. Currently, if a government applies an equity lens to a program it’s after the program is in place. In an ideal world gender budgeting, in combination with other equity lenses—like race, income, or immigration status—to policy analysis would provide data on the likely impact of a budget before the programs funded by that budget are put in place. Which is why we need more women of color working in public policy to push for and perform these analyses!

TC: Bottom line I see here: Do your research, keep connections, and trust that you are going in the direction that you need to be. There will be speed bumps on your path, dead-end zones in your life causing you to turn around—but if you trust yourself, things will fall into place. The end of the world does not have to be as dramatic as we, as college students, sometimes make it out to be. Misha, being so honest about her challenges, reminded me that yes—she is successful but with that, she is also human. Since we all are human, mistakes will be made, and still the path can make sense.

Tasia Clemons is a senior sociology major at Framingham State University, an Administrative Resident Assistant, and a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs Intern; she tweets at @TasiaClemons. Misha Hill is a State Policy Fellow at the Institute of Taxation on Economic Policy. 

Angela Hanks / Center for American Progress

It is my senior year of college and I am adjusting to the fact that in less than a month, I have to go out into the world and decide who I want to be outside of education. Although graduate school is in the future, navigating the world as a Black woman, carrying an abundance of interests, and ultimately just wanting to make the world a better place is at the forefront of my mind. Currently, I am enrolled in a course called “From Margin to Center: Women of Color Doing Public Policy” where I get to learn about women of color in Washington D.C, read their work, and gain personal knowledge and skills through interviewing some amazing women. I had the opportunity of learning from Angela Hanks, Director of Workforce Development Policy at the Center of American Progress (CAP), a policy institute focused on bettering the lives of all Americans through research and action. Her work focuses on promoting workforce development policies that raise wages and employment opportunities of workers. In this interview, I was able to get advice for women of color, like me, who want to shine in the world of policy:

TC: Based on your passions—what do you see yourself doing through your position as the director of Workforce Development Policy at the Center for American Progress?

AH: People who do policy work should always begin and end with the people they’re trying to help in mind. I work in policy because fundamentally, I care about marginalized people – whether it’s workers, women, communities of color, or anyone at those intersections – who face structural barriers to equality or economic security and have little or diminished political power. I also keep in mind that those structural barriers didn’t just appear; they are often the direct result of conscious policy choices. Policy choices that my work can and should help unwind.

For example, I work on policies to expand apprenticeships, paid training programs that have recently become popular among politicians because they often pay high wages and typically lead to a good job. However, these programs frequently do a poor job of including women at all, and people of color tend to get paid less than their white counterparts. So when I’m working on policy solutions, I tend to focus my attention on how we got here, and what policies are need to ensure POC and women have equal representation in the best jobs.

TC: What is one thing you wish you knew before entering the world of policy?

AH: Probably what policy work actually is? I went to college in D.C. because I thought I liked politics, and immediately declared a political science major at George Washington University. I had no idea what political science was, but it sounded right at the time, so I ran with it. I didn’t even really begin to wrap my brain around what policy is until I interned with my home state senator on Capitol Hill my junior year. The internship was unpaid, so I was only able to work part-time during the school year, while waitressing (pay your interns). Still, something clicked – this was what I was supposed to do. That internship helped me decide to go to law school, and after I graduated I found myself back on the Hill in the job I’d wanted back when I was an intern.

TC: Do you have any advice for young Black women who are interested in attending graduate school, a career, or participate in future work involving social policy?

AH: Know that your voice and perspective are valuable and deserve to be heard. There will literally always be a white guy who tells you he knows better than you – don’t take his word for it. Don’t let his confidence override your qualifications, or make you second-guess your own experiences.

Seek out other Black women in your field. I’m so fortunate to have a supportive network of Black women colleagues and friends at CAP and at other organizations (including the other women you’ve interviewed!) who make navigating spaces with very few people who look like us much easier. It makes a huge difference, I promise. Finding good allies who show you that they value you and your work helps too.

TC: What does it come down to? Believing in myself. In a field surrounded by people who might not look like me, as Angela Hanks said, I have to know that my voice and perspective are valuable. In a society demanding to cut the words of women of color out, I have to understand that I deserve to be heard—just like all other women of color deserve.

