Privileges

By Karl Schaffer
On Sunday at Djerassi we did an open rehearsal of our show Daughhters of Hypatia about the struggles of women in mathematics, but I find unsettling contradictions. I ended this year at the college at which I teach taking part in a day-long workshop on privilege; the discussions were intense and emotional, we heard many dismaying stories of racist, sexist, and homophobic incidents, some intense, others slight but still upsetting. The same week I learned that our math department had lost a third recently hired tenure track woman faculty member; all three were through resignations. This last time it was a young faculty member who resigned expressing extreme distress at her treatment, telling me she had actually decided to give up teaching. Our performance seemed to be enjoyed by fellow residents who came to watch, and it is a great privilege to be here and to be able to work amidst so many thoughful, talented, accomplished artists and scientists, but the contradictions in being able, fortunate, priviliged to create this particular work, while being surrounded in the workplace by behavior so antithetical to the purpose of that work seem overwhelming to me. The working environment at Djerassi is a big change. Typically I am embroiled in the challenges of teaching full-time, running shows, traveling to teach or perform, staying in shape, and rehearsals are often stressful in that we have a short window of time with dancers for creating, refining or rehearsing work. Here I find myself going slowly, languidly, skipping steps, coming back to them. Again, a privilege that all artists or scientists or anyone with a dream should have from time to time. The conversations are illuminating, insightful, exhilirating, delightful, friendly, challenging, and full of shared experiences of living between disciplines. More connected for me than the residency in 1999 that Erik Stern and I did here, in which we shared the space with other artists, but really worked on our own on a project as did the other residents. Reminiscent of time spent at the Bridges Math and Art conference, surrounded by others existing in the worlds between.