Month: October 2014

Yes, I’m tired. I’m a grad student. Shocking, right?

From Sam:

I just wanted to post this here because I wanted a forum to scream that I’M SO TIRED OF MALE STUDENTS IN MY DEPARTMENT TELLING ME I LOOK TIRED.  Usually, it happens on days when I don’t wear makeup, which ironically are the days I am least tired, since I probably slept in too late and so I didn’t have time to put on makeup.  But recently, it happened to me when I was just walking down the hall, in a full face of my usual make up, and I’d only spoken to the guy who made the comment once or twice before, so I was especially uncomfortable with it.

Now, I’m willing to accept that the people who make this comment think that they’re showing a caring or empathetic side of themselves. Maybe they’re thinking, “Oh, she looks so tired today, I hope she’s doing okay,” or “Man, she looks super stressed this week. I’m having a rough week, too. Maybe we can commiserate together.”  If so, okay, but just ask, “How are you doing?” instead! Then, I know that you care about my feelings and not just about my appearance.

By just telling me I look tired, however, you…
a) assume that my outer appearance must always show my inner thoughts and feelings.
b) assume that my natural state must be to never look tired in order to keep up the facade of beauty and perfection that the media and the patriarchy have forced on women.
c) are basically saying to me, “Wow, you look like total shit today.” (So you can imagine why I would find that insulting.)
d) are treating me as an object to be gazed upon instead of a person with all the same emotions, struggles, and stresses that you have.

I mean, we’re all in the same PhD program, for crying out loud! You know what it’s like to be taking classes, teaching classes, and doing research all at the same time! So empathize with me when I’m having a rough day, and celebrate with me when I’m having a good day, and I’ll do the same for you! Just please, don’t make it about my appearance.

From Anonymous:

When I was an undergraduate math student in the beginning of my senior year I scheduled a meeting with my department chair to talk about what I should be looking for when deciding. what PhD programs to apply to. His immediate response was that the most important thing for me to focus on over next few years was “finding a life partner” and that I should consider schools based on their proximity to a city with a lot of potential “life partners”.

I was uncomfortable with this line of conversation and brought it back to math. After disclosing my subject gre scores (poor) he said that given my scores and his estimations of my ability, I should consider a particular tiny unheard of program, adding “did you know you can get a PhD from there? I think there are two or three capable advisors.” Then he looked concerned for a moment and said actually I had better not apply to that program because it was rural and small and there would be “three Asian men to choose from.” (For he record I am white and so is he).

He eventually concluded that maybe “with a bit of luck” I could get in to a different larger, poorly ranked program. I happen to know that this is the same school he decided three other female undergrads who graduated around when I did should consider as their reach school. He went on to say that he felt undergrads in his program were not placing well in graduate school and lamented that a male student he advised the year prior did not get into any top five programs.

For the record, I’m at a top ten program in my field now (higher ranked than the program his male student is at) and all of the female students whom he advised similarly are also at much better programs than the “reach” he suggested. Also I know that at least one of these female students also got the “life partner” talk.

Maybe I should turn around when I give a talk?

From Julie:

This weekend at a conference, a famous guy in my field skipped my talk, which was conveniently timed at the end of the meeting after most everyone had left.  At dinner, someone remarked that he had given his talk ahead of me, and he said something like “I keep trying to get behind Julie.”  I wanted to ask him whether he would come to my talk if I turned around and faced the screen so that he could see my ass, but I didn’t.  I am not new in this field, and he has known me for 15 years.  I am furious.

From Anonymous:

I used to work in a lab in a well-respected health sciences research institution. Yet, down the hall from my research group was a lab led by an individual who would frequently share that he wouldn’t hire female postdocs or lab technicians because they were “too much trouble”.

From Anonymous:

Today a dude in my linear algebra class asked me (female) — And only me — to fill out a painfully heteronormative survey on the pros and cons of condom use during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. I said no, and he looked shocked and offended.

I don’t even know what the fuck that was.

From Anonymous:

The male PI whose group I work in thinks it is appropriate to jokingly refer to his female postdocs as “Miss Surname”, or, upon being called out, simply “Surname”. Before he hired me, he asked my opinion on how the leaky pipeline problem might be addressed. Evidently all for show.

From Anonymous:

I haven’t had the chance to have very much experience in stem yet; I’m only a freshman in college and I plan on earning a degree in some form of engineering. But during my senior year of high school I experienced the type of discrimination that I’m afraid I’ll need to overcome for my foreseeable academic and professional career. I was having a conversation with some guys who were acquaintances of mine during high school and mentioned that I wanted to pursue engineering. One of them noted that, “That’s odd because there are very few hispanic women in engineering.” I was stunned silent, and before I could respond he laughed and said, “Well, you’re a seventeen year old hispanic girl and you’re not pregnant, so I guess you’re ahead of the power curve.” The worst part about this whole exchange was that everyone around me just laughed it off. I’m worried I’m going to face this kind of casual sexism and racism in my chosen field of study.

From Anonymous:

I was a fourth year PhD student before I finally realized my adviser’s sexist behavior wasn’t about me personally, but rather about my gender. During meetings, he would invite the guys over to help with moving a piece of furniture, pointedly avoiding the women (after making a joke about it, he made sure to only ask the guys when women weren’t present). When I would present conclusions, he would ask me to go check with a more junior male student, despite the fact that I was the resident expert on the topic (and when I would ask the other student, he said he didn’t know anything about it and looked confused as to why I would even ask him). When my adviser chose nominees for awards, it was a male student that was chosen, despite my superior grades and similar publication record, until gradually the male student did have a better CV because they had more accolades. A woman was always in charge of secretarial tasks such as scheduling meetings and ordering supplies, because we were more ‘detail-oriented’ and more ‘trusted’ to do it correctly. When it was time to train a new student, the women were told to train him in the everyday tasks, but anything that required higher thinking should be left to our male colleague. That was when I started to see the pattern of subtle, long-term differences between how the male and female students were treated. The biggest issue was that the most interesting projects, with the highest impact, were always given to a male student. I still have to talk myself out of believing that my male colleague isn’t better than me in every professional regard, because it was so pervasive within the lab culture. This man was supposed to be my mentor, the launching pad for my career, but the biggest lesson I learned from him was the repercussions of not-so benevolent sexism.

From Anonymous:

I work at a synchrotron as a beamline scientist. You would think that maybe by this point in my career I might have gathered enough respect that I could get a word in edgewise in discussions, or have my opinion respected. My male colleagues would probably tell you that, of course, she is brilliant, and we enjoy and welcome her input. Maybe if they could hear themselves, they would understand.

Every conversation is a reminder that I am the outsider. If I listen to my male peers have a conversation amongst themselves, for some strange reason, no one gets talked over, and everyone has space to say their piece. No one gets stringently questioned and doubted, unless it is a truly heated topic. When I have one on one conversations with male peers, I struggle to get my point across over objections and interruptions, and on many occasions, I have had to be blunt and demand they listen instead of speak.

This constant struggle for respect is exhausting, and it is making me consider leaving science.