Tasia Clemons is a senior sociology major at Framingham State University, an Administrative Resident Assistant, and a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs Intern; she tweets at @TasiaClemons. Angela Hanks is Director of Workforce Development Policy at the Center of American Progress (CAP). Find her on twitter at @AngelaHanks.




Janelle Jones / Economic Policy Institute

This isn’t the first time I’ve interviewed Janelle Jones about women of color. I’ve been reading her recent work on racial wealth gaps, and I interviewed her about her career recently. She is an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a think tank that focuses on including the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. Janelle Jones works for EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE), which is a nationally recognized source for expert reports and policy analyses on the economic condition of America’s people of color.

EO: A lot of your research revolves around the labor market for minority races. How do you use your platform to help people get an insight on the life of minority workers as not one dimensional?

JJ: Just as important as doing the research is how you communicate that to different audiences. Part of that message is to provide the data to support things racial and ethnic minorities have been saying for decades – there is racial discrimination in every aspect of the labor market that is no way the fault of workers. The other part of that communication strategy is to portray a larger vision of life for workers of color. In spite of structural barriers, racial and ethnic minorities are represented all across the labor market, in every occupation and industry. It is a mistake to talk about workers of color as a monolith. The obstacles to economic success for Latinas in the Southwest are different than the obstacles for black men in the Midwest. And at EPI, we try to make sure our data show the fullness of life for workers of color, and how that will take different policies to ensure economic equity.

EO: Do you witness these hardships in some of the people of color you know? How does that motivate you in your day to day work life?

JJ: A significant portion of my research is informed by the experiences I, and others close to me, have had in the labor market. There was a time when I thought researching topics of which I am personally invested would make me less objective, and thus a less effective researcher. I have come to decide that is completely false. My personal experiences have helped me in two distinct ways. First: It allows for a context and framing that is completely lost if there is only a focus on the numbers. It is nearly impossible, and I think less persuasive, to communicate economic data on racial and ethnic minorities without an accurate narrative of how we ended up in our current circumstances. Second: This is hard work, and to use “slow” as the pace of change is an exaggeration. But the potential impact on the people closest to me is a constant motivation that keeps me passionate and working towards solutions.

EO: How does your role as a black woman in policy research help to shape perspectives in think tanks such as EPI? Why does this representation matter?

JJ: If the voices of black women are not included in producing research and promoting policy solutions, then those products will not result in positive outcomes for us. So often I am the only person in the room that looks like me, and just my presence can change the direction of the conversation and make it more inclusive. There is sometimes useful discussion about women, or about racial and ethnic minorities, but it is that distinct intersection of race and sex that is often left out. The data show that this intersection, with overlapping and intertwined discrimination, is deserving of targeted research and policy.

Let me put it in a more personal way: Until I had a job in a think tank, I had no idea it is something black women do! I would like for no other little black girl to think this is a career she can’t have. 

Eunice Owusu is a Council on Contemporary Families intern as well as a senior Sociology Major at Framingham State University. Janelle Jones is an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. Follow her on twitter at @janellecj.

Jessica Fulton / Equitable Growth

Last month I got to interview Jessica Fulton via Skype to learn more about her career and her work. She is the External Relations Director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Equitable Growth is a research and analysis organization that is dedicated to finding ways to promote broad-based economic growth. Before Jessica was at EG, she was the Outreach Director at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, an organization that focuses on budget issues for the District of Columbia. Jessica is an alum of the University of Chicago, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and of DePaul University, where she earned a Masters in Economic Policy Analysis. Our conversation—and the interview below—focused on my desire to get some pointers on how more young women of color can make a difference in social policy.

EO: What are your top pieces of advice to young minority women seeking to work in social policy?

JF: If you’re able, try to get an internship in DC so that you’re able to learn more about how things work here. There are a few organizations and Members of Congress that pay their interns, and that’s obviously ideal, but many don’t. If you’re unable to find a paid internship, and can’t afford to take an unpaid one, consider alternate ways of getting into policy work. I know people who got their start by working in a paid position on a campaign of a candidate they really believed in. Others found entry level assistant positions to get their foot in the door. You can also consider getting an unpaid internship and supplementing it with a part time job, which is what I did.

