Variability of sexist behavior

(by sweetscience) Mar 20 2017

“Science is not about conforming to an ideal, masculine or feminine, but instead relies on the diversity of perspective that gives rise to insight. The individuals do not derive identity from the group; the group is defined by the identity of its component individuals. Or, as I phrase it to myself, the point is not whether I think like other scientists do; it’s that one scientist – me – thinks like I do.”

I love this quote from the essay “The Truth is in The Distribution” by Indira Raman. Her article gives a number of liberating insights for women in science based on her personal perspectives, which I found to be refreshing.

 

In other parts of the essay, she extends the discussion of variability to the range of behavior – good and bad – observed in scientists, relating specifically to the challenges faced by women in science. This part hit home for me, as I had been thinking a lot about the circumstances under which I ascribed someone’s behavior to sexism. These thoughts come across best in the cases of two individuals I had been dealing with.

Case 1 – a young man, fellow postdoc. In informal seminars where discussion is encouraged but usually occurs at low levels, he often interjected to ask the presenter (usually female) a question, but more often, to share a story or concern of his that was similar. In one instance where a fellow female postdoc was giving a practice talk for a presentation at a conference and several faculty members started critiquing her, the male postdoc added in his generic talk advice.

Case 2 – a young woman, research technician. In lab when faced with a problem, she would ask my advice. I would give her advice such as, “I would do X.” She would respond, “I’ll just do X.” What I just said, rephrased to sound like she just thought of it and didn’t need my advice after all. I never heard her do this with a man, including those more junior to me in the lab.

In the first case, my initial reaction was to label this guy a classic mansplainer, and consider how I could talk to him about what he was doing. After some thought and further observation, I recognized that he is just a super-talkative guy who believes everything he thinks is important enough to be said out loud, though he wasn’t typically condescending, and it was just circumstance that made him look like a mansplainer since he was often the only male in the room*. In the second case, my first reaction was to think this was just a really annoying way of talking through ideas. But after thinking more, I believe she is a mansplainer, who doesn’t like any idea unless it comes from her own mouth, but only when the other party is a woman.

So I realized that I was quick to ascribe bad behavior to sexism in a man and quick to forgive bad behavior as a personality trait in a woman, and it is important to consider the individual as only representing him or herself. That said, however… there are clearly patterns of bad behavior, and the range and variability of those patterns are not the only important metrics – the number of women affected by sexism (i.e. virtually all women) is arguably the most important, as was brought to collective awareness by the #YesAllWomen counter to #NotAllMen trends. Therefore, whenever we see sexism at play, even from a small number of men, we can’t simply write it off as individual variability. That is where I felt Raman’s essay was lacking – by accepting that it is a relatively small number of offending individuals making the field more difficult for women, it can indeed be liberating, but it remains essential to act against sexism where we see it, as well as proactively. She does acknowledge that she appreciates these efforts and that is not the focus of her essay.

For my part, I will continue to try to be more judicious in my own evaluations of people’s behavior that may or may not appear sexist to me, remembering the range in people of all sexes.

 

*Though of course it is valid to consider him (and us) a product of our culture generating this male-typical behavior, making it no coincidence at all that the only man in the room was also the only one who felt like his ideas were important enough to interject.


One response so far

I’m Not Oppressed

(by saraswatiphd) Mar 16 2017

“I don’t see gender. I don’t think men and women should be viewed separately. I also don’t see color. I don’t distinguish between black and white. I see people. That’s what I do – I see people. When you separate genders and races, you run into trouble. That’s where problems can begin. You know, so many women in this country think they are oppressed. They are not! They are not oppressed in this country like women in other countries are. And don’t even get me started on the gender wage gap. It is simply untrue. It does not exist. Women in the US are not oppressed and they get paid the same as men!!!”

I sat in my senior colleague’s office in the upper management position in my company listening to a rather heated response to my “oh you’re wearing a red shirt, is that for Women’s Day (March 8th)? I didn’t know you were such a feminist.” Perhaps I should’ve been more careful than to imply that he may be wearing a color in solidarity of celebrating International Women’s Day. And no, he does not celebrate Women’s Day as it turned out. In fact, he appeared to express strong feelings not only about celebrating the day, but also about women’s “oppression complaints.” I couldn’t quite process that at the time – having just attended a weekend-long very intensive conference on neurological consequences of inflammation and recovering from a rather ill-timed stomach flu my children generously shared with me the moment I stepped off the plane – my own brain was probably succumbing to an inflammatory cytokine storm of my own. No, I did not respond. I sat speechless. Incapacitated.

