From Anonymous:

I presented my first conference paper as a grad student at the annual meeting of my discipline’s national association. After the session, I was approached by a junior faculty member who was the chair of the association sub discipline group. He complimented–not my presentation or my ideas– but my clothes. This happened two days after I had received a letter informing me that I had been awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship with three years of full support.


  1. Same thing happened to me, after a talk I got approached and complimented for how colorful my clothes were. I had a nice laugh about it. Ah, I forgot, I am a male. Take it easy.


  2. Fabrizio’s comment shows that it’s not possible to be certain that “such-and-such only happened to me because I’m a female”. He makes a valid point.


  3. Fabrizio’s comment misses the point. Yes, both men and women may have their attire commented on, but women are often subjected to unwanted comments on their appearance on a regular basis so that we begin to suspect that some people value us for our appearance more than our minds.

    As a woman, I have had a professor look at me before a presentation and say that he was glad to see I dressed up – that I should always dress up for presentations, no matter how small. Did that offend me? Not in the least. However, I have also had a male colleague look at me before a presentation and say that he was glad to see I was wearing purple because a woman should always wear bright colors, and then with a smirk and a slow glance up and down the length of my body he complimented my pants. Did this offend me? Yes – the undertones were clear in the context of the situation, the tone of his voice, and the look that he gave me.

    Please realize that as women we know the difference between intent here. The point is not that one thing happens to women and not to men. The point is that the way it happens to women is often belittling and sexually-suggestive and frequent, and often times would not happen in such a harmful way (or at all) if we were men.


  4. Fabrizio, did you get the feeling that the person was hitting on you? Has this happened a lot? And in environments that are predominantly women? Do you often feel that all these women around you constantly de-emphasize your accomplishments and focus only on your colorful clothes? Is it also your experience that these women you are surrounded by seem to praise each other for their intellects and accomplishments, but when it comes to you, it’s all about your appearance? When you speak up do they frequently speak over you? Do they drone on about their ideas even if completely half-baked after cutting you off when you are trying to talk? Do they make sexual innuendos at conferences or other informal professional settings while you are attempting to talk science? Do they invite you to their home for drinks at inappropriate hours? When you decline do they turn mean and try to undermine your accomplishments as if in retaliation? Do you have male colleagues who have had the same experiences, some much worse, involving being fondled, coerced, or raped?

    Or was it really just one time someone noted your colorful clothes without any of that context?

    Liked by 1 person

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