Archive for the 'gender' category

Guest post by @MyTChondria: Getting on with some help from friends #ThxSTEMMen

Jul 20 2014 Published by under academia, gender

This last week was a real shit-show in so many ways. I was especially hit hard by a series of events that highlighted the sexism in my corner of the STEM world. First, @kateclancy published a study in PLoS ONE about how many young women were sexually harassed or assaulted doing fieldwork, then a $20 million suit was filed against Vanderbilt that accused a professor of such horrible behavior that it makes me want to puke. Finally, Science magazine published a ridiculous cover image of head-less trans women, and a white d00d editor went to twitter to defend it and made it a million times more horrible. Ugh. I don't really know what to say/do. But lucky for me (and you, really), @MyTChondria sent me this guest post. I like the idea of recognizing our allies in this fight. Enjoy.

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By MyTChondria:

This month has has been brutal for many people in STEM, particularly women.  Stunning Supreme Court rulings pulled our reproductive rights away bit by bit. This last week the horrors hit close to our jobs as allegations of horrific acts of sexual harassment against trainees, publication of data of the startling numbers of female field scientists who have been harassed and assaulted on work sites, and blundering non-pologies of Science as they depersonalized the tragedy of transgender sex workers.

I’m exhausted by the fact Henry Gee still works at Nature, that we live in a society where males sing Robin Thicke lyrics about ‘you know you want it’ and every part of #YesAllWomen resonates with me.

Men came by my office making light of these events. When I told them I was sad and these things hurt me and my friends, they squirmed but didn’t listen. They were either convinced simply bringing these things to light would help or that people were making mountains out of mole hills.

Figure 1: Nearly entirely accurate portrayal of me by Wednesday last week

Figure 1: Nearly entirely accurate portrayal of me by Wednesday last week

It was all I could do to keep from crying. And I don’t fuckken cry. This was the first week I really seriously considered leaving science. I thought I couldn’t look at my graduate students and fellows (all of whom are women) and tell them STEM is a healthy field. I’m not depressed, I’m sad.  And it crystalized as @MGHydro tweeted exasperation that nothing seemed to be changing.  Were we just documenting history or actually going to do something about it?

Friday night I huddled up with Mini ate some pizza and watched The Butler (she is obsessed with history and social justice). She watched the movie intently while white actors sat by blacks actors graphically reenacted the violence students were subjected to at Civil rights protests. I paused to see if it was too much for her and asked her why she thought the white students sat taking this abuse with their black friends. The real life photos of their injuries were horrific.

With the confidence that only a 10 year old can have, she said “Of course they had to sit there with them. You can’t live in a world where people you know aren’t being treated fairly by bullies. Even if it means you have to get beat up along side your friends. It's the right thing to do”.  With the help of wine and a nice fleece blanket, I thought about this over the next few hours, and found myself with a foothold to help me face next week with a sense of hope.

Many of my male Tweeps have called out sexism, thought deeply and fought hard for gender equality. They give me hope I’m not insane and alone. They help me believe there is not some fundamental and insurmountable difference in how men think women. I appreciate their voices cheering for me me when I’m doing the right thing even if I want to puke while it’s happening. I delight in these men who have the wherewithal to tell sexist men to STFU in their blogs, tweets and IRL.

I have no cookies to give. I’m not that kind of person.  I also know would stab me if it looked like I was doing it (they would also stab a dude, so I feel okay with this).  For all these things I am grateful.

Many of my female friends have similar stories of men who kicked other dudes in social media who impress and encourage them. So, I invite my female tweeps to share the hashtag #ThxSTEMMen with the names of a man or men who have helped you in your gender equality struggles.

@SciTriGrrl will Storify it and we can hopefully connect up other women with the merry band of misfits who champion women’s rights.