That night and the following day, I couldn’t get my colleague’s remarks out of my head. Having just attended an amazing conference, where PhDs, MDs and NDs got together to discuss global disease patterns; I, on the one hand, was reveling in the fact how amazing that I get to go to conferences of such nature with incredibly motivated, intelligent scientists and clinicians… And on the other hand… Well, let me take you back to the conference.

I encountered a Santa-looking older MD at this conference who attended a talk of mine last December. He asked so many thoughtful questions in December, that I sought his attention at this conference, and started chatting with him. The conversation, at first, so inspiring and exciting, turned a more… interesting (troubling? creepy?) direction. After probing me for “are you married/do you have kids/how old are you” sort of questions, he steered the conversation into the realm “whoa, your husband is so lucky to have you. How did he get you? Did you have a lot of boyfriends before him?”

Um. Excuse me? What did you just ask me? And when did it become ok to ask these questions? Remember, we were just talking about adrenal health. Not my, what was it, personal life. WHICH IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!!!

I excused myself. Told him I was getting tired and needed some rest before the next day’s talks started.

The next morning, I felt bad (why? what is wrong with me?) – I didn’t want him to think that I was rude or short or whatever else that women are taught not to do or be. I came up to him in the morning (short break = can’t stay too long to chat) and followed up on a question he asked me the night before. A scientific question. Not a personal creepy one. I sat next to him in a char. I was dressed down. My feet hurt from the night before. I wore keds, khakis and a sweater. He was staring at me while I talked. Then he placed his hand on my shoulder (personal space, dude!) and said that I looked so lovely “dressed down.” He kept saying that. Over and over. He also told me he “had a very nice time chatting with me last night.” Ok. It was time to go. So I wrapped up. But before I sprinted back to my seat, he told me how beautiful my hands were. And that I “must take very good care of them.” My hands thanked him. And my hands and I bolted.

Needless to say I avoided eye contact with him for the rest of the conference.

You know, when these things happen, I am always caught off guard. I think “they can’t possibly mean what they are saying/doing.” I try to make excuses – they are socially awkward, etc. etc. But in reality, there are not excuses. This was my third conference I attended, representing my company. This is the third time an older MD dude asked me exactly “how old I was.” This is the first time, however, someone went as far as to ask me very prying details of my personal life, touched me by my shoulder, commented on my hands. It is probably not the last.

So what I have to say is this – no, I do not feel oppressed. But the gender gap is more real than ever in the professional world. I would’ve liked to see the look on my colleague’s face when someone started prying into his life, asked him how old he was, and violated his personal space. Perhaps it is not only relevant but also very important that we understand gender differences. And celebrate them. We can then move on from what a stereotypically “smart” and respectable clinician or scientist ought to look like. And if a professional does not fit the stereotype, it does not mean there is an invitation to be asshole. Ever!

What frustrates me the most is not what is said. It is how I react or rather don’t react while I’m in this situation. Where exactly do I take a class on how to tell a jerk to go fuck himself in a polite, respectable manner?

 

 


