appearance standards

From Anonymous:

I feel that much of the sexism underlying STEM is illustrated in how you are treated on a day to day basis, rather than isolated vignettes of individual attacks. One of the side-effects of being a woman in STEM is that your male colleagues/classmates will comment on your appearance (in a more pointed way than they do with each other). It becomes clear that many have conflicting views of what a woman should look like, and what a woman in engineering should look like, but it sounds okay and not malicious because they’re “joking” about it.

– being asked if I’m “slumming it” one day when I was dressed more casually than normal (his dress code is not exactly on par)
– comments on my hair length — “what’s with the boy hair”, “maybe one day your hair’ll get short enough and you can pass for a guy”

and on the flip side, when I (or other female classmates) wear a skirt, cosmetics, etc., we’ll be asked “who are you trying to impress” or “got a hot date”.

And yet, when called out on it, accusations of sexism are roundly denied…


  1. Oh yes! This is very true. I am usually the only woman hanging around a group of guys in the department or at conferences. Without fail, if a women in the field is mentioned, whether or not she is ‘hot’ is commented on. Without fail. Not only that, but it’s usually mentioned before (or in lieu of!) anything academic related mentioned.

    For a while I tried to mention whether or not I find whatever male mathematician mentioned is good looking, but of course when I do this people either just think I’m silly and don’t see the point, or are annoyed by my being too sensitive about such things.


  2. Yeah, that was almost the only thing about former women coworkers I heard from guys in field biology. Whether or not this chick was a troll or still hot.


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