Sunday, June 17, 2007

More long-winded responses, continued.

Re: the Ben Barres comment, I’m wondering how respect and opportunity are measures, if people crediting you for revolutionizing a field and getting tenure at Stanford are on the low end of the spectrum.

I think the point is, she wasn't happy until she became a man. How's that for a measure? I think it's safe to assume most of us don't want to get a sex change, but I find it especially interesting that someone who has switched sides, as it were, finds it easier on the other side, confirming all our suspicions that the grass doesn't suddenly get greener over here when you're looking back at it!

Dear Physics Anonymous,

I'm pleased to say that other fields are bigger, and that does help in some ways (and hurt in others). On the one hand, your chances of getting the same people to review both your job and grant applications are nowhere near 100%, unlike in your field. On the other hand, it's easier for people to curry favors and assume that if they're the only ones cheating in a giant crowd, they'll never be caught trading politics rather than evaluating ideas on their merit.

Where the hell do you get the 1:20 pyramid? It's more like 1:300.

Dear Anonymous of the many publications,

You sound a little bit bitter about all that slaving away. Was it worth it?

I think my personal achievements are very respectable, but almost beside the point.

I've checked, and of the people I know who got jobs in the last year or two (male AND female) in my field, my publications are equivalent despite the fact that I've had a LOT more independence getting there and a LOT more obstacles put in my way.

Does any of that count for anything? Apparently not.

In my field it's pretty clear who are the candidates, male and female, but choosing among us based on scientific ability is difficult, so they use politics and good old-fashioned sexism.

Some fields are worse than others, politically speaking, but I've spoken to faculty in other fields who are familiar with mine and they agree, mine is among the worst in terms of being inbred, snipey, and hierarchical (with only men at the top).

Bad choice on my part? Shouldn't I want to work on what interests me scientifically and not have to worry about factoring in the assholes who work on it?

You do sound like a chauvinist, by the way, because you're missing a key point about publications even while you're bragging about yours: they're not completely objective measures.

If you read the archives of this blog, you'll see many posts detailing all the ways in which men climb over women in publishing, not because they work harder or more hours than the women do (despite your perceptions that you're the only one who's working hard!) but because their PIs give them more opportunities, more credit for the work they do, and because even just having a female first name on your paper will make it harder for you to get your paper accepted.

Studies have been done, with statistics and everything. You seem to publish a lot, but maybe you should read more before you go around complaining there isn't a problem with sexism in science. See the links on previous posts. I put them there for people like you, who should know better.


Oh, and thanks Rosie, Propter Doc, and person who pointed out that some labs are collaborative. A breath a fresh air is always a good thing.

Labels: , , ,


At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EVERYONE who switches sides finds it easier on the other side. That is why they switch. I only know one transgendered person on a personal level, a male to female (by far more common than the other way). This is not a process for the faint hearted. It is expensive, it is physically painful, and it takes many years, and one undergoes a very invasive psychological examination. One does this NOT because they think it's "easier on the other side" but because their gender-identity and their anatomy don't match, and that makes their life a living hell.

Think about this for one minute.

A person goes through life until adulthood feeling like they are in the wrong body, that at the core of their being they are not right. Then they go through all the crap one has to go through to change it. Don't you think that, maybe, when they come through all of this, they are just happier, on a fundamental level, because, no matter what else is wrong in their lives, this very important thing is finally right.

It degrades and trivializes the experience of transgendered people to equate the pain of their early life with the difficulties that we white, educated, privileged women face just because we're not men.

Here's another thing. Time flows in one direction. A post-op transgendered person is older, more established, better known than they were as a pre-op. Older, more established and better-known scientists have more opportunities and respect than younger, less established, lesser known scientists. Several things have changed. How does one determine the dominant variable here?

Jeez, you'd think a bunch of scientists would be a tad more rigorous.

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the physics guy - I don't think I ever claimed there is no sexism. There is sexism, racism and other -isms. But some people use the -isms to justify just about anything that happens to their careers.

In examples I demonstrated, it was NOT the sexism, there were plenty of other, much bigger problems. For you to claim that in the examples I provided the discrepancy in scientific output is not due to hard work or talent, but instead is ALSO a result of sexism just goes to show once again that you can justify just about anything by crying "-ism". I was treated like crap by a lot of people - and still do - but it seriously never occurred to me to think it has anything to do with my race, nationality, sexual orientation, whatever - maybe I should adopt the victim attitude?