4 responses so far

Motherly endeavors

(by strongerthanfiction) Mar 09 2017

Happy International Women’s day!
In this post, I will be talking about something specific to women -mothers in particular: breastfeeding. I had a lot of anxiety, trials and tribulations when it came to breastfeeding my baby. It took a lot of practice, and for some reason, the process and all the transitions were very confusing to me. My personal goal was to breastfeed for 6 months. Maybe writing about my experience here can help someone else in the future.
Figuring out breastfeeding
Both my baby and I had a very difficult time in the first few days. The hospital lactation consultant sent us home with some extra stuff to help us out. Baby didn’t really eat the first couple days. Once we were shown how to supplement baby through syringe tubes and droppers, they let us go home, but the first 10 days were extremely stressful. Because baby wasn’t gaining weight, we had more frequent check ups, and a few 1-on-1 appointments with lactation consultants.
Thankfully, I have an awesome coworker that reached out and let me know about breastfeeding support groups in my area (totally free, no strings attached). I was very hesitant to go, at first, and really didn’t want to drive anywhere. But I am really glad I did. Seeing other moms dealing with some of the same things made me feel less crazy. And the scale that helped us figure out how many ounces of milk baby was drinking was also helpful. The combination of all of these people helped me to deal with my extreme emotions about why things weren’t going great, and more importantly, helped me work toward solutions and strategies instead of getting worried and upset about our slow progress.
In those first few weeks, I was totally not prepared for the crazy schedule. I know baby class tried really hard to prepare us, and I heard what they said, but I was definitely not prepared. Specific to breastfeeding – baby needs to eat every 2-3 hours for the first several weeks-months. That sounds pretty straighforward, right? What I didn’t realize was that baby could take 20-30 minutes….per side… per feeding……. That is a LOT of time. And NOT a lot of time in between. That was the hardest part for me. But after the first month or so things got a lot better. The feedings got a lot shorter, and the interval between feedings got a little longer (especially at night, which meant more sanity for me, yay!)
Fast forward to work
Going back to work full time right away was a big change, and at three months my baby was still eating every 2-3 hours during the day. It was important for me to not miss one of those “feedings” because I new that consistency was important for supply. I gave up working out  in the morning (my normal workout time) for the first few months after going back to work. I would breastfeed baby right before leaving for work, and then again about 2.5 hrs later (mid-morning). Then again at lunch, and again in the afternoon before I left for the day. Then I would rush back home after work to get one feeding in early evening, and then again at bedtime. I did this for 3-4 months until I was getting substantially less per pumping session than I was originally. Then I went to two sessions at work during the day. Oh how wonderful it was to get my lunchtime with friends back!!! This went on for several months until I was again producing a lot less. I went down to one session at work, but that didn’t last too long. Eventually the only time I was breastfeeding was first thing in the morning and right before bed. We made it to 10 months before breastfeeding rather abruptly ended for us.
 
Pumping place a.k.a lactation room (have a backup plan)
It was refreshing for me to learn that my law (can’t remember if it was nation, state or local), said that any employer having more than 50 employees is required to provide a place to pump. It cannot be a restroom. Unfortunately, even some of my male coworker friends with kids whose wives pumped assumed the bathroom was the go-to place. I found it very useful to immediately say to anyone who suggested it (even whose intentions were the best) “would you prepare your lunch in the workplace/public restroom?; this is lunch for my infant”.
Personally, I was provided a very comfortable space. Only twice did that close and lock the area where the room was without telling me to go out to lunch for the next hour and a half.  :/ It was acceptable to me (although not ideal) to go down to my car and plug in my adapter to pump in these instances. I did have a kinda dark parking garage to go into, and there was no one that really would have seen me. I can imagine this would be very distressing to me if I had taken public transportation or had my car in a busy area.
Babies grow, time flies
Looking back, I am very proud of the journey. It has some gnarly challenges, but it was so beautiful and well worth all the tears and pain. I would do it all over again.

2 responses so far

I’m pregnant YAY!!! Now what?!

(by Curiouser&Curiouser) Feb 21 2017

Long time readers of this blog may know that my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for many years. Well, it finally worked!!! I’m now 31 weeks along and we are beyond excited. We had our babyshower the other weekend and I was so grateful, not just because it was beautiful, fun and delicious, but also because it felt like such an amazing milestone in this journey.

I couldn’t believe it when our doctor first called to say that I was pregnant. I was totally convinced it hadn’t worked, after so many failures I couldn’t imagine we’d get pregnant on our first round of IVF. I’d just wrapped up a major project at work and had decided to take 2 weeks off. We did the implantation and then took a road trip and went camping for the next few days. I tried not to focus on what may or may not be happening in my body and just enjoy myself – although I was less than pleased when I got bitten by 2 mosquitoes in the first 5 minutes setting up the tent (OMG zika?). When we got home I decided not to get my hopes up and didn’t take a pregnancy test, after all I didn’t feel nearly as terrible as I had with any of my previous pregnancies so I couldn’t be pregnant, just goes to show what I know/knew.

The first 4-5months were scary and exciting. We were trying not to get our hopes up that this one might work, but I also didn’t want to miss the joy of it. My husband didn’t get excited until he saw me throwing up – I usually have a stomach of steel and hadn’t gotten morning sickness any of the previous times– unfortunately, me throwing up would become a pretty common site up untill… well actually I’m still waiting for that loveliness to end, but never mind.

