On ‘Poor Husbands’ and Two-Body Problems

August 12, 2014

In the fall of 2008, I had a campus interview for a tenure-track position in the religious-studies department of a flagship state university. At lunch with faculty members, the chair, and the dean, I made harmless small talk. Harmless, that is, until, during a lull in the conversation, and female instructor asked: If you take the job, what would your poor husband do? Everyone at the table turned to look at me. Lunch came to a screeching halt. “My poor husband,” I responded, “will just have to figure it out.”Some folks chuckled; others looked away. The chair apologized profusely after lunch for such an inappropriate (and illegal) question. He informed me that the offending instructor did not represent the department, and he assured me that my marital status had no impact on my candidacy.

I didn’t get the job. During the rejection phone call, the chair told me that I had impressed the department; they just wanted to go in a different direction. I couldn’t help but wonder if the mention of my husband had affected the search committee’s direction. Did the careless mention of my marriage plant doubts about whether I would take a position if offered? Continue reading on Vitae.

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