Also, it’s much easier to get a job in DC if you’re actually in DC. It’s really expensive to live here, but if you can come sleep on a friend’s couch for a bit, you can set up interviews, informational conversations, and networking opportunities that could get you some meaningful connections. You should also try applying for jobs with a local address on your resume if possible.

EO: How do you advise people to zero in on areas of focus?

JF: I think one of the most important things that you can do is to start to get to know people who are working on the topics that excite you most. Ask people you know for introductions to people who might be willing to sit down with you to do informational interviews. If you don’t have connections already, think about your networks. Are there alumni from your university who might be willing to speak with you? Do your professors know people who work in social policy? Talking to those people about what they do and what their days look like can be a great way to figure out what you want to do.

You should also try to sign up for newsletters from the particular policy organizations or Members of Congress that you’re interested in. That way, you can get to know more about the topics different organizations work on and what they actually do. This could be helpful in future interviews, but also may help you to figure out which specific issue areas you have a passion for.

EO: Why are young minority women so important to the work of social policy?  

JF: A good number of social policy issues disproportionately affect people of color, yet there are usually very few of us in the room when the problems or the solutions are being discussed. And while things are slowly getting better, often women of color, especially black women, aren’t at the decision making tables even if they are part of a policy organization. I think that’s actually really important. For example, when I walk into a room, I’m bringing my education and work experience, but I’m also bringing my life experience and that of my friends and family members. The other folks in the room have important perspectives as well, but my friends, family members, and even myself, are more likely to have experienced certain obstacles and situations that are more common in minority communities. So when I’m thinking about problems and solutions, I can’t help but to look at it through that lens as well. And I think in the end, when you consider how any kind of problem solving works, the most effective solution is one where you’ve considered a diverse set of perspectives to arrive at your conclusion.

Jessica Fulton is External Relations Director for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.  You can follow her on twitter at @JessicaJFulton. Eunice Owusu is a Council on Contemporary Families intern and as a senior Sociology Major at Framingham State University.

I’m reposting this originally from 6/2/2009, because today is Peggy’s husband John Schmitt’s funeral.

That’s Peggy Schmitt: she’s my boyfriend’s mom. She died at age 68 on April 25, 2009, after a fierce yet sane battle with lung cancer. A remarkable thing happened last Sunday at her memorial service. Friends and family that spanned communities as diverse as an urban homeless (Protestant) ministry and a city Catholic parish outreach program along with teachers from Chestnut Hill independent schools, Philly public schools, and inner city academies, hipsters from the arts and culinary communities, some do-good doctors and one or two do-well lawyers, grieving friends from the very young to the much, much older, just hint at the kind of mind-boggling scope of her life.

Among the many ways in which Peggy was a force for good– for meaningful, substantial, public kinds of good, as well as the more intimate kind– was the discovery that she had been a feminist role model for women who are barely in their 30s, to those nearly in their 60s.

One after another, at our stylized Quaker meeting in Philadelphia, various women spoke at random, interspersed with men, interspersed with teenagers. The stories had thick resonance, as recollections of a life well and intensely lived often do.

The speakers, I started to notice, recalled crashing up against the heartbreak of being young, of wanting something, everything, that-not-this-but-something-else. We delicately avoided too many personal details, but the themes were about how to be kind to ourselves while doing big brave things in a world that wasn’t particularly on our side. We told our stories of Peggy’s compassion and confidence in the face of our pain, just as she had in the face of her own, right up until the until the very end.

Peggy did a lot of “empowering.” But the difference was her solidarity. This woman knew struggle; she recognized it without sentimentality, showed us how to respond without judgment of ourselve–or (and this was very important) others. She told us it was hard, but you can do it. And by telling and showing us what she did, she helped make it so.

Peggy herself had triumphed over hardship while creating a beautiful, beautiful life with four unusually wise, non-conforming, justice-loving children, and a life-long partnership with her soulful husband John. I met Peggy on Memorial Day 23 [now that’s 31!] years ago, and her solidarity from way back then was a lasting resource, and helped me through hard times that inevitably were to come. And here at her memorial were all these other people from different worlds for whom this was also true.