Trying to figure out who to tell when was tough. I decided to let our environmental health and safety person know pretty much right away since I work with isofluorane and other toxic stuff. They were great and had people come test the lab and me right away (although they did accidently forward an email with the info that there was an un-named pregnant person in the group to a few of my colleagues, which was a little awkward, but it worked out fine). I had to make some work modifications so I told one of my coworkers when asking for help at around 8weeks.

When my boss asked me for an updated plan for our upcoming year-long study, which I obviously wouldn’t be able to complete before my due date, I decided to tell him that I was pregnant (at 10.5 weeks). I was really really nervous to tell him, after all, I’d just finished one big study and we weren’t going to start the new one for a few months – and I’d need to go out on leave partway through – it would almost make sense if they let me go (I know they probably couldn’t easily do that legally, but I’m a worrier and I always try to think up the worst case scenario). My fears were totally misplaced, my boss has been so supportive and a huge advocate for me. He encouraged me to accept help – which felt totally unnatural – and helped me to realize that I probably wouldn’t be comfortable running 8hours of behavior for weeks at a time at 8.5mo pregnant. Now that I’m getting a little closer to the end and I’m still retching, dealing with back aches and having to take breaks every few hours to eat and test my blood glucose (yup I got gestational diabetes) I’m so thankful! He also brought up the option of my coming back part time for a little while once my maternity leave is over! I don’t know if I will take him up on this offer, but I am so grateful that it might be an option and I feel so supported.

Hopefully, everything will keep on going (pretty) smoothly both with the baby and at work and I can’t wait to report back what it’s like having a newborn while working in industry.


4 responses so far

Hidden Figures Book/Movie Club

(by peirama) Feb 14 2017

A number of us recently read and watched Hidden Figures, a book and its film adaptation about a group of female black mathematicians, known as computers, who individually and as a group played a crucial role in early air and space flight. It focuses on Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn. Both the book and movie touch on topics of racism, sexism, and how a combination of smarts, hard work, and confidence can break barriers.

What was the most relatable part of the story for you?

SweetScience: I related to the way many of the people featured in this book more or less stumbled into their careers – yes, based on talent and interest in mathematics, but also because they just needed a job and this was the most appealing one for practical reasons. Especially early in my education and career I felt like I just kept going ahead in a field I enjoy and am good at even when I didn’t know where the path would take me. These brilliant women make you wonder how many people have the abilities to make a major impact if only given the opportunity and exposure to different fields to test their talents.

Curiouser: Although the book only touched on this peripherally, I related to the two body (or more) issue that popped up for many of the women in the book.  It was interesting to see them choose between career and living close to family and how they managed having families and husbands with their own careers.        

peírama: I related to the relationship between work and family that was highlighted in these women’s stories. Some gave up career opportunities to get married and have children, even though they really enjoyed their work. They all ended up getting the opportunity to do work that they loved in addition to having families, a situation I hope can be achieved for all of us.

StrongerThanFiction: These women accomplished so much. I related to the quiet persistence that they had. Sometimes in the type of world we live in today that seems like it is never-ending headline to headline with constant drama. I found it so refreshing to read about people who worked so hard professionally, and made slow but steady steps in social justice issues. They earned respect instead of trying to grab it.

 

What surprised you about the story?

SweetScience: I was constantly surprised by the treatment of women and people of color as ‘less than’, even though I already knew. For example “The black teacher and her colleagues, including the principal, made less money than the school’s white janitor.” Ugh, it just hurts!

Curiouser: Since I had not heard of women computers of any color, that was fascinating to me.  It made me wonder how we went from the mentality that women were able to do the advanced and meticulous math required to be a “computer” to the idea that (hopefully is going away) that girls aren’t good at math.  

peírama: I know that before computers people did math by hand, but it is still amazing to think about the calculations required for space travel being written out with pen and paper.

StrongerThanFiction: I knew that race relations were very bad at the time, but I was very surprised by the persistence into the professional sphere. An analogy can be made relating the work that gets done to currency. The more work, and the better quality work that gets done is like more money. It is crazy to me that supervisors and other higher ups could still be totally degrading and unfair when they saw firsthand the work that these women did.

 

Who would you recommend the book or movie to?

SweetScience: The book was a little hard for me to follow even though the author clearly tried to keep reminding the reader who was who, so I would probably only recommend the book to anyone who really wants to understand the history of this group of women and operations related to race. I imagine I would recommend the movie to everyone though!