No, I know my place - I know plenty of people who are more productive and hard working and successful than me, and I strive to be like them instead of whining about how they get special treatment. Others are lazy, not as talented or not as motivated/successful, and those are usually who claim they are victimized by the system.

There are plenty of biases in hiring, but there is also a shift to introduce some corrections by heavily recruiting females and minorities in a very specific way.

Your own bias, however, seems to be pretty strong in the opposite direction - whenever a man is successful, it must be due to sexism, not hard work. Whenever a woman fails, it must be due to sexism, not lack of hard work.

In pyramid scheme, 99 out of 100, or 19 out of 20, whatever, will fail at getting academic jobs. Some will be women, some men. The difference is that rejected men have no choice but shrug it off and move on, while you seem to claim that any rejection for a female MUST BE due to sexism.

There are plenty of lazy women, as well as plenty of lazy men. To imply that I must be a chauvinist for even mentioning that personal example just underscores how biased you are - to the point of obsession.

You could adopt a much more reasonable worldview, where NOT EVERY male scientist is a chauvinistic moron, and NOT EVERY female scientist is a hard working victim of such chauvinistic men.

Not everyone is a victim of -isms, some (most) are victims of pyramid scheme.

A vast majority of newly hired candidates are actually hard-working, talented, successful scientists who deserve it.

If you or me lose out on the grant application, or job application, or manuscript submission - perhaps, just PERHAPS it is only because there is someone who is more hard working, more talented and more successful? To imply that everything and anything is due to -isms implies an ego-centric assumption that you or me are the best thing since sliced bread - and we are better than anyone else.

At 12:57 AM, Anonymous JaneB said...


First, your blog is always interesting to read, and though it's sad that this is probably the best outlet for complaining about problems, I do wish these had existed ten years ago when I was a struggling post-doc - it's SO helpful to know that you're not alone.

Second, luck IS important. Persistance helps but at the end of the day academia is not a pure meritocracy however much we wish it was. And luck is not evenly distributed - as you point out there are good studies showing that gender (among other factors) affects your 'luck'.

Third, doing the science you like best will likely enable you to be the best scientist you can be. But that doesn't always help when you look at contemporaries in slightly different fields with megabucks grants and far far lower ratios of job-seekers to jobs. In the UK at least in some science fields (especially the more mathematical or industry-close) there are FAR fewer good candidates than in fields with less obvious, immediate application and larger graduating classes. It's the nature of the market, sadly.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Hey Ms.PhD, it's a pleasure reading your blog as always. You're already doing a wonderful job pointing out the blinders worn by your commenters (how did you attract so many flamers? I will never know), so I don't have anything to add. But I thought it important to say that, well, you're right on track. And just because some people don't want to look at the problem isn't going to make it go away.

My advisor was horribly sexist, and practically wet himself whenever a male grad student showed any interest in working with him. I worked my ass off for six years, only to be treated poorly again and again, ignored for weeks, and talked about behind my back for my social justice work and union organizing. And my advisor has absolutely no awareness of his blatant sexism, even though every female student he's ever had has had a disappointing grad experience and has been forced to be completely independent scholars far too early in their careers.

It seems as though any one of your commenters could be my advisor. I hope at some point they understand the nature of subconscious bias, and that it is not useful to claim that sexism doesn't exist when chances are good they have no way of knowing they are sexist. As my grandmother would say, they need a good kick in the pants.

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not quite on topic, but here's an article from ABC Australia about some interesting research on transgender stuff: Transsexuals and the phantom penis

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Kate, your grandmother sounds like my grandmother!

I don't know why I attract so many flamers. They like seeing their comments posted? They like arguing with me? I've thought a lot about whether and when it's worth it to continue discussions vs. just post it but not comment vs. delete the message.

Oh and I'm not trying to trivialize people who switch genders, I think it's incredibly brave and I wish them the best of luck. In fact I'm a little annoyed that you, Anonymous, assumed I didn't understand or respect the process just based on my one mention of this one person.

Perhaps I was being a bit too flippant about saying it's easier on the other side, but I know some geneticists who would consider that the only real test of a model: does the SAME PERSON have DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES based on that one essential variable? Although I agree that you could argue that, if they're happier and older, it would also influence how other people perceive a transgender individual after the operation. Good point.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home