I don’t think that Peggy would embrace the phrase ‘feminist role model’ but I do think she would like the way so many women in her life felt her particular influence. She wouldn’t embrace the phrase because Peggy saw issues of justice as bigger than feminism, and saw people as much more than a reduction to a single or a few attributes. And that is precisely what, for me, makes Peggy one of my feminist heroes.

Thank you Peggy. Nice Work.

photo credit: Alexas_Fotos via pixabay

A recent study by Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer found that 50 percent of Americans feel that by law women should have to take their husbands’ last name. Shafer suggested in an interview that this is a fundamental cultural view: Women should prioritize family over themselves. Such cultural views are evident in other decisions that couples make. Consider the case of the “trailing spouse”—in which one partner follows the other, most commonly a wife follows a husband, almost as if it is part of what it means to be a wife or husband. Thing is, this can happen outside of marriage, too. Women—college women, like me, about to graduate—follow men in support of the man’s career and often at the expense of their own. There are many theories as to why this happens from gender roles to economic practicality to differences in job flexibility. But, I’m not here to talk about theory.

Instead, as a senior in college who is in a relationship, I would like to openly challenge the acceptance of this norm. I am committed to my career goals, such as publishing my own research and working on social policy and to my relationship. I simply relate more to a “backs together facing the world” model than one in which either of us feels the pressure to follow the other at the expense of our own aspirations. I am in good shape: my partner, a lovely guy also about to graduate from college, and I agree on this. Do we want to live with or near each other? Yes. But, we are also both ambitious and are aware that our careers may lead us to separate places at times. This is okay. Loving your work and loving your partner are not mutually exclusive.

Given my views, you can imagine how I felt when reading that half of Americans believe women should legally have to take a man’s last name in marriage. In a world where I feel empowered enough to say yes my relationship matters, and yes my career matters, too, it is disheartening to see the prominence of an opposing worldview. To be clear: I believe name changing is not just a quaint tradition, but also a kind of submission, that can perpetuate the cultural expectation that women should follow men. Following is not the only way to make a relationship work—and there is a lot of research on the new normal in egalitarian relationships and couples satisfaction that suggest that following might not be the best way. That is not to say that studies cannot point to how egalitarian ideals can fall down. But who wants to start out with abandoning egalitarian ideals, by following, or by name changing.

Where do I go from here? Wherever my work takes me.

Megan Peterson is a senior sociology major at Framingham State University and a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs and Social Media Intern.

Journalists’ fixation on objectivity resulted in an embarrassment of deceptive comparisons during the election. Reporters’ use of false equivalencies, oversimplifying one shared trait to compare issues, bears a remarkable resemblance to reporting practices that have impeded progress for women. For example, the myth that women abuse their partners at comparable rates as men is partly attributable to false equivalency reporting, distorting what people believe causes domestic violence and how they imagine solving it.


The parallels don’t stop there. Attempts to undermine mainstream news are emblematic of the ways men discredit women’s voices. Russian internet trolls spread propaganda during the election, using similar tactics as virtually organized “fathers’ rights” groups who denounce biased child custody cases—despite research showing alleged abusers are twice as likely to be awarded custody than protective parents. Pervasive faux controversies during the election distracted from policy debates, resembling the way the decades-long preoccupation with “mommy wars” delegitimized discussion of policies designed to help women meet work and family demands. The problems of both-sides reporting is akin to comparing ill-informed men’s opinions on reproductive health policy to health providers’ expert recommendations.

Amid the post-election disappointment that another glass ceiling would not be shattered, there is a silver lining in increased demands for better journalism. New research is asking why people believe lies. The commentary generated by a Teen Vogue article and the cancellation of the television show Good Girls Revolt spotlighted the importance of bringing underrepresented groups to the table. And there is hope that changing how news is reported can alter public opinion. After journalists began reporting climate change denial as misinformation, almost 10 percent more Americans acknowledged the seriousness of global warming than the previous year. Mainstream pleas for quality journalism offer an opportunity to improve reporting important to our democracy, and to women’s equality.

Joanna Rae Pepin (@CoffeeBaseball) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland. Her research examines the intersection of the transformation of families and progress towards gender equality. Her current projects investigate the mechanisms behind the way couples share money within their families, and how these in turn shape power dynamics within romantic relationships.