 

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if you all could just work with me, here

Oct 16 2013 Published by under gender

OK, peeps. I'm in the midst of writing my resubmission for the Nov 5 "deadline". I have to admit, it is not going awesomely right now. In part, because I have no actual idea when the fuck the government will open so I can actually submit the motherfucker. But also because of you. Yes, you, the internet. One thing that that the last 18 months has especially hammered home for me is that I sometimes have to ask for help. I can't always do everything on my own. So if you all could help me out with a few minor leeeeetle requests I would be very, very grateful. 

1. I'm going to need Patagonia and Timbuk2 to stop emailing me. I don't have the time or the money. I do, however, have a weakness for bags and outdoor gear. I promise that I will waste all kinds of time with you guys if we could just have a little break until after the A1 deadline.

2. It would be most helpful to me if we could all refrain from being assholes for a few weeks. I just don't have the time or the energy. This request has three (at least) sub-parts, directed at specific assholery that particularly pisses me off:

A. Looking at you, GOP. For realz. Open the fucking government - and FUND IT. Raise the fucking debt ceiling. Lose the sequester, let the economy recover. Find an actual idea to get behind. If you want to try limiting contraception, go for it. I won't vote for you, but whatev. But for the love of sweet baby jeebus, can we stop with the manufactured crises that cause a lot of pain for folks but accomplish nothing? that would be super.

B. This one's for you, sexist, self-important, misogynist, harassing fuck knuckles. Yep, I'm gonna lump all of you together. First, it is basically never OK to call someone a whore. Now, maybe some of you may think of exceptions where using "whore" is OK as part of an in-group vernacular. Fine. But if you are working then ALWAYS assume it is NOT OK. In fact, assume it would be a fireable offense. That doesn't seem hard, right? That way I don't get caught up in my feminist angst and end up spending so much time reading blogs and twitter. Much appreciated. In case you wonder where I fall on this, which I am sure you are sick of hearing about by now, I think SciAm should have said from the beginning that they were horrified that anyone would treat a young woman in the way that Ofek apparently did, and that they had to temporarily take down the post because of legal concerns. See, if they would have done that then I would have spent a lot less time on twitter, etc. Maybe I would have even gotten more of my grant finished off!

And now, Bora. I've heard him called "the blogfather". He helped start Science Online, and every year when folks congregate in NC for that even the #IHuggedBora hashtag takes over my twitter stream. I don't really know Bora. I've never blogged for/with him. I met him only once, and we barely talked. Apparently, Bora sexually harasses young science writers. On his own, non-SciAm blog, Bora corroborates the incident from the TOTALLY BELIEVABLE IN EVERY WAY Monica (conveniently, he didn't link to her post). AFAIK he has not addressed the other allegations that came up in the comments, not to mention here. WhatTheFuckEver. Bora has lost all credibility in my eyes. I feel horribly - for the women that had to put up with his creepiness. And it has made me sad to see so many (NOT all) bloggy friends, who normally join the #trollerderby or jump to respond to the #batsignal, sit quietly. I can only assume it is because Bora is, well... BORA.  has. I GET that folks need time to process what they are learning, because it is just So Hard to accept that someone you are friends with is THAT GUY. But I have no reason to doubt any of the women that have spoken up. Because, you know, I've had men that I thought were Good Guys (TM) treat me like a piece of meat. If fucking sucks, but it's a thing, sadly.

C. Put the gun down. Don't clean it. Don't let your little kid play with it. Don't try to gun down a bunch of your fellow citizens. We may not all agree, but surely that is not the logical answer. Find someone to talk to. Take care of yourself. Realize there are better ways.

