The Playing Field Will Never Be Equal: Gender Equity For Physicists

N.B.: Nature Physics (3, 363; 2007) has an editorial on a recent American Physical Society workshop, Gender Equity: Strengthening the Physics Enterprise in Universities and National Laboratories. This post is based** on that editorial, which is behind a paywall; you can read part of it here.
So, the American Physical Society had a gender equity workshop, and all the bigwigs came - chairs of 50 major physics departments, 14 division directors of national labs, leaders from NSF and DOE. "After all, if there is to be change, it has to come from the top." Sounds good on paper. There was some blah-blah about "leaders should" set codes of conduct, make expectations clear, be aware of subtle biases, etc. - you know, be good managers. Which, it was duly noted, is not a characteristic the usual physics group can claim. Then we get the usual 'times are changing, team work, collaboration, blah blah, this will benefit women, increased global competition means we need the skills of everyone even if you don't feel like being fair, diversity benefits women AND men, and that's a wrap on the article.'
In the middle of the piece we find two other usual components of Gender Equity In (your discipline here) Articles.

  1. Everything can be blamed on the kids! "The single biggest issue to face, of course, is that of children." Not professors who sexually harass students and colleagues. Not hostile environments in the workplace and classroom. Not the attitudes of male physicists to women who have children. But children. Women having children in a context-free environment, somehow, it's really no one's fault, it just so happens that it becomes a problem for them to continue in their careers. Maybe if we gave them more time to apply for young investigator awards? Yes, that's it!. If you'll excuse me a moment, I am going to phone up Absinthe and let her know about this great new idea. When she's done with her maternity leave, she could still be eligible to apply for a grant and....oh, wait. That's right. Her f*cking pig of a boss hounded her out of science for giving birth, so she won't be applying for any young or old or middle-aged investigator grants, now will she? Lest you worry that any of the actions or policy changes recommended at the conference will actually change things, the Nature Physics editorial reminds us "the playing field will never be level on this score." So there. Women, in pain will you bring forth children.

  2. Of course, we must not forget the poor advisors, who struggle valiantly to continue their research programs in spite of women dropping babies left and right in the labs and ruining everything. "Extensions and allowances are all very well" but what about those bastards over at CERN who are threatening to scoop us? They aren't going to give a shit if Absinthe's sisters want to procreate. So, a little lip service to the idea of cooperative teamwork and giving a good goddam about women in physics never hurt anyone, but at the end of the day, "there is a need, therefore, to keep firmly in sight exactly how science works."

And exactly how science works, Zuskateers, is what keeps the boys in charge, so what's not to love?
Oh women, we'd love to have you as physicists, especially now that we've caught on to this whole "global competition" and "we need all the talent we can get" rhetoric, and we're considering doing our best to fit you in, you cute little square pegs, you! Let us be clear: things have changed, and square pegs are actually considered to have a modest value these days. Not that you'd ever want one as chair of a top 50 physics department, ha ha ha! But, you know, when you're applying for an NSF grant and you need to address those pesky aspects of the proposal like creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, diversity, and public outreach, the square pegs are sometimes handy to have around.
So, to sum up: Leaders should make a good show of being all for gender equity. Borrow some language from corporate America about cooperative teamwork, global competition, diversity is good for all of us. Exhort NSF to make some minor funding tweaks and keep the focus firmly on the real bad actors, the kids. Support continuation of structural inequalities by calling them immutable and aligning them with national strength.
If you visit the workshop website and download some of the presentations, you'll soon see that at least the material presented to workshop attendees was a bit more complex than the Nature Physics editorial allows for. Certainly there's more talk about transforming entrenched culture and changing values and practices. The presentations that focus on the family vs. career issue make clear that there is a context to this issue, and the solution is complex and institutional, not a few simple policies that have only to do with individuals. Be sure to take a look at Mary Ann Mason's "Do Babies Matter?" presentation. It'll curl your hair.




**The editorial is not merely a reporting of workshop highlights; it's a positioning and interpretation of the meaning and value of its outcomes. The editorial is quite clearly taking the position that men will ALWAYS have an advantage over women who have children, and that absolutely nothing can or should be done about the competitive nature of science which is in part responsible for this advantage. I think this is a load of crap that ought to be pointed out and opposed, hence this post. I'd admit to talking about subtext except that they are so explicit it's hardly a subtext. What particularly hacks me off is that they use the occasion of a gender equity workshop to advocate the position that women must always be disadvantaged 'cause that's just how science "works". The editorial writers ought to be smacked about the head and shoulders with a copy of Beyond Bias and Barriers.

