Cécile de Morrée receives Radboud Network Female Professor Award 2021

Date of news: 8 March 2021

On 8 March - International Women's Day - historical literary scholar Cécile de Morrée (35) received the Radboud Network Female Professors Prize 2021 in the field of the humanities. The prize is awarded every two years to excellent female scientists who obtained their PhDs no more than 5 years ago.

Cécile de Morrée conducts research on Dutch and French song culture from thececile de morree late Middle Ages and early modern times at the Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH). The Radboud Network of Women Professors (RNVH) - intended as a platform to promote the position of women in science - awards a prize once every two years during the 'Women in the Spotlight' conference to excellent female scientists who have been promoted no more than five years ago. ‘It was a bit of a shock’, says De Morrée about the moment she found out that she was awarded the Radboud Network Female Professors Award 2021. ‘I've only been working at the Radboud University for a year.’

Do you not consider yourself a legitimate winner?

‘I got my PhD 4 years ago now. And when I look at what I've been doing since then, I understand. I have shown a variety of new things, both academically and for a wider audience. I think that that diversity is very important in a researcher today. That you can maintain high scientific quality within your own field and do something with it in addition. Ideally, what you do will come back into society in such a way that it triggers something there.’

Your work is about male/female relationships, among other things?

‘I am quite pragmatic and often just think: what is still left to do? Where does important and interesting work lie? And male/female relationships remains a real issue, there is still a lot of work to be done in the field of Dutch medieval literature regarding this topic. How we think about men and women changes all the time. But especially how we think about problems and solutions in that area. Medieval literature can provide insight into who we are today.’

Like the story about Sanderijn, a main character in Lanseloet van Denemerken who was raped and about which you recently wrote an article that appeared on Neerlandistiek?

‘That's really one such article that I thought: this should actually go to a peer-reviewed journal. But then it will take a year for it to be accepted and published, two years for it to be open access, and this is actually a topic that is too urgent. Then as a researcher you have to make a difficult choice: do I keep this for my scientific resume, or do I choose what is important to me and I throw it out for free in the hope that I will get more response and maybe start a discussion.'

This attention for male/female relationships nicely links to the prize you received that puts women in the spotlight. Are such initiatives still necessary?

‘I think we can all agree that things like this should be about who is the best, regardless of gender. But those gender patterns are so deep within us, in you and me, that we can't just take that step. We are mentally incapable of that as human beings, because it is too deeply embedded in our culture. And quotas and these kinds of prizes are a necessary intermediate step to break through that, so that hopefully in the future we can award these kinds of prizes purely on the basis of merit and quality.’

With this prize you are also presented as a role model for women in science. What would you like to convey in that role?

‘I always have a hard time when those prices go to people who I know work 80 hours a week, day and night, and have done nothing else besides work. Then I think: they are now highlighted as an example and that is the bar by which we should measure ourselves? I have a child and I really think that university life is almost incompatible with family life. You are 10-0 behind if you have a child or a disability. That's why I think it's important to say out loud: I work hard, like everyone else, but I refuse to overwork. I think that is very important. We have to try to keep it healthy and do what is feasible or else you will kill the creativity. So it is very nice to see that you can apparently still get a prize like this.’