Until recently I was an assistant professor in a department where about 90% of faculty members are men. A few weeks into my first term, finding myself already overwhelmed with several theses to evaluate, I asked to have fewer theses or to be granted an extension. The colleague in charge of this kind of assignments, a man, denied my request. I did not complain at all, and I was ready to do what was asked. A couple of days later, I ran into him in the elevator. We were alone. He grabbed me by my shoulders, pressed my face against his chest so strongly that I could not breathe and said: “I’m so sorry I had to be tough with you”. Then, a few months later, I gave a talk in the department, and another colleague, a man again, asked me a question, a “tough” one, as I was about to discover. After the Q&A, people started chatting, and the colleague walked towards me with doe eyes, put his hand around my elbow and whispered in my ear: “I’m sorry I asked you such a tough question”. To wrap up the apology he kissed me on the ear lobe.
Tough guys for a tough business I suppose. Although, to be fair, it was not all so bad: sometimes they did use arguments.