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  • Rob Knop says:

    Lest you worry that any of the actions or policy changes recommended at the conference will actually change things, the Nature Physics editorial reminds us "the playing field will never be level on this score."
    To be fair to them, the meaning of that statement is simply biological. During the 9-month gestation period, the mother has to put up with things that the father does not. As long as biology remains what it is, that's going to remain a truth, and that's going to prevent the playing field from being completely level. I really do not think that the statement in the Nature article was a declaration of intent.
    By saying this, I don't mean to contradict anything else you say. Yes, the data shows that children make a huge difference. However, that's more a symptom of the real problem than the problem itself.
    -Rob

  • Bill says:

    "the playing field will never be level on this score."
    How does that work? Assuming the author is not a member of the VHEM, he (I'll put money on that pronoun) seems to be saying that the responsibility for making babies (and then making actual humans out of them) is inherently and irremediably distributed between the sexes in an uneven fashion.
    No wonder the damn thing is unsigned.

  • Bill says:

    Rob, children are a burden (I mean that in the nicest way!) for a lot longer than that nine months. It's childcare, not pregnancy and birth, that places most of the uneven burden on women.
    And even during pregnancy/postnatal recovery, the responsibility for the child is not solely the mother's. She must, for biological reasons, bear the physical brunt of pregnancy and childbirth, but that does not mean that the father gets to shrug and say, "not my problem". If having babies is a good thing, then the costs of that good thing should be shared as equally as possible between the people who desire it. Since the father cannot "take over the pregnancy for a while", he (and society with him) should be doing other things to pay his share.

  • Lisa says:

    Rob, I know you're a nice guy and all, but as someone mostly through the "9-month gestation period", I can tell you that I have very little to "put up with" "that the father does not", at least in terms of anything that affects my work. Sure, some things have taken a bit of extra time (such as doctor's appointments) or energy (sometimes I take naps), but these small changes only slightly affect my time and are easily compensated for by quitting other outside activities (I can't play in my usual community sports league while pregnant anyway). Much of this affects my husband almost as much--especially since he had to cook and clean for both of us when I couldn't stand the smell. (If I didn't have a partner, I suppose I could've hired someone so it wouldn't affect my work . . .)
    Perhaps things would be harder if I were an experimentalist, or if I had experienced any medical complications. However, if we're going to look at medical complications, maybe we should think about how many more men have various conditions and/or die early than women (perhaps when hiring young we should get men so they won't get pregnant, but when hiring old people we should take women because they'll last longer?). I agree that the whole pregnancy/labor/breastfeeding thing is medically more difficult for women than men, but in the whole scheme of things, with the proper support, it's relatively insignificant. The big deal is the baby itself, and I'd like to think that it's not true (or at least not stated as obvious!) that "the playing field will never be level" with respect to raising the baby.
    The problem is they are NOT simply informing us that, technically, women have babies and men do not--we should have all learned that even before first grade and it certainly didn't need to be said. If all goes well, the mother needs only a bit more flexibility during the pregnancy than the father does, and a couple of more days off due to labor, if they were to otherwise take the same share of childrearing. (actually, in my idealized world, the father takes up the extra slack for the mother by helping at home, emotionally supporting her, taking the baby a couple of extra days since she missed them while in the hospital . . . so that they are pretty much exactly equal, but I won't get into that)
    So why is the article talking about about a few months with a tiny bit of extra flexibility and a few extra days off, when surely during our lifetimes we will all need many days off due to tons of reasons, medical and otherwise? It's only a little more ridiculous than claiming that women are always going to be at a disadvantage because it takes extra time to sit down whenever they pee! Maybe they have a distorted view of how hard pregnancy is, but I think they just want to reassure their conscience that, even though they wish it weren't, the whole inequality thing is just a fact of life and there's nothing they can do about it.

  • Rob Knop says:

    It's childcare, not pregnancy and birth, that places most of the uneven burden on women.
    Yes, but that doesn't have to be true. That's the kind of societal problem that we should be looking to correct. The playing field is *way* more uneven right now than biology would make it.
    Rob, I know you're a nice guy and all, but as someone mostly through the "9-month gestation period", I can tell you that I have very little to "put up with" "that the father does not", at least in terms of anything that affects my work. Sure, some things have taken a bit of extra time (such as doctor's appointments) or energy (sometimes I take naps), but these small changes only slightly affect my time and are easily compensated for by quitting other outside activities (I can't play in my usual community sports league while pregnant anyway).
    So you've had a relatively easy pregnancy.
    I've known one who have been proscribed bed rest during the last trimester of pregnancy. There are ranges.
    Having been ill myself, I know that the energy loss that comes when your body is redirecting energy to other things does sap your ability to work.
    I think we should recognize and admit that women do in fact have to do more during pregnancy, and that there's nothing we can do about that fact. Given that, women need to be given more leeway during the pregnancy. Also, I agree with what Bill says -- right now, in society, not only during pregnancy, but afterwards, men tend to suffer less of the burden of raising children than women, and it would be best of society equalized that.
    I'm sure that that is exactly what the Nature guy was referring to -- he was not making a threat!
    There are criticisms to be made about the article, but those criticisms are undermined if you take that one line and try to represent it as something that it is not. If you try to claim that that is supposed to be the equivalent of a threat, or admission that we never want women to be equal, you destroy your credibility in bringing legitimate complains about the position. Somebody who reads the article and understands it for what it is-- a statement of biology, even if you argue it's overstated-- will write you off for trying to highlight that statement as something significant that it's not.
    -Rob

  • Beka says:

    Thank you Bill and Lisa! One big problem with childrearing (not babies) and careers for women is that, generally, even well-meaning fathers do not do their full share!
    See The Second Shift.

