Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Denying (More Anger)

“But things have gotten better. There are lots of female professors now!” – this was my lab’s response to the NSF and NAS reports. Yes, now it would be illegal to tell Lucy Shapiro (a very famous female scientist, now in her sixties) that she only gets half the award because her husband will support her. Yes, nowadays Mr. Nobel Laureate (I wish I could tell you who, but I’m sure it’s libel; it is only hearsay, after all) would get taken to court for propositioning his female grad students. Great! We’ve moved on from the Middle Ages! That doesn’t mean there’s equality, and every time someone denies the gap, it is that much harder to make progress.

I am angry that my experiences are denied every day. When I finally read “Lifting a Ton of Feathers,” I sat down and cried, because the first chapter was word-for-word my experiences. Real discrimination, condescension, being treated like an idiot, having to work really darn hard just to get recognition: yep, I’ve gotten that. I was once told, in response to my professional judgment, that I was “just being negative.” I have never once heard my advisor denigrate the scientific opinion of my male colleagues by telling them they were being emotional about it. My emotions have nothing to do with it.

[I am willing to admit that some of the obstacles I and many of my female compatriots have faced, especially here at Snooty U, do have to do with learned mannerisms in an entrenched culture grown up around a largely male professoriate. I did have to learn how to be assertive both personally and professionally, to always have an answer at the ready, to be willing to be wrong with confidence, to try not to be devastated by being wrong, to speak loudly and clearly and lean back in my seat. Also, to breathe fire.]

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