Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Modern Fairy Tales of Misogyny and Good Ol’ Boys At Work

Once upon a time, there was a biology department in the Magical Land of Research. The pixies (professors) there liked physics and crystal structures and big expensive toadstool laboratories, but they also had medium-size toadstools, and even some pixies who taught little elves and fairies to fly. They were very proud of having some famous pixies, like Queen Titania!* Everyone loved each other, and hardly ever spoke harshly, at least not in public.

One year two young pixies, Silver and Blossom, were walking along a path when they met the Tenure Troll.

Neither pixie had been very terribly good the year before: Silver had a little elf** quit his lab in disgust, and the fairies, oh! how they yawned in his lectures, and (even worse) he had lost his funding. But he had written several little stories, and sent them to exciting lands like Biochimica Biophysica Acta. And, even better, he had been very good indeed about bringing King Oberon and his servant Puck a little cup of nectar or a nice juicy butterfly every now and then. So Oberon, who knew the troll was coming, had put candy along Silver's path.

Blossom had sent just a few stories off to other lands, but she had sent them places like Biochemistry, and we all know the shorter a place’s name the better! Her little elves were happy, and her little fairies learned to fly very well indeed and even liked to hear their lessons. Oberon didn’t care for her: she had never caught him so much as a cricket and besides, her wings weren't sparkly- so he didn’t set out any candy for her. Puck didn't like her because she reminded him of all the female pixies who had ever laughed at him. Because Blossom wasn’t an awfully good pixie, Titania kept all her candy for pixies who had worked harder, and my, but the Queen never let herself be swayed by nectar and flattery anyhow.

So when Blossom and Silver met the Tenure Troll, well, that troll stopped and ate all those candies instead of Silver. Silver walked right by that troll, and went back to his toadstool, and back to his research (or as much of it as he could do without any money!). But Blossom didn’t have a single candy to distract that mean beast, so he gobbled her all up, and the poor dear was never seen again in Research Land.


Nobody stood up for B, because Titania didn't think she had earned it; but T didn't think S had earned it either. B was more qualified than S, even if they were both weak candidates. B didn’t get tenure. S did. The good ol’ boys network leaned on the rest of the department for S even though he deserved it less it and HAD NO FUNDING.

It gets better. The department ran an open search to replace the woman. T advocated strongly for hiring another woman, and a phenomenally talented (female) researcher won the slot. A (male) postdoc of O's had also applied.

So O made the department hire his postdoc anyways. Under the table.

Plus ça change.

*Mr. S’s advisor. Married to Oberon.
**A grad student, that is.


  1. Anonymous10:21 AM

    I am very careful not to divulge details of Mr. Blue's work on teh blogs, but suffice it to say that things are NO better where he is. It makes me crazy just hearing about it. It must make for serious crazy to have to live through it.

  2. Anonymous8:56 PM

    In Fancy Pants Canada (The Fancy Pants of the North!), it's -- you'll be shocked -- much the same. I was friendly with the second woman hired in the chemistry dept there, and heard much about this kind of thing. (Not the tenure issue, so much: the first two women both got tenured, and I was gone after, so I don't know.) But there was always the poker night, which all and only guys were invited to, etc.

  3. I try to laugh instead of crying. Ha. Ha ha ha.

    Phantom, is there a word for being dooced via your spouse? :) By all means something to be avoided.

    Wolfa, I am shocked (shocked!) to hear that. I recently read a book-length report on science in Canada- can't remember the name, and anyways, it was depressing, but yes. Grrrrrrr.


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