Billy’s got a PhD and Sara she’s a teacher

Okay, I’m really going to get started on the work I need to do. Right after this. And I’m not procrastinating because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to get through the work. I’m not. Honestly.

But first, the Academic Eyeliner post.

This started with a short story that I read about academic punks* in which eyeliner was not mentioned. But it did make me start to wonder about what, exactly, punk looks like in academia. Or if it's possible at all.

And then I got on the bus to TUWSNBN, and getting off the bus was a student wearing a distinctive “I’m a caring person who shows solidarity with the global oppressed” scarf and blue eye shadow. And that’s fine, to each his own, but really he should have been wearing eyeliner, too, because without it the shadow just looked funny.

Of course I had to share this observation with Priya, because we both know the student. This led (with the sort of pained inevitability that often accompanies our conversations) to a discussion of the types of academics who could wear eyeliner, and what they would be like. And so, a hypothetical** typology of Academic Boys in Eyeliner.***

Academic A wears eyeliner and look pretty damn hot in it, because it’s totally at odds with his worn-out jeans and anarchist t-shirt. Unfortunately, as soon as he opens his mouth the illusion is blown to hell, because the eyeliner is Making A Statement about the nature of the patriarchy and the oppression of assumed gender roles. Coming from a middle class educated white guy, this is less than compelling.

Academic B is otherwise straight-laced and clean cut. Despite the fact that this is all an act, and he can drink everyone under the table and has a truly foul sense of humor, in eyeliner he still looks like an extra in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This is unfortunate, but does demonstrate that attractive boys cannot always pull off the gender-bending look.

Academic C**** also looks like a drag queen in eyeliner. Luckily, she wouldn’t be caught dead in it, because even Academic B looks more girly in a dress. When Academic C starts talking about the oppression of the patriarchy, at least no one has the urge to punch her in the head.

Academic D wears eyeliner with a suit, and none of his students are brave enough to say anything about it. As long as he’s in character as a professor, it works surprisingly well. But an attempt to wear eyeliner with shorts and a t-shirt backfires miserably and leads to stifled giggling and thoughts unbecoming graduate students. Perhaps it’s the beard. Or it could be the tube socks.

Academic E really, really shouldn’t be able to look good in eyeliner. It’s wrong on several levels, including the universal rule that punk attitude and khaki pants are mutually exclusive. But his sheer enthusiasm for the idea wins out and he manages to make it look natural. Terrifying, but natural. Much like a hurricane.

Academic F wearing any sort of makeup falls into the category of Mr. Spock eating an ice cream cone. It’s an image that cannot be contemplated, and it makes your brain hurt to try.

Academic G manages to make his eyeliner look like some bizarre baseball accessory. It’s possible that he (once again) doesn’t understand the goal of the exercise. Of course, it’s also possible that he’s running everything around him as a complicated human-subject experiment and sits in his office at night laughing at the rest of us.

Academic H wears eyeliner as if it is part of some local custom. His eyeliner is confiscated at some out-of-the-way airport in an unpronounceable city, and he willingly renounces it as a possession that ties him too closely to the material world.

Academic I is too busy being an academic to wear eyeliner. Academic I probably wouldn’t know that eyeliner exists, if it weren’t for the pesky undergraduates who insist on interrupting her fieldwork and an outspoken mother-in-law. If forced to wear it, she would feel the overwhelming need to stab the nearest bystander with a pencil and immediately return to editing.

Academic J joins Academic B on the drag queen end of the spectrum. Only he looks kind of fascinatingly *wrong* in it. It’s like a car crash—you want to look away, but can’t stop staring, because anything that awful has to have killed someone.

Academic K wears eyeliner on a regular basis. People get used to it. If they don’t, he didn’t want to talk to them anyway. The system's rigged to keep the little guy down, man.

Academic L not only wears eyeliner, but wears *silver* eyeliner with sparkly eye shadow. As a fashion choice it’s indefensible, because no one over the age of thirty should wear glitter. Public opinion is divided between “he’s crazy” and “he’s crazy and dangerous.”

Academic M wears eyeliner and lipstick and flattering clothes. She has a good haircut. No one will drink with her at conferences, because there’s obviously something screwy going on. The ability to match pants and shoes might be catching.

Academic N wears eyeliner because he finds it entertaining to fuck with people’s worldviews. His students also wear eyeliner and follow him around campus. Other academics call him overrated and secretly visit Sephora on the weekends, where they avoid looking at each other in the interests of plausible deniability. Eventually, Academic N publishes a book that becomes standard reading in his field and stops caring about how he looks. Eyeliner sales drop off.

Academic O has been wearing eyeliner for years. He was punk before punk was cool. All these other academics in eyeliner are just poseurs.

* Don't bother to go looking for it. It isn't really about academia, or academics. It's about television.

** Hypothetical, because it allows me to avoid future subjunctive and inflict more present tense on our Loyal Reader.

*** Please note that we’re talking about ideal types. Any resemblance to actual persons is purely accidental. Give us some credit—we don’t want to completely destroy our careers before we even start them.

If you *must* attempt to guess who they are (you’re a bad Weberian, but hey, whatever floats your theoretical boat) do it by email instead of in the comments, okay? We promise to laugh at the guesses, but we don’t want names showing up here for Google to find.

**** What? They're not all boys? Well, a gold star in observation for you, then. Of course they aren't all boys. None of them are. They're hypothetical.

There are, of course, other possibilities, and we welcome comments offering them. In fact, we’re practically giddy with the anticipation of other possibilities.

Well, maybe not Priya. I don’t think she does giddy.


At 8/28/2006 10:18 PM, Blogger Priya said...

My new favourite man could (and does) send me totally giddy--and he'd look awesome in eyeliner :-)

The DCI in Life on Mars, btw, in case yous are thinking there actually is a real person.

At 8/29/2006 8:22 AM, Anonymous serena said...

so that mean s would not look good in eyeliner?

At 8/29/2006 11:07 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ah, but can the DCI give good conferencing? Because you'll note that I left CKR and PG off the list, even though they both look good in eyeliner. Then again, they wouldn't be hypothetical, as they've both worn it. So they fail twice.

But they're pretty nonetheless.

And I have no idea if S would look good in it. He doesn't seem eager to give it a try. And he's not an academic (which was the main requirement to make the list) so I can't exactly ask him to take a punch in the name of science.


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