Well, now, I was brought up to display only English modesty and self-effacement and never, ever to blow my own trumpet, but I was speechless to read this about myself on a blog by one of my colleagues at Essex University. I am a bit shy about sharing it, but I thought I would offer someone else’s take on my academic quilting:
Ann Rippin: Academic & Artist – Kat
To choose one women out of the hundreds I’ve met who inspire me seems a rather unfair task. There was my primary 1 teacher, Miss O’Donnell, who I remember thinking was rather brave having a couple of grey hairs and being a ‘Miss’ in a sea of ‘Mrs’ at my first school (I guess you still pick up on a tyranny of matrimony even at aged 5, right?!) Or, my swimming teacher, Marion, who would stride confidentially along the pool beside these flaying waifs trying to mimic the front crawl, and then later on, let us swim away from her after we have tuned in to the water– she always seemed to own the water , even though she wasn’t in it, showing how some women can make you feel safe even though they’re not directly next to you. Or the women in my family – my mum, sister, aunties and also my grans, the latter who I’ve only really known through family stories but sound as wonderfully formidable as I would wish my genes to come from.
But for now I’m going to focus on Ann, a fellow academic from Bristolwho I’ve had the blessing of knowing for about 10 years now who has transformed the way I think about research through her wonderful quilts (examples of this can be seen on her blog – https://annjrippin.wordpress.com/ ). Somewhat surprisingly I don’t actually know much about the life choices Ann has made, or it they were choices or chances, so am of course in danger of pinning aspirations and ideas onto her that are actually a reflection of my own lack or wanting. But for me, Ann optimises what it means to be a feminist, even though we’ve never really discussed this in depth. She is a fantastic scholar: thorough, an oracle of knowledge, inspirational teacher and a nourisher of other peoples potential. But whilst others (myself included here) have somewhat bowed to the patriarchy of academia – producing articles for certain journals, performing or making rather cynical strategic choices about how we perform being a scholar as a cerebral disembodied being – Ann has managed to forge a way that creates a feminine space that cannot be held to account or measure by masculine norms inherent in our sector. Ann could have chosen to play the boys game, but instead she has undertaken a Project that refuses to bend and lean to certain tides of fashion and tell the story of her research in the most beautiful artefacts.
In some ways, there is an expectation that female role models should carry elements of sacrifice or compromise, and it is very easy to tell stories like this which always carry a shadow of the masculine expectation – you could frame Ann as making a compromise in her career whilst men who are younger and arguably less talented become professors. But this is not what I see. I see an inspirational person who has managed to create a career based on principles of womeness. Unlike other female beacons that appear in the media, she hasn’t died in some horrific way which both crystalizes her eternal youth and sets her up to be a tragic, unobtainable creature by which we are somehow all measured, a la Diana or Marilyn. In fact, I hope she lives her life her life out in a lovely retirement home in the West of England. But the quilts she makes embody something that can’t be reduced or captured by male-dominated dialogue – they are female.
It really does make it all worthwhile. The blog, which is lovely, inspirational and well-worthing looking at is the Goldhawk Project (http://thegoldhawkproject.com/blog/2012/03/08/changing-the-world-week-8-international-womens-day/).