Also, some of us are busy. From what I hear, the government could open up ANY MINUTE. And I have a grant to write.

kthnks. <3

Gerty

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Announcing #AlliesFTW Q&A

Oct 04 2012 Published by under academia, gender, queer

A while back on twitter, I got in a conversation with Joe (@josephlsimonis) from charismatics are dangerous about what folks in academia can do to be allies for the queer* students in their midst, especially trans* folks**. As we were chatting about things that profs/teachers/faculty can do to help queer students feel welcome and comfortable in academia I realized that I really had no idea.  I don't know what will help other queer folks feel comfortable in any given lab group environment. And yet, I am in a position where there may be queer students in the classes that I teach. And if there is anything I can do to foster their interests in science, I want to know what it is, so that I can do it. In short, I want to be an active ally. But how? What specific steps can I take to make the academic environment better for queer students? We talked about allies in the DiS Blog Carnival earlier this year, and came up with some good ideas when Labroides asked what a new prof could do to create an environment that fostered diversity, so that ze could recruit and retain folks from different backgrounds into hir group. And now is a great time for all of us to up our game. This leads us to the announcement:

ANNOUNCING #AlliesFTW

Queer students often have widely different classroom experiences that can vary based on their specific queer identity/expression, as well as and any other identities which might intersect with their queerness in the classroom. Many young adults are coming out/identifying as queer while in college, and so the classroom and other academic settings are important places to make as welcoming and affirming as possible.

We are hosting a blog Q&A to discuss the issues that queer students have in academia, and to try to figure out what those of us in a role of  professor/teacher can do to foster an environment that allows our queer students to thrive. Since every student and environment is different, we hope that we can get a diverse group of folks both asking questions and contributing answers. So here's the plan: over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be asking for you to submit questions for the Q&A carnival. If you are a teacher/prof, what questions do you have about how to be a super ally? If you are a queer student, what do you wish the teacher/prof would take into consideration? Submit your answers in the comments section here or on Joe's blog, or email your responses to me (gmail at primaryinvestigator) or her (gmail at josephlsimonis). If you would like to remain anonymous we will strip your emails from any identifying information before posting questions on the blog. And if you are on twitter, join in with the hashtag #AlliesFTW.

We will collect question/comments until Oct 19 or so. Then Joe and I will put together the list of questions and post them on our respective blogs so that you can all chime in to give us a sense of which are the best ones to answer first. Then we will try to address each question/comment on the blog. We can only speak from our personal experiences, so the hope is that we will spark a good discussion that includes and reflects the spectrum of experiences.  We will try to keep the series going as long as progress is being made. In the end we can all be better allies!

 

*by queer, we mean anyone who falls under the broad lgbtqgqia+ or "gender and sexual minority" banners
**the trans* notation, with asterisk,  is a way to note that gender is not binary, and there are not just "boys" and "girls". I learned about it from Joe, and it is pretty awesome.

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Say it with me: XX are not inherently "bitchy"

Jul 10 2012 Published by under academia, gender

Today as I am flitting about spastically trying to get shit done before I leave town tomorrow, I was distracted by a conversation on twitter that pissed me off SO MUCH. I don't know how it started, I noticed when someone made a comment about hiring (I think it was Namnezia [ed: OK, so it was apparently ProfLike Substance. My bad - gz]) wondering if the boilerplate diversity statement "woman and minorities are encouraged to apply" actually did anything to encourage women or minorities to apply. A fair question, I think.

And then shit went off the rails. There are apparently a lot of tweeps that are urging their PIs to hire men for open positions in their lab. Not because the XY candidates are more qualified or anything. But because there are already "too many" females. Now, I think that most labs have too few members to make an argument about over- or under-representation (statistics of low n and such). I tried to ignore this conversation - I have a lot of shit to do! But I couldn't resist pointing out that the XX faculty are pretty underrepresented where I am. Other folks chimed in that this was true for them, too. Now this is just another anectdote, I know. But there is a certain amount of hand-wringing about the "leaky pipeline" that I think XX representation in science IS actually a problem*.

So why do the tweeps (many of them XX, btw) feel the need for more XY lab mates? Because "too may XX - more conflict/bitchiness/problems in the lab".

OH FOR FUCK SAKE PEOPLE. Can we stop with this already? Men are just as conflict-prone and bitchy as women. It is just that we hold it against the XX. This is the classic no-win situation. Please, stop this shit. Everyone. It drives me insane to hear WOMEN make this argument. Ladies. We can do better than this.

I think I may have bitched about this topic before.

