Month: October 2014

Dr. B, Dr. S, and Monica

From “Monica”:

“Dr. Blackshaw, thank you for meeting […] on Tuesday. […] You and Dr. Schwartz may contact me any time you have questions […] Given aspects of Monica’s new role, I’d expect Francesca and [her] to have a symbiotic relationship. ”

(From an industry contact. All four people mentioned in the e-mail have PhDs. But only the two men got called by their title and last name. I did not, even though I had never met the writer before.)

(Names changed for data protection reasons)


From Anonymous:

I am a full professor (female) at a top ten math department, and have been nearly 20 years. I’ve seen my share of sexism, but recently something new (to me) is increasing and I wanted to share it. As we know, individuals sometimes behave dramatically differently towards some people than others. Just this semester, I have been aggressively approached by two (male, undergraduate) students, both of whom were very demanding of my time and attention, arguing about points in a loud voice, blaming me for their failure to understand, and not listening to me when I tried to explain. With one, I was actually concerned enough to consider calling security, as he was very agitated and verbally aggressive. He also intimidated a fellow student out of my office hours with his dominating questions, and it was very difficult to get him to wait his turn, to calm down, to let me and others speak. At first, I interpreted the situation as just bad luck with off-the-wall students, so I was very surprised when I when I mentioned this to two of my male colleagues, who were both very surprised, saying that these particular students are extremely deferential and respectful, almost fawning, towards them *always.* I have never had a problem throughout my career with male disrespect in my classroom, possibly because I come off very strong and confident, though I know from discussions with female colleagues that many have experienced it, some on a regular basis. In my case, both students are from the same cultural (non-American) background, and I wonder if a difference in attitude towards men and women in their home countries is part of the explanation. My university has dramatically increased the number of transfer students from their country, and so I know not all (or even most) male students from this background behave this way. Indeed, some are great kids who have been some of my favorite students. Still, the experience was unpleasant enough that I am actually seriously considering from now on requesting to teach courses which have fewer numbers of transfer students. I worry a lot about the effect on our female undergraduates of having these two students in their classes: imagine how the must be treated if a *professor* is fair game for this kind of attempted “puffing up one’s chest” intimidation.

From Anonymous:

My dad is a professor in an area related to (but not the same as) mine. I briefly mentioned this fact while out for dinner interviewing for a faculty position. The professor sitting next to me (a woman!) then asked me if my dad was my advisor. It was obvious she was really asking if my dad did my thesis research for me. I was so dumbfounded and offended that I just stuttered out that there was no way my dad could be my advisor since we were at different universities.

It’s possible this was an age/seniority thing rather than a gender thing, but regardless it left me with a very poor impression.

You don’t have the potential…

From Anonymous:

One day after class in my undergraduate abstract algebra class, I approached the professor to ask for clarification on something. He had said something that seemed to contradict a statement in an earlier lecture. When I began to talk with him on his way to his office, he cut me off and said, “What exactly do you want to do with your degree?” I was caught off guard by this question but answered honestly. “Well,” I said, “I know it’s very competitive but if I could, I’d be a professor.” His response was, “You don’t have the potential for that. You might be able to get a Master’s degree if you’re lucky.”

I wish I could say that this comment didn’t affect me, but it did. He was a famous mathematician and I was a struggling student. At the time, my family was caught up in legal/financial troubles due to a failing business. As a result, I didn’t have access to financial aid and spent most of my time working to pay bills and my tuition. I often couldn’t afford the required books or decent school supplies. Given how my attentions were divided, I felt my goals were quickly becoming a pipe dream. I took that comment to be definitive proof that they were.

Before you start feeling bad for me, though, you should know that I’m now in my second to last year of a PhD program. And I’m doing fine, although I struggle with my tendency to hoard school supplies…

It goes to show you that just because a person is smart in one area doesn’t mean they know everything. What an asshole.

Monroe poster

From Anonymous:

I have a male colleague who hangs a Marilyn Monroe (Seven Year Itch) poster in his office. Every time a female walks into his office, be it a secretary, colleague or student, he would all act up, trying to get a date with you or something like that. He always tells jokes on male-female topics, which I found irritating. But, the truth is, he sincerely believes that he was being “charming”, that females enjoy being treated this way.

Image a female professor doing the equivalent: hanging male body builder posters in her office, and trying her charm on every male that walks into her office. What would one call her? Then, what should one call this guy, equivalently?