Thursday, March 14, 2013

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I wanted to write a post, because somehow the mood struck me that it was about time.

I was going to write something about how my current boss is one of those closet sexists who probably doesn't even think of himself as sexist and would be offended to have to face that fact about himself. I'm not sure how to gently guide him to understand where his biases are hiding.

And how his boss seems to be terrified of me. Apparently because I'm female. He is friendly, but he never speaks to me directly. I don't think this is because he disrespects me. I think it is because he is shy, and women are especially scary. Also, I couldn't help noticing that he didn't wear his wedding ring when he first started working with us, but now he does. Regardless, this barrier means my colleagues have an easier time bonding with him than I do. I sense his discomfort and it makes me uncomfortable. So I stay away.

And I miss my former boss, who wasn't perfect but at least didn't refer to female peers and colleagues as "that woman" or "the wife of..."

And I miss doing research, and how what I'm doing is not really science at all, but it's a complicated thing to explain what science actually is. But I think some of my non-scientist friends have a better grasp of what science should be than a lot of scientists do.

And that makes me think more than ever, that I should get out of science as a career. I don't see how I'm ever going to get to any kind of leadership position from the traditional routes. I think I'm going to have to write if I want to say anything about how science needs to change, and whether anyone listens or not, at least I can say I tried.

Because in science, critical thinking skills can mean all the difference between success and paranoia. It's the difference between wasting time trying to reproduce results found in a shoddy publication, and doubting why science ever works or understanding how it ever could.

And that's not much different from believing the traditional career paths still exist (in minute quantities) or will lead to any kind of satisfying life (of a debatable kind).

I was thinking about this because I saw a friend recently who seems to have the perfect faculty position (tenured, good school) and life (married, 1 child). But her job is not completely stress-free, and I know that while things look good on the outside, she still has to work hard to stay where she is. And I don't know if I would really have been happy doing that. Maybe I would have gotten claustrophobic, staying at the same university for so long. I probably would have run into the same kinds of problems, just later on.

And I was thinking about how I have maybe two other friends who encounter sexist shit on an almost daily basis like I do, both at work and on the street, getting hit on, etc. (Just today I was walking out of the grocery store and got yelled at "Hey pretty lady, you care about baby tigers, don't you?")

And how it's somewhat mysterious to me that some of us have to constantly be confronted with being judged on our appearance, and other women somehow sail through life never having to really face up to it as a clear disadvantage. And how it baffles me as to whether it's because we're somehow more sexy (seems doubtful?) or just "too sensitive" or just unlucky or what.

Like how did my friend, who is pretty and athletic, manage to choose a field where somehow being in a minority of women was actually good for her career? But in my case it only seems to negate anything intelligent I have to say about anything?

And I'm supposed to accept positions where I'm routinely ignored, and at best I'm supposed to be satisfied when people take my ideas or suggestions but don't give me credit for them?

And I heard something recently about how most people can't tolerate constant failure, but video gamers and research scientists are the exception to that generalization.

I mean, I don't take it personally when my experiments fail. I know that either I will figure it out, or I won't, and either way, it doesn't make me any less of a person.

But I am so tired of the failure of my male colleagues to treat me as an equal. And it makes me so sad when I see the younger women following their lead. Why would they respect me when no one else does?

I know it's not me, because the last place I worked, when some people treated me with respect, everyone else tended to follow their lead. Too bad that job didn't pay enough...

And lately I would love a video game or any activity that was so easy and fun that it involved getting a lot of positive feedback and encouragement. Because I don't get enough of that in my job, and I would like to have more "flow state", which they say is what happy people cultivate. Where you are just absorbed in something so much that you don't notice time passing. Because all I do is notice time passing, and it only seems to pass too quickly evenings/weekends, and too slowly when I am at work.

And how some days I feel old, and some days I get carded when I buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store.

And how I sat at dinner the other night with a bunch of married people talking about their experiences with having kids, and my boyfriend and I looked at each other and held hands and everyone said how cute we are and how it's so obvious we're not married. And how the irony is nobody knows I was upset because I am just about too old to have kids even if I wanted to, and how hard it is to be dealing with that. Or how that happened because I put off deciding about having kids in hopes of having a scientific career. But nobody knows that. I didn't even really know that. But I'll probably have the rest of my life to think about it.