Curiouser: I also had a hard time following the book.  I wanted to be fully engaged but because of the range of characters and time, the plot was a little meandering. However, I think the facts and message behind the story are absolutely critical for everyone to know so I would say either give the book a try or at least watch the movie.

peírama: The movie is great for all audiences. It is easy to follow and inspiring. Like the other reviewers said, the book is not so straightforward. I really like the background that the book includes that the movie does not have time for and I highly recommend the book. However, you may enjoy it more if you have a lot of time in a couple of sittings to read it rather than spread out over weeks like I did.

StrongerThanFiction: To parents that want to watch a movie with their kids and discuss it afterwards. To my daughter when she gets old enough.

 

Here are a few quotes that resonated with us.

 

While the importance of mentors and women helping one another is stressed throughout the stories of Hidden Figures, the primary theme was about women who forged their own paths, and earned their positions and respect in a meritocracy.

“There’s something about this story that seems to resonate with people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds. It’s a story of hope, that even among some of our country’s harshest realities – legalized segregation, racial discrimination – there is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us.”

“A new future stretched out before them, but Dorothy Vaughan and the others found themselves at the beginning of a career, with few role models to follow to its end. Just as they had learned the techniques of aeronautical research on the job, the ambitious among them would have to figure out for themselves what it would take to advance as a woman in a profession that was built by men.”

“Each one had cracked the hole in the wall a little wider, allowing the next talent to come through. And now that Mary had walked through, she was going to open the wall as wide as possible for the people coming behind her.”

 

The women coped with bias on several levels in a variety of ways:

“Bemused, Katherine considered the engineer’s sudden departure. The moment that passed between them could have been because she was black and he was white. But then again, it could have been because she was a woman and he was a man. Or maybe the moment was an interaction between a professional and a subprofessional, an engineer and a girl.”

“Against ignorance, she and others like her mounted a day-in, day-out charm offensive: impeccably dressed, well-spoken, patriotic, and upright, they were racial synecdoches, keenly aware that the interactions that individual blacks had with whites could have implications for the entire black community.”

 

This quote is really important for everyone to consider regarding how invisible fences and glass ceilings can cause biases about limits to be internalized – think about it for any marginalized group, and think about it for yourself.

“The electrified fence of segregation and the centuries of shocks it delivered so effectively circumscribed the lives of American blacks that even after the current was turned off, the idea of climbing over the fence inspired dread. Like the editorial meetings in 1244, like so many competitive situations large and small, national and local, black people frequently disqualified themselves even without the WHITES ONLY sign in view.”

 

One impression that stuck out was that these women had different expectations for themselves. They worked harder than anyone else, and (it seems) made more sacrifices than anyone else just to coexist. While they noticed this, they persisted. I think that they noticed that while they could certainly have an influence on social dynamics, there were still many things out of their control. And they chose to work hard instead of give up.

“Mary didn’t have the power to remove the limits that society imposed on her girls, but it was her duty, she felt, to help pry off the restrictions they might place on themselves. Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status – none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions. You can do better – we can do better, she told them with every word and every deed. For Mary Jackson, life was a long process of raising one’s expectations.”
Have you read Hidden Figures or seen the movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


One response so far

Hidden Figures Book/Movie Club

(by peirama) Feb 14 2017

A number of us recently read and watched Hidden Figures, a book and its film adaptation about a group of female black mathematicians, known as computers, who individually and as a group played a crucial role in early air and space flight. It focuses on Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn. Both the book and movie touch on topics of racism, sexism, and how a combination of smarts, hard work, and confidence can break barriers.

What was the most relatable part of the story for you?

SweetScience: I related to the way many of the people featured in this book more or less stumbled into their careers – yes, based on talent and interest in mathematics, but also because they just needed a job and this was the most appealing one for practical reasons. Especially early in my education and career I felt like I just kept going ahead in a field I enjoy and am good at even when I didn’t know where the path would take me. These brilliant women make you wonder how many people have the abilities to make a major impact if only given the opportunity and exposure to different fields to test their talents.

Curiouser: Although the book only touched on this peripherally, I related to the two body (or more) issue that popped up for many of the women in the book.  It was interesting to see them choose between career and living close to family and how they managed having families and husbands with their own careers.        

peírama: I related to the relationship between work and family that was highlighted in these women’s stories. Some gave up career opportunities to get married and have children, even though they really enjoyed their work. They all ended up getting the opportunity to do work that they loved in addition to having families, a situation I hope can be achieved for all of us.

