That’s why you always get a pre-nup

There is a magical machine called an eye tracker. I don’t really know what it does (track eyes?), but I do know that it is totally racist!

Just kidding, I do vaguely know what it does (it tracks eye movements!), and machines aren’t (usually?) racist, BUT my experience with it made me think of Richard Dyer. It is worth quoting his book, White, at some length:

Lighting for whiteness

The photographic media and… movie lighting assume, privilege and construct whiteness. The apparatus was developed with white people in mind and habitual use and instruction continue in the same vein, so much so that photographing non-white people is typically construed as a problem. All technologies work within material parameters that cannot be wished away.

(Here’s the full text of his chapter “The light of the world” and a plain-text link of excerpts.) He goes on to explain how this implicit default of “white” is, in fact, a latent (and not irrelevant!) manifestation of day-to-day, banal racism.

On the one hand, duh, I know this, because I am super-pale and often photographed with a character who’s moderately to middlingly brownish, ergo upsetting the colo(u)r balance is a typical lament about our Facebook portraits.

On the other hand, I figured (naively!) that if someone wrote an entire BOOK about how we should pay attention to implicit racism in machinery, then everyone should just read the book and start Acting Right / not having racist default settings.

Though I may wish it, it ain’t so. In the words of one ESC, the eye tracker only works on people who aren’t wearing glasses, covered in eye make-up, or Asian. (The reason SOMEONE named MY HUSBAND couldn’t run himself in his own damn experiment for trouble-shooting purposes is because most or all of those qualifications hamper his eligibility for his own study.)

And this is why you always get a pre-nup.Because if your lovely husband decides to get his PhD in a particular field — let’s call it “psychology” — that involves certain experiments — let’s call them “staring at slightly rotating circles for four hours” — that require specific equipment — let’s say “an eye tracker” — and you happen to be the PERFECT eye tracking subject — pale skin, big blue eyes (blue* eyes and a pale* FACE allows for better contrast / tracking on the machine, for whatever racist-ass reasons), you know how it goes — then you can anticipate spending like 40 hours doing eye tracking experiments with the compensation of being crammed into a small, dark room with your husband while he tinkers with the experiment and adjusts the eye tracker and futzes with the monitors and prods various parts of your head for a while.

* I originally wrote “lighter,” but then I was like “lighter than what?! stop being racist.”

In the pre-nup, you should stipulate that you want to be thanked in the acknowledgements right up front, with your FULL name (first and last! and maybe middles), before the advisor’s name is even listed. You DEFINITELY don’t want to go last, like all the other wives in every dissertation / dissertation-turned-book / academic book ever (and even with a remark AGAINST conventions in the acknowledgements of Siam Mapped! See page xvi).

You should also stipulate that you are to be paid at the base rate for compensating undergraduates. Unfortunately, they may only get course credit, and your participation in the experiment may just be in a trouble-shooting capacity, in which case the kindness of your heart runneth over.

But seriously, having trackable blue eyes and a smarty pants husband is The Worst.

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3 Responses to That’s why you always get a pre-nup

  1. Judith Hazlett says:

    Loved this one, Amanda.

  2. Pingback: Really? | This dissertation is going to be fun, like dessert

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