This past weekend, we gathered for an informal social at Akva Bar in Edinburgh to catch up with network members. As we talked we realised that, as PhD students, we are conditioned through deadlines, self-doubt and peer pressure to eat, sleep, and breath our research and theses. In many ways, the discussions that followed this realisation were reflective of the ways in which PGRNS came into being. It was a casual, funny discussion between people of disparate research focuses who realised over lattes, coffees, and flat whites that in exploring gender in our PhD projects, we had a lot more in common than we would have thought otherwise. By eschewing the traditional academic spaces in which we usually think about our research last Saturday, we were once again able to talk about our research in informal ways and find new connections across disciplines, time periods, and interests. And let’s be honest, doing all of this over a pint (or two) certainly helps fuel informal discussion.
We also talked about how to engage with our research in non-conventional ways. The brave and funny Kathryn Rezai, for example, recently turned her PhD research into comedy – taking on the way women are depicted in marketing and the inherent sexism therein. Watching her comedy was a cathartic experience, being able to laugh at how advertising’s portrayal of women is often one-dimensional and ludicrous. She brought along the video of her stand up to Akva for those who couldn’t make the show on 24 January at The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh (If you couldn’t make it, you can watch it here). Kat spoke about how beneficial making jokes about her research was – in the very least, it allowed for an emotional release from the stress of academic pressures.
Laughter was the theme of last Saturday afternoon, as we talked about our worst supervision meetings, writer’s block, and our frustrations with archives and data sets. It was, at least for me, reassuring to hear that I’m not alone when it comes to stress. We also laughed at the end of the evening when we reverted to our academic selves trying to come up with how the afternoon counted as work [insert relevant buzzwords here, e.g. networking]. If one thing’s for certain, this won’t be the last time 15 (or more!) gender researchers walk into a bar…