Wednesday, September 13, 2006

long response to last couple of comments

Dear Holly, you story makes me want to cry. First I thought, where is this guy and how do I find the one on my campus? And then, oh god, prostate cancer, how sad that anyone still dies from that. It's usually slow-growing, so he's either a bit older or very unlucky if his prognosis isn't looking good-? Did it metastasize? Did they catch it too late? Didn't he have surgery?

Dear Anonymous, yes in general I am much more bitter and venomous on the blog than I am in Real Life (I like to picture myself with a forked tongue when you say that... ). Isn't that what blogging is for? ;-P

I do try to be diplomatic first and foremost. I do try to fight for justice while assuming that people are usually being mean because they're not enlightened, and not because they want to go out of their way to screw other people over. Most of them.

I'm starting to realize that MsPhD being diplomatic is still considered very outspoken for many in science. So in some ways, having this blog lets me vent MsPhD into the blogosphere, which can tolerate all the hot air, and hopefully behave myself a little better in the Real World.

But I also do think, after much observation and contemplation, that the acceptable bar is set differently for men vs. women in terms of how much shooting off at the mouth is allowable.

I think it's funny that people think I have a chip on my shoulder about being female, because I wasn't aware of how much I was the victim of sexist crap until pretty recently.

I always wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, my thesis advisor treated me like one of his daughters, and not always in a good way. But he did have daughters, and I look young for my age, so it didn't cross my mind until later that perhaps I would have been treated as more of a colleague if I had been a guy (an older-looking guy). When I started to think about that, it really changed my perspective.

(It never occurred to me, until I went to grad school, just how much your appearance affects how people treat you.)

There was one collaborator who was a real jerk, but he was the only one. I told my advisor why I didn't want to work with him, and he ended up working with someone else. But he was the only one, and although my advisor didn't really understand, he realized I was really upset and didn't make a big deal out of it. And I thought maybe it was partly cultural in that case. And I was much less, shall we say, diplomatic in those days, so if anything I probably exacerbated the situation.

Faced with the same situation again, I would try to handle it very differently. I don't know if it would make any difference, though. I hope I've learned enough that I would find a way to enlighten the guy while being charming.

Ha. So there!

And then I worked with a couple of people who were, shall we say, the textbook version of how to get sued for sexual harrassment.

That was when I really clued in that these are not things guys typically have working against them.

So in the past few years, I've really opened my eyes to all the stuff that nobody wants to admit is part and parcel of scientific life, even in the 21st century.

Since I just learned it myself, I don't expect that everyone knows this. Most people don't want to know. Men can, until the women in their lives are experiencing it directly, enjoy the luxury of ignorance. It's like the father character in North Country. He doesn't care and doesn't care and doesn't care... until he sees how they're treating his daughter.

And I'd like to think that most younger men are not perpetuating it, that it's mostly a relic of the Old Guard. But I don't want to be a postdoc until they all die off. That could take a very long time. Thanks, modern medicine! Lengthen the survival of the assholes and let the nice guys die of prostate cancer. Great plan you got there.

And in the meantime, I'm competing- much as I wish I didn't have to think about it- with my male peers, who have had none of the disadvantages that I have, and some advantages that are out of reach for me, purely because of my gender. I think I'd rather lose a job to a female peer... except that I barely know any who aren't getting their jobs primarily because the University wanted the husband.

My male peers can go golfing with their male advisor alone, and nobody insinuates that they're sleeping together.
(I don't golf anyway, but you get my point.)

My male advisors look at their male postdocs and see: a version of themselves as they were at that age.

They look at me and see: ... boobs.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I am trying to persist. I try to view myself as... a weed. They can mow me down as much as they want, but I'm going to keep sticking up leaves. Maybe nobody thinks I'm pretty or that I belong here, but I may win the fight just by being strong enough to outlive everyone else in a harsh environment.

Yes, I am the dandelion that survives the nuclear war. It will just be me, and the cockroaches, and the twinkies.



At 4:04 AM, Blogger dlamming said...

!! According to the cdc, 3.3% of men over the age of 45 die of prostate cancer. Heck, it beats out random injuries, colon cancer and liver disease as a cause of death.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger ceresina said...

Hee. My husband often comments on how people complain about weeds & "pest" animals like squirrels & pigeons for doing exactly what they'd praise themselves for doing: sticking around & thriving no matter what the odds.
Go, Dandelion! :-)
(P.S. I'm glad yesterday wasn't quite as bad.)

At 8:31 AM, Blogger MissPrism said...

Those last two paragraphs are great. I salute your tap-rooted tenacity!

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious ... what is your Publication Record like? Have you published in Big Journals? Are you working in a Hot Field? Worked for Famous People?

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous ADude said...

How badly do you want to go into academia? Is science something you enjoy, or is it an all consuming passion (or close to it)? Is getting an academic position the only thing that will validate you?

I'm just asking because I have followed your blog off and on, and I'd think you would be happier in industry.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger avocadoinparadise said...

Good post. I especially like the part about "It never occurred to me, until I went to grad school, just how much your appearance affects how people treat you." That's exactly how I felt.

I think people suck in general. Way too quick to judge.


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