 

*again, I'm a little swamped so I don't have time to look up the stats.

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weekend fun: #usethe19th

Mar 24 2012 Published by under gender

I few days ago, while ranting about discussing the hostile attitude toward women in the current political environment, I raised up the idea that we should consider a 19th amendment solution to this problem. I know this will come as a shock. Really. But other people had the same idea! And even better they followed up and started a whole twitter-hash-tag thing that is getting some attention!! The idea is that we don't have to just sit here when some idiot says something ridiculous. What we need to do is get out there and VOTE so that the idiots don't have a platform anymore. That's right...let's vote the misogynist fuck knuckles out of office. WOO HOO!

You can learn more about the #usethe19th campaign by checking out the twitter or facebook. And join in by adding the #usethe19th hashtag when you tweet (yet another) example of stupid legislation or idiot rhetoric. Good times!

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falling back

Mar 11 2012 Published by under gender

There are a lot of folks complaining right now about the "lost hour" from daylight savings time. And tomorrow morning when my alarm goes off I will have the same thoughts.

But really there is something much worse going on. There is a group of d00ds out there that would like to turn the clock back more than just one hour. Way more. These fellows believe that women aren't smart enough to make good choices. State after state has been passing laws that dictate what information must be provided a woman before she gets an abortion. Even if she (and her doctor) don't think it is necessary. Even if the information requires an invasive exam, like a transvaginal ultrasound. It is no surprise that the GOP wants to make abortion illegal. But recently things have been getting really nasty. Not only are women not to be trusted to gather all the important information. But sometimes, us ladeez will make the wrong choice if do have the info. As Dr. Jen Gunter points out, there are already NINE states that have made it legal for doctors to lie to women.

What. The. Fuck.

Even though these d00ds - and they are almost ALL d00ds - are not only convinced that we can't make good choices after we get pregnant. They are also pretty sure that we shouldn't really get to choose whether or not we get pregnant. For reasons that I can't comprehend, the GOP has decided that birth control shouldn't be a thing. OH, and they also are not a fan of sex ed. Basically, they seem to think that everything would be OK if the wimmin would just quit bein so damn slutty. And they would probably like it if we would kindly retreat back into the kitchen to make them a sammich.

It is a little hard for me to believe that we are going to argue about whether or not women should be treated equally in society during the 2012 presidential election. I always thought that the heavy lifting (for this) was done by the women in my mom and grandmother's generations. Like many, I have called my congressional representatives to make sure that they know where I stand on this issue. And I've given some cash to planned parenthood and such.

Last week, after I re-tweeted a link to another news story about the latest way to make sure the ladeez were doin the right thing, Cackle of Rad wanted to know how she could join in to fight against this bullshit. I wish I knew the right answer. I feel like we are lacking a cohesive and powerful response to the fuck-knuckles that are pushing these stupid policies. We need to look back on how our mother's generation organized themselves, and learn from their success. But in the short term, we need a nineteenth amendment solution. Everyone that believes women should be treated as full and equal American citizens needs to get out this year and make sure that folks with these horrible viewpoints are not elected.

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Kate Clancy is putting together a internet-derby team!

Jan 25 2012 Published by under gender

Hey all, just lifting my head above the rising water that is this grant application for a second. In the craziness, I almost missed the fact that Kate Clancy has a post up about Blogging While Female. You should all go over there and read it, then sign up to join her posse. I was resistant to jumping through the registration hoop at SciAm, but she convinced me.

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seriously? who writes this stuff?

Jan 21 2012 Published by under academia, gender

"The application should be no more than 3 pages. They need not be in the detail requested by NIH for R01 grants"

Is it just me, or are those two sentences stupidly redundant?

