Dick Strawkins wrote: BarnOwl wrote:
Over on Ophelia's version of the Pamela Gay drama (on which she bestows a title similar to those for her preceding posts on FGM), a commenter writes:
November 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm (UTC -8) Link to this comment
My young daughter is going to be gorgeous, and she loves math. I tell her every day how proud I am of her, and how great it would be if she decides to go into engineering or science.
Posts like this make me wonder if I’m doing the right thing as a dad. Maybe I should be encouraging her to study languages or English Lit, where the balance is a lot closer to 50-50.
That makes me SO ANGRY on her behalf, and the behalf of all the current and future woman scientists.
I don't know where to begin to parse the stupid, so I'll just ask why it's relevant that she's going to be "gorgeous"? It's quite obvious, from all of the many groping/harassment/RAEP stories that have been presented as blog posts, comments, #ripplesoftweetwoe, TAM talks, etc etc, that being "gorgeous" is not
a prerequisite for being a target. Being a scientist or being "brilliant" at maths and physics isn't a requirement either. So why is that even part of the dialogue? If they're so disgusted with oppressive white patriarchoindustrialcomplex notions of beauty, why do they constantly conform to them and refer to dominant paradigms of physical attractiveness?
I've mentioned about situations in my own experience involving sexual harassment in academia and that my in opinion they are symptoms of a larger issue - the power differential between senior adacemics and people starting their careers. If you have a system whereby there is no blowback for acting like a tyrant then people who do so will stay in those positions for longer.
I recall an incident from my first research job that might illustrate the point.
I got a job in a lab in the early 1990s, looking for genes involved in certain types of leukemia. The group worked in collaboration with a team in Oxford who were much more experienced in the field, and I was sent to work in the Oxford lab for a few months to learn the necessary techniques and bring them back to our lab.
The head of the Oxford group, I was warned, had a bit of a reputation for his temper, so best not try to antagonize him while I was there.
Things went OK for a couple of months until one day I got into an argument with one of the senior scientists in the group. She decided she wanted to use me as a technician for the group, washing bottles, preparing buffers and cataloguing patient sample, rather than teaching me the techniques I had been sent there to acquire and when I pointed out that I was being paid by another group to learn the techniques she stormed off to complain to the group leader.
I was called into a meeting with the two of them and he, the group leader, proceeded to threaten to physically kill me if I didn't do exactly what I was told to do by the senior scientist.
This didn't come our of the blue to me at that point. I'd seen other scientists and medics (he was a consultant haematologist at the hospital and in a position of considerable power in regards both scientists and physicians) called into his office and come out shaking a few minutes later, and one of them had told me about the threats of violence made to him.
But, the thing was, I come from a fairly tough environment. Threats of violence are something I regularly experienced when growing up and I learned that they are almost always a sign of weakness - an attempt at bullying the other person into submission.
So my response was to laugh in his face and tell him not to wait - go ahead and kill me.
I presumed it was all a bluff and so it was - he freaked out for a few minutes, threatened to end my scientific career there and then (I laughed again - this was my first job in research, there was no 'career' to kill). He then told me to vacate the lab and said he was going to phone up my home lab and get them to fire me!
So I go home and the next morning I turn up in the other lab - the group who are actually paying me and who expected me to be trained in Oxford - wondering whether I had a job there at all. I was met by the senior scientist of the lab who tells me, through peals of laughter, that the Oxford group leader had indeed rang up insisting that I be fired, and when he was asked to explain WHY he started to threaten violence again - except this time on the other group leader (a prominent leukemia researcher and also a consultant haematologist.) The quote I remember was that the Oxford group leader threatened to "drive down to rip off his head and kick it around the floor".
I had been working in that lab for a few months and had seen about three of these incidents and I presume it was a regular event and yet the guy never suffered any repercussions for this behavior in the decades he worked in that post. He was also having an affair with a PhD student in the group at the time I was there.
And as for me?
Not even PTSD.