Today, the black woman has been sexualized and objectified in more ways than one. With the degradation of the black woman, the value and uniqueness of them has been ignored. The media offers a made-up truth about black women, and society has swallowed this stereotype. This means Hollywood has a narrow perspective of black women, and only represents a select few. In movies and TV, black women are either a struggling single mom or a successful strong business woman who can’t find love anywhere. Issa Rae, the creator of the hit HBO show Insecure, has come to not only change this narrow-minded portrayal of black women but to also show the many types of women within the black community alone. We are all different.

Insecure is a sequel of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl that follows Issa, played by Issa Rae. Issa is a 29-year-old “insecure” woman who struggles with everyone’s depiction of her. Although she tries to defy them, stereotypes seem to follow her and ignorant questions become the norm of her everyday life. Issa Rae’s content follows the different sides of women of color and how multidimensional Hollywood’s depiction SHOULD be. Insecure is just what we need in today’s Hollywood and so I looked for a TV fan who could offer some analysis. I found Janelle Jones, whose work I read as a student of inequality. Janelle Jones is an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. Her work focuses on unemployment, job quality, racial inequality, and economic development. She is an alum of Spelman College, where of which she received her BA in Math. She has an MA in Economics from Illinois State University.

Here’s my conversation with Janelle:

Q: Issa Rae believes that Hollywood’s representation of black women isn’t relatable. Do you think Issa Rae is achieving her goal to change that representation?

JJ: I think Hollywood representations of black women are incredibly narrow, and that makes them not relatable to so many. There are three common depictions that have even the slightest focus on black women: some kind of tragic tale about struggle and redemption, black women as the sassy best friend, or black women in the strict position of service. The thing I love the most about Issa Rae and Insecure is this complete human story that centers on a black woman. The HBO series is an extension of her popular web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (great title). The ability for black women to be silly and awkward is not something we get to see on mainstream television.

Q: What direction can we go in (what else needs to be done) for Hollywood moving forward?

JJ: Shows like Insecure (and Atlanta) are taking huge steps forward by showing complete stories centered on very normal aspects of black life. Another huge step would be more people of color behind the scenes, as directors, writers, producers, etc. Part of telling a genuine black experience on TV is making sure that story is in black hands throughout the process, from conception until it reaches the audience. This is particularly hard to do when only certain aspects of the production process are entirely white. The fact that four blacks, Issa Rae, Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, and Larry Wilmore, are in charge of every part of Insecure is obvious, from the dialogue to the fashion to the soundtrack to the locations.

Q: As a Spelman alumna, you’ve probably met women of color from different walks of life. Do you agree with Issa Rae about Hollywood’s representation of black women?

JJ: The first and most lasting lesson I learned at Spelman is that black women are not a monolith. At times there feels a societal need to put us in very rigid boxes: strong, maternal, angry, loud, etc. To me, Issa is saying that black women are those things but also friends and lovers, and awkward, and ambitious, and flawed. And because Issa is the creative force behind the show, and not just the main actor, it feels very real. The experiences of black women filtered through the white gaze feel very different than Insecure. It’s that authenticity that I think black women specifically recognize, respect, and enjoy it.

My second favorite thing about the show is the representation of black female friendship. I can’t think of another show (other than Girlfriends) that illustrates only black women who are true friends. When asked about this aspect of the show in an interview a few months ago, I love Issa’s response: “It’s so important to show that black women do have friends,” Rae says with a sarcastic edge. “We’re not all just fighting and punching each other and cursing each other out and ending up on the Shade Room together.”

Eunice Owusu is a sociology major at Framingham State University and a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs intern.


My desk top

Sex gets used a lot of ways–and a number of them are not about shared pleasure and connection. I have written about political sex scandals and the way generations of youth get shamed about their sexual norms. Though it may be facile, I find myself noting “the more things change, the more they remain the same” — the issues change a little bit but the use of sex as a tool of power and control, not so much.

This is sex as political football. Sometimes the games have the veneer of lightness, like a game you play after Thanksgiving dinner. Today, though, I was writing about the use of rape as tool of war.

In 1996 the International War Crimes Tribunal focused on rape  in the Bosnian war, and prosecuted people involved. Discussion of one of those prosecutions was here, and this quotation gripped me:

In a reply to his accusers, Mr. Mejakic, who along with others under indictment remains safely in Serb territory, described Ms. Cigelj as being old and unattractive; he added that he wouldn’t have leaned his bicycle against her, much less raped her.