StrongerThanFiction: These women accomplished so much. I related to the quiet persistence that they had. Sometimes in the type of world we live in today that seems like it is never-ending headline to headline with constant drama. I found it so refreshing to read about people who worked so hard professionally, and made slow but steady steps in social justice issues. They earned respect instead of trying to grab it.

 

What surprised you about the story?

SweetScience: I was constantly surprised by the treatment of women and people of color as ‘less than’, even though I already knew. For example “The black teacher and her colleagues, including the principal, made less money than the school’s white janitor.” Ugh, it just hurts!

Curiouser: Since I had not heard of women computers of any color, that was fascinating to me.  It made me wonder how we went from the mentality that women were able to do the advanced and meticulous math required to be a “computer” to the idea that (hopefully is going away) that girls aren’t good at math.  

peírama: I know that before computers people did math by hand, but it is still amazing to think about the calculations required for space travel being written out with pen and paper.

StrongerThanFiction: I knew that race relations were very bad at the time, but I was very surprised by the persistence into the professional sphere. An analogy can be made relating the work that gets done to currency. The more work, and the better quality work that gets done is like more money. It is crazy to me that supervisors and other higher ups could still be totally degrading and unfair when they saw firsthand the work that these women did.

 

Who would you recommend the book or movie to?

SweetScience: The book was a little hard for me to follow even though the author clearly tried to keep reminding the reader who was who, so I would probably only recommend the book to anyone who really wants to understand the history of this group of women and operations related to race. I imagine I would recommend the movie to everyone though!

Curiouser: I also had a hard time following the book.  I wanted to be fully engaged but because of the range of characters and time, the plot was a little meandering. However, I think the facts and message behind the story are absolutely critical for everyone to know so I would say either give the book a try or at least watch the movie.

peírama: The movie is great for all audiences. It is easy to follow and inspiring. Like the other reviewers said, the book is not so straightforward. I really like the background that the book includes that the movie does not have time for and I highly recommend the book. However, you may enjoy it more if you have a lot of time in a couple of sittings to read it rather than spread out over weeks like I did.

StrongerThanFiction: To parents that want to watch a movie with their kids and discuss it afterwards. To my daughter when she gets old enough.

 

Here are a few quotes that resonated with us.

 

While the importance of mentors and women helping one another is stressed throughout the stories of Hidden Figures, the primary theme was about women who forged their own paths, and earned their positions and respect in a meritocracy.

“There’s something about this story that seems to resonate with people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds. It’s a story of hope, that even among some of our country’s harshest realities – legalized segregation, racial discrimination – there is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us.”

“A new future stretched out before them, but Dorothy Vaughan and the others found themselves at the beginning of a career, with few role models to follow to its end. Just as they had learned the techniques of aeronautical research on the job, the ambitious among them would have to figure out for themselves what it would take to advance as a woman in a profession that was built by men.”

“Each one had cracked the hole in the wall a little wider, allowing the next talent to come through. And now that Mary had walked through, she was going to open the wall as wide as possible for the people coming behind her.”

 

The women coped with bias on several levels in a variety of ways:

“Bemused, Katherine considered the engineer’s sudden departure. The moment that passed between them could have been because she was black and he was white. But then again, it could have been because she was a woman and he was a man. Or maybe the moment was an interaction between a professional and a subprofessional, an engineer and a girl.”

“Against ignorance, she and others like her mounted a day-in, day-out charm offensive: impeccably dressed, well-spoken, patriotic, and upright, they were racial synecdoches, keenly aware that the interactions that individual blacks had with whites could have implications for the entire black community.”

 

This quote is really important for everyone to consider regarding how invisible fences and glass ceilings can cause biases about limits to be internalized – think about it for any marginalized group, and think about it for yourself.

“The electrified fence of segregation and the centuries of shocks it delivered so effectively circumscribed the lives of American blacks that even after the current was turned off, the idea of climbing over the fence inspired dread. Like the editorial meetings in 1244, like so many competitive situations large and small, national and local, black people frequently disqualified themselves even without the WHITES ONLY sign in view.”

 

One impression that stuck out was that these women had different expectations for themselves. They worked harder than anyone else, and (it seems) made more sacrifices than anyone else just to coexist. While they noticed this, they persisted. I think that they noticed that while they could certainly have an influence on social dynamics, there were still many things out of their control. And they chose to work hard instead of give up.

