1. I got engaged, and a senior male professor jokingly tells me not to “go getting pregnant now,” thinking he’s giving me good career advice. I’m pregnant the next year and have two kids before I finish my PhD, which I do in 6 years (earning two masters degrees along the way).
2. I’m at an international conference, out to drinks with some other students. One student goes on about how women can never be good at logic. I tell him he’s just plain wrong (telling him how I tutored two male students in my logic class because they couldn’t keep up as well as I could) and that ridiculous opinions like his do keep people from pursuing his specialty, to its detriment. As great as some of us ladies are, some of us would prefer never want to have to regularly socialize with asshats like him, even if it meant not pursuing logic as a specialty.
3. Same international conference, a senior person in my field casually tells me that I must be sleeping with my advisor. When I get angry and say hell-no, he tells me I protest too much, and that it must be true. I do not tell anyone about this for 3+ years, not even my spouse, because I am so upset that anyone would have the nerve to say something like this and, worse yet, that, if this douchebag has the nerve to say it, then others must think it is also true and believe that my only worth to my advisor is in my pants and not in my work or intellectual worth.
Thanks for the vent.
Archive for the ‘Why else….?’ Category
I recently attended a conference in Asia. Over the three day period, there were something like sixty talks. It was not a small conference. I was one of three or four women in attendance.On the way home, I noted that I felt good and that it had been an excellent conference. I found this odd, given the maleness and foreignness of the conference (this point about foreignness is supposed to pick up on the thought that one is more likely to feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments/groups etc.) I quickly realised that it had been the first conference I had been to where no one tried to have sex with me, or involve me in something, in some way, inappropriate.
Every single conference I have ever been to has invariably involved some guy (often older and more established) trying to get me to go home with him; some guy telling me about how lonely and sad his life is in some far off department a million miles from home – and I must feel the same way too (so we should go home together); some guy telling me that he noticed my figure, or my outfit whilst I was giving a talk; some guy asking me if I am sleeping with my advisor (because isn’t that what girls do?); some guy telling me I *should* be sleeping with my advisor; some guy explaining to me that the new female appointment in the department only got the job (over him) because she was a woman; some guy crying into his cocktail over the fact that his wife finally found out about the graduate student he’d been sleeping with (and now that the marriage was clearly over maybe I wouldn’t mind some too); some guy explaining to me that the only reason he goes to conferences is to pick up. The list goes on.
At the conference in Asia, no one seemed to be interested in the fact that I was wearing a skirt. And no one felt compelled to tell me about their romantic tragedies and personal problems. And no one tried to get me to go home with them. In fact, no one really tried to talk to me at all – and if they did it was about my work or the political situation in some Asian country, or something of the like. And this was a relief.
I left the conference feeling smart, confident and like a human being. I got good feedback on my talk, attended some good talks and met some nice people (that’s what conferences are for, isn’t it?) Instead of the usual ‘post conference blues’ where I feel disgusted, inadequate, dumb and convinced that if I were actually even vaguely capable someone would talk me to about something other than the fact that their wife wants to leave them.
When my freshman/sophomore year professor asked if I would be interested in taking a class he was teaching this semester because it would involve more discussion (something new to him), my boyfriend’s first thought was that the teacher wanted in my pants. He asked what grades I’d received in the previous classes, how old the teacher was, and if I was “really” that great of a student. When you’re female it’s basically assumed that any success or offers are simply a result of being sexy to a man. It couldn’t be because I was actually a good student. Even I questioned my professor’s motivations instead of assuming that maybe I was being contacted because my professor knew I would contribute to the class. However, I was recommended for a philosophy major and have kept up with the other men in my degree. It’s just sad to know that even those closest to me will hesitate to assign me the credit I’m due. There’s always the booty question floating over women’s heads.
When I was in graduate school, one of our female faculty members was dating a (white male) rising star at another university. A group of senior ranked (white male) faculty spilled this news to a few graduate students, adding that she “must be a good philosopher if he is f*cking her”.
During your first round of story-gathering, I sent a story about my experiences as a graduate student in the 80s. In light of the discussion that is taking place in the blogs about the Lance et al Proposal of Shunning, I wanted to tell another story. (FYI Mark Lance is an old friend.)
Here’s the story:
For those who doubt the lingering effects of harassment or who think it might be difficult to ascertain who the serial harassers are, let me offer this. I spent three hellish years being harassed and finally driven out of a highly ranked department. Two years later I applied to another graduate program in the same institution, in the social sciences. After I submitted my application, I had a meeting with the department chair who said “Wow. You have some pretty decent academic credentials.” I answered with something like, “Um, you sound surprised?” He said, “Well, you were a graduate student in [that department] and you’re a woman… I’m sorry, I just assumed you slept with someone.”
Yeah. I didn’t enroll in that department either. The twenty-eight-year-old me didn’t have the strength or confidence to confront what I assumed would be a widespread presumption about my abilities. I gave up on an academic career.