And then I looked at this, from 20 years later, last month:

Donald Trump on Thursday adamantly denied claims he forced himself on a People Magazine journalist more than a decade ago, responding to her accusation of sexual assault by saying, “Look at her … I don’t think so.”

That’s today’s brief reflection on normalization, 1996-2016.

abortion book coverThe thought of publishing a book is very seductive. A book offers the opportunity to explain ideas in detail. For some, it signifies an academic arrival. Once you publish a book, you are officially part of the knowledge production machine, you have a compelling way to engage the conversation. My book, on abortion politics [Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America], was meant to be that.

But this story is not about the intensity of the topic, but the intensity of the book. I love my book. I am proud of it. But the process stunned me. It took four years for my book to get published (from the initial submission to its publication) and I had almost no contact with my editor during the revision or publication process. I learned that the reality of publishing a book does not always live up to the Hollywood montage that plays out in our minds. This may sound obvious…but it surprised me.

When I am asked to give advice on writing a book, I answer: You need to be practical about your book. Here are a few things to consider when you get serious about moving a book from the montage in your mind to reality.

How your institution and department feel about books? When I arrived at Florida State University, I learned that my department was fine with my publishing a book. The provost at the time, however, was not. His part-true, part-disciplinarily parochial view was that books are just dissertations that publishers agreed to put in print, again. After I was done feeling disappointed, I realized I would have to be careful about when I published a book on the same topic as my dissertation. I didn’t want to spend years on a book that ultimately hurt (rather than helped) my career.

What are the publication expectations for promotion or just keeping your job? These vary dramatically by institution, but are important to your decision-making. If you are at an R-1, then your book might only count if it is published by a “top tier” press, which will be interpreted however the powers-that-be see fit. In this situation, you want to do the background work to figure out the prevailing definition of “top tier” and determine exactly what will make that book count. For example, some institutions want the book published and reviewed before they will count the book toward promotion. If you have more publishing leeway, think of the academic publishing universe as your proverbial oyster! There are a number of exciting academic presses that don’t have university in their title (think Routledge, Sage, Polity, and Ashgate) but are publishing great stuff. Use this opportunity to find a good fit for you.

How long can you wait to get reviews? How about for your book to come out?  You can hardly believe the variability in review times for academic publishers. I waited over a year for two reviews! I made good use of the reviews, and revised the book in less than six months. Then I waited another year for the contract. Others put in this kind of time and never got that contract. For me, I actually stepped up the pace by shopping my manuscript around to other publishers and obtaining competing contracts. Be aware, getting competing contracts can be tricky business, particularly since some of the big-wig publishers do not allow you to submit your manuscript elsewhere while it is under review. I also asked a friend to contact the editor on my behalf. It was tough: The top-tier press would help me with the promotion and raise I sought. But there were otherwise very attractive features to other publishers.

Do you really want to write a book? Think hard about whether writing a book will bring you pleasure. I (half) jokingly refer to academia as the “profession of pain,” and truly believe it is critical to find pleasure in our work where we can. I really enjoyed writing my book and, despite the lingering bad taste in my mouth about the process, I am really pleased with my final product. Writing, for me, is bliss. I love to get comments and rewrite (something, by the way, that you cannot always count on an editor to do). Others have observed that I get grouchy on the days I cannot write due to other professional obligations. This isn’t true for everyone. If writing the equivalent of ten papers in a row with minimal feedback doesn’t sound appealing, you should think seriously about creating a writing plan that doesn’t look or feel like torture, or put off writing that book for now.

We are awash in books. My home and office are crowded with bookshelves packed with the fiction and nonfiction books that I’ve read and want to read. In retrospect, it is not surprising that I had a romanticized understanding of the academic publishing industry. While I am sure that I still have much to learn, I am finishing up my second sole-authored book. The process is going much better. My editor is excited about the book and, even though the deadline is looming large, so am I.

Deana A. Rohlinger is a Professor of Sociology at Florida State University.  She is the author of Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America (2015). Learn more about Deana’s work at www.DeanaRohlinger.com.