“Mary didn’t have the power to remove the limits that society imposed on her girls, but it was her duty, she felt, to help pry off the restrictions they might place on themselves. Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status – none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions. You can do better – we can do better, she told them with every word and every deed. For Mary Jackson, life was a long process of raising one’s expectations.”
Have you read Hidden Figures or seen the movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


No responses yet

March for Science hat?

(by torschlusspanik) Feb 07 2017

Imagine the recent Women’s marches all over the US and world without pussyhats.  Sure, signs were clever and creative, but the collective message and solidarity of participants were loud and clear in the sea of bright pink hats with pointy corners.

 

Does the upcoming March for Science on April 22 need hats? What will be the unifying message?  Ideas are trickling in some corners of internet.  

 

Because there are so many areas of science and implication of its celebration, advocation, and protection is vast, it may be difficult and/or unnecessary to come up with a single symbol that encompasses all of them.  

 

But being a former neuroscientist turned a crafter, I’m going to put on a thinking cap on…(pun intended) and explore some possibilities for a March for Science hat.

 

Among my neuroscientist friends, a brain hat has been a popular idea [each image is linked to its source].

brainhat

Now, this is truly a thinking cap (again, intended). I’ve seen this design in many places and most often.  In a way, this can be a unifying symbol/hat, that we all need to use our brain to make well informed decisions regarding the environment, our health, and future of this planet.  And to demand that our government make policies based on evidence-based facts, not the other way around.

 

In the theme of knitted hats, I have seen two designs of DNA hat:

dnahat1

danhat2

These are all cute, but the patterns look a bit more complicated and time-consuming.

 

Though I am not a chemist, this may be considered a straightforwardly “science” hat:

chemhat

Again, the hat is fancy, and may be too fancy to make in a short time.

 

Just to carry the trend of resistance from the successful Women’s March, we can always wear pussyhats, or the same design in colors of the earth, maybe blue and/or green.

 

In the time of resistance, self-care is very important.  Knitting is definitely a part of my self-care.  It is meditative, relaxing, and provides a true measure of productivity when a project is completed.  I have recently seen articles regarding its benefits in health and parenting,  but then, most days you just do not have the time.

 

What are some do-it-in-15 min-or-less ideas.  Print and stick one of these images/messages on the top of a graduation cap?  Or draw on it?  

marchforscience

My personal favorite (though my internet digging suggests that a part of the design was originally produced by a vaping company):

16425835_10208301488390667_8275017472300273350_n

As a Star Wars fan, this one is nice and simple:

starwars

Finally, I found this posted in March for Science – Seattle Facebook page, but a comment indicated that it originally was posted on March for Science – Orlando FB page :
16300460_10154906428051092_5794063531151031794_o

There is a knitted version of Klein Bottle Hat:

kleinbottlehat

Of course it does not have to be just hats.  I have seen ideas of wearing lab coats, eye protection goggles, bow ties (re: Bill Nye), carrying flasks and test tubes…

 

One impression I had having participated in Women’s March was how shrewd and creative signs were (I had a sign envy).  If we all could put our creativity and intelligence together, I feel that we can overcome this tide.  Or at least we can strategize ways to resist.

 

What ideas for hats, outfits, and signs have you seen?  What are your favorites?  What would be the way to best communicate to the the public that Science is Real?  See you on April 22!


17 responses so far

A Tale of Three Labs: Reflections on Environment Dynamics

(by ragamuffinphd) Jan 31 2017

Sticking to the scenario in which I am a fish, I’d like to reflect on having been a variably sized fish in various sizes of pond… and learning to swim in corresponding tides. In this metaphor, ponds have tides.

Before graduate school, I was a research assistant for 3 years at a medical university in the Pacific Northwest. It was a very small ~4-6-person lab in which I grew partially out of the notion that I could never be a scientist. I wrote my first book chapter, led my first experiments, published my first manuscripts, acquired some semblance of expertise, and had tea with my PI almost every day. It was personal, and the team dynamic was always encouraging. Big fish, small pond.

