From Anonymous

I just attended one of the plenary lectures at the APS mid-atlantic meeting, which was given by a female physicist. During the Q&A section, the second question was an undergrad who asked what is a graviton. Her answer was pretty concise and along the lines of “A graviton is a particle that carries gravity. It’s analogous to a photon, which carries electromagnetic force. For this project, we are studying things on such a macro scale that we don’t need to think about these particles. Instead, we just focus on gravitational waves.” She paused and then asked him, “Did I answer your question?” To which he replies, “Sure,” in a somewhat condescending way. The next person to ask a question was a much older. He began his question with, “Now, you’re going to have to listen carefully to my question in order to answer it.”

I somehow suspect that if she were a man, neither of these people would feel so comfortable being condescending. She’s well-established in her field; what kind of condescending remarks should I expect as a researcher who is just starting out?


  1. There are always assholes who will treat you badly. It is sometimes hard to know if they would also treat you badly if you were male. Probably they would. Some people are just assholes. If you feel a remark is condescending, my advice is to answer with your best answer, just as you would to a person who treats you with respect. You might consider taking a class or reading a book about dealing with difficult people, because that is a skill that you will need in your career.


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