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Sometimes people are just assholes

Jan 11 2012 Published by under academia, gender

The other day my new lab had a happy hour to ring in the new year. I have also just landed a new grad student (WOO HOO) and also convinced a super-awesome high-level research scientist* to join my group. I'm seriously psyched. :)

While my newly-expanded group was all sitting around a table I realized all of the sudden that we are overwhelmingly female. Including undergrads and rotation students right now we are 7 women and 1 man. Weird! When I first started my lab we were pretty close to 1:1 but when numbers are small it is easy to fluctuate pretty quickly, I guess. I'm really happy with my group right now. Everyone is engaged and works together really well. I don't really care how many X or Y chromosomes we have.

Shortly after noticing that my lab had skewed in one direction someone on twitter made a comment about how the gender distribution of their lab was skewed (I'm not sure who started the thread-the first one in my timeline is @27andaphd). As expected with low n numbers, there were labs that were mostly male, and some that were mostly female. No big deal, right. But then the conversation took a weird turn. Someone* mentioned that they were in a male-dominated group and that this was good because they don't like to work with women because "I'm a hard ass". This was followed by @agreenmonster who tweeted:

I have a big problem here. This is an idea that gets kicked around a lot. The idea that women who are faculty are somehow not as rigorous as their male colleagues. And the ones that are competent are mean or psycho or evil and "pull up the ladder" because they don't want junior women to succeed.

I CALL BULLSHIT.

Yes, there are some women academics that are assholes. There are also men down the hall that are assholes. Sometimes, people are just assholes. It has nothing to do with their gender. But there is a common stereotype that women are worse than men. And THIS is the kind of attitude that makes it hard to be a women in the sciences. If you get along with everyone you are "soft" and probably not rigorous. Maternal, maybe. But if you are a hard-ass then you are a "psycho" that is "pulling up the ladder". This is a ridiculous double standard. If this is what you expect from a woman scientist, then this is what you will perceive. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy And it is FUCKED UP.

There are some shitty mentors out there. Some of them are women. But not all of them. If we only highlight the women that are assholes this leads to a perception that women and men are different. This sets the bar for all women, and it makes the whole academic situation harder. Because now, if you are a woman in academia you might try to behave in such a way that everyone won't think that you are "psycho". Maybe you try not to be aggressive or "bitchy" (the feminine of aggressive, to some). Now you are perceived as less rigorous or engaged. You can't win.

We have to stop this. If you hear this kind of bullshit, call it out. The twitter conversation about this topic ended with everyone agreeing that assholes gonna be assholes. And hopefully convinced some folks that they can't let these kinda statements just fly by without comment.

There is no such thing as a "male" way to do science. There is just culture and the way groups interact. I'm kinda a hard-ass, myself. I've been told that my lab has a pretty "male" culture**. In my group, I expect a lot of people. It's OK to be wrong, because if you are never wrong you are Doing It Wrong. But you have to be willing to defend your ideas and recognize when your arguments fail. Sometimes discussions get pretty animated (even aggressive). But we all understand that, while it is OK to be wrong, it is not OK to be disrespectful. You can tell someone their idea is full of shit, but it's not personal. Attacking ideas is expected, attacking people is not tolerated. There is nothing "male" about that. It is just kick-ass science.

 

*since they have a protected twitter account I won't list them by name here.

**don't worry-I also make sure the person that said this knew how fucked up it was.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: Hermie totally scooped me!!! Make sure that you go and read her views on this, which are spot-on.

[edited to remove my html cheating]

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fucking awesome (chapter 2)

Dec 23 2011 Published by under awesomeness, gender

I am apparently on a mission to restore (my own?) faith in humanity this week! This entry was brought to my attention by the Most Fantastic Tideliar on the twitter. If you can read this without getting all warm and fuzzy then I don't think we can be friends:

One Teacher's Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying in a Classroom

My job is not to judge, but to teach, and I can’t teach if the students in my class are distracted or uncomfortable. My job is also about preparing students to be a part of our society, ready to work and play with all kinds of people. I found that teaching about gender stereotypes is another social justice issue that needs to be addressed, like racism or immigrant rights, or protecting the environment.

I think this is the first time ever I wished I lived in Wisconsin. And I'm gonna forward this link to Mini-G's preschool teacher. Just Awesome :D

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