In graduate school, I entered a medium-sized lab of ~15 people. It was a brand-spanking new lab in which I was fortunate and cursed to spearhead my own research out of nothing but experience. And I did. And it was painstaking and infuriating and rewarding. I became the expert of my field in my lab, but mine became an area of lesser interest to my PI. It was scientifically lonely despite strong personal friendships, and I was an expert whose contributions were of lesser interest to the team. Medium fish, medium pond.

After defending and with a heretofore unknown air of confidence, I launched myself into a postdoc in a huge ~50-person lab. For the first time in 8 years I entered an entirely new field of research. I have adjunct professor and postdoc supervisors-who-are-not-supervisors. I am bringing my own research to fruition under more fiscal and intellectual strain than I have ever experienced. While there is a communal reciprocity, there is no team dynamic. The encouraging aspect is that my PI seems to respect me. Small fish, ocean.

Unsurprisingly, I have found that as the body of water has grown, the tidal force has changed dramatically. In a large lab, one comes up against more subtle yet consequential social dynamics. Often I actually feel oppressed as a scientist*, and have to consider whether I have been spoiled by the luxuries of more personal research experiences or whether this is a real problem. Each lab I have worked in has had meaningful and unique perks and drawbacks. The pattern seems to be that both of these grow with the size of the lab. I am not sure that the perks of my postdoc lab will continue to stand up to the drawbacks, but for now I aim to rage against my restraints and pursue the science that I know to be important and worthwhile.

My experience of course does not speak for everyone’s. In fact, I have no idea how broadly these observations are shared. But these three labs have demonstrated to me that a large lab is much more challenging to navigate, and while protecting my newfound confidence is a battle every single day, I find each win precious and satisfying. Thus far.

 

*The dynamics of being a woman with all-male supervisors-who-are-not-supervisors is a separate subject for another post.


No responses yet

A Tale of Three Labs: Reflections on Environment Dynamics

(by ragamuffinphd) Jan 31 2017

Sticking to the scenario in which I am a fish, I’d like to reflect on having been a variably sized fish in various sizes of pond… and learning to swim in corresponding tides. In this metaphor, ponds have tides.

Before graduate school, I was a research assistant for 3 years at a medical university in the Pacific Northwest. It was a very small ~4-6-person lab in which I grew partially out of the notion that I could never be a scientist. I wrote my first book chapter, led my first experiments, published my first manuscripts, acquired some semblance of expertise, and had tea with my PI almost every day. It was personal, and the team dynamic was always encouraging. Big fish, small pond.

In graduate school, I entered a medium-sized lab of ~15 people. It was a brand-spanking new lab in which I was fortunate and cursed to spearhead my own research out of nothing but experience. And I did. And it was painstaking and infuriating and rewarding. I became the expert of my field in my lab, but mine became an area of lesser interest to my PI. It was scientifically lonely despite strong personal friendships, and I was an expert whose contributions were of lesser interest to the team. Medium fish, medium pond.

After defending and with a heretofore unknown air of confidence, I launched myself into a postdoc in a huge ~50-person lab. For the first time in 8 years I entered an entirely new field of research. I have adjunct professor and postdoc supervisors-who-are-not-supervisors. I am bringing my own research to fruition under more fiscal and intellectual strain than I have ever experienced. While there is a communal reciprocity, there is no team dynamic. The encouraging aspect is that my PI seems to respect me. Small fish, ocean.

Unsurprisingly, I have found that as the body of water has grown, the tidal force has changed dramatically. In a large lab, one comes up against more subtle yet consequential social dynamics. Often I actually feel oppressed as a scientist*, and have to consider whether I have been spoiled by the luxuries of more personal research experiences or whether this is a real problem. Each lab I have worked in has had meaningful and unique perks and drawbacks. The pattern seems to be that both of these grow with the size of the lab. I am not sure that the perks of my postdoc lab will continue to stand up to the drawbacks, but for now I aim to rage against my restraints and pursue the science that I know to be important and worthwhile.

My experience of course does not speak for everyone’s. In fact, I have no idea how broadly these observations are shared. But these three labs have demonstrated to me that a large lab is much more challenging to navigate, and while protecting my newfound confidence is a battle every single day, I find each win precious and satisfying. Thus far.

 

*The dynamics of being a woman with all-male supervisors-who-are-not-supervisors is a separate subject for another post.


No responses yet

New blogger!

(by strongerthanfiction) Jan 31 2017

We are welcoming a new blogger to the group – Ragamuffin, PhD. Welcome!

Her bio has been added to “Who Are We?”


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