  • Beka says:

    I would also like to reiterate an excellent point that Zuska made. By focusing attention on lifestyle issues related to women and "their" children, essays like this divert attention from the prevalence of overt hostility, discrimination, and sexual harassment, which many institutions are extremely reluctant to address in any serious way.
    From a previous Joy of Science post (What's Good For Women Graduate Students):
    Fox found that incidents of harassment and discrimination were reported in all types of departments, whether they were low, improved, or high in representation of women in doctoral degrees awarded.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Beka,
    even well meaning fathers do not do their full share makes it sound, well, as if this is intentional. speaking from the anecdote i know best, this is not always the case. sometimes it comes down to how much the couple wants to fight biology to satisfy their professional plans. It comes down to just exactly how the mother feels when the baby is all about mom and doesn't want dad. etc.
    another point, [flamesuit on]
    I notice a subtle but persistent trend that is a difference in the way men and women view careerism. The difference being the degree to which one views one's science as something one does because one wants to versus because one has to. The latter breaks down to, "sure, this is a great job that I chose and I often find it personally satisfying. But at the end of each and every crappy day I recognize that I put up with this because it is my JOB that brings home the BACON." I find there to be gender bias in how "optional" one finds one's job to be.
    [flamesuit off]

  • jeffk says:

    I think that the tone of this post is needlessly hostile and seems to be accusing physicists of some kind of conspiracy. I feel confident in saying that physicists are generally about as progressive a crowd as you're going to find anywhere - anyone that chooses to be an academic is almost always going to be more of an idealist who wants change for the better than a businessperson or engineer or some other professional.
    It IS all about the kids. By the time women get to college-level physics, they are already a tiny minority, and that minority has already been abused, subtely told they won't or can't or have no desire to be in physics. I don't know how physics professors are supposed to take the 3% of their students that are female and turn them into department chairs immediately.
    Physicists aren't perfect and I'm certain there's the occasional asshole or unintentional asshole, but we're trained to be concerned with science, problem solving, and data... and I think we're about as gender-blind as any crowd you're going to find. I suspect the vast majority of the problems lie outside or before the college-level physics system.

  • Bill says:

    I think that the tone of this post is needlessly hostile
    See, Zuska, if you'd only be nicer...
    we're trained to be concerned with science, problem solving, and data
    Outside of a very, very narrow experimental focus -- and often not even there -- scientists are no more rational, or unemotional, or unconcerned with anything but cold hard data, than anyone else. This noxious myth of the Vulcan-in-a-lab-coat should be squashed at every opportunity.

  • jeffk says:

    I disagree. Scientists are frequently more rational than most other people - that's why they're mostly atheists, or are at least so at a much higher rate than the general public. Why would scientists confine their rationality into one narrow aspect of their life? I know I struggle not to confine whatever rationality I have.
    My point is that, being a scientist is a major life choice, even more than most other careers, because quite frankly most people that choose to be scientists could probably easily succeed in many other fields - business, law, or certainly engineering - and make much more money. Scientists make the choice to be scientists because they *truly* believe in what they do, and/or they have a deep respect for the academic system. These qualities make them much less likely to have agendas to keep women down, intentionally or otherwise.
    Further, I don't know if the "only be nicer" thing is sarcastic, but I'm quite serious about it. As a male who really wants to be a feminist, I often feel chased away by hot-headed and accusatory language. It's devisive, and maybe I'm just a thin-skinned wuss that should deal with it, but I'm telling you that feminists often scare off very sympathetic (in the literal, not emotional sense) males like me with scathing posts like this that draw a lot of conclusions without more carefully examining the situation.

  • Lisa says:

    I've known one who have been proscribed bed rest during the last trimester of pregnancy. There are ranges.
    Having been ill myself . . .

    Exactly! If someone has to be in a bed for 3 months that is a sign of a medical problem. You point out that you have also had medical problems, yet you have never been pregnant. My point is that, when you look over long periods of time, the difference in medical leave between men and women should be minuscule, and I don't even think that there's clear evidence that women take any more than men, if we don't count leave taken for childrearing which could theoretically be done equally by men and women. (Sure, if you only count the actual time during pregnancy I'd bet women will always take more leave than men, but most women are having about 2 kids sometime in the course of 20 years, so I don't think it's fair to pretend that pregnancy should have an overall effect, especially when males are more likely to have some other medical problems, which might be significant over a 20 year period.)
    As an aside, I'd like to point out that if women felt more confident that having children early wouldn't ruin their careers, they might not wait so long and would have a much lower risk of medical problems while pregnant.
    But what bugs me more about the comment that "the playing field will never be level" is its proximity to the other comment "The single biggest issue to face, of course, is that of children." The author don't really explain why this is the biggest issue; apparently it is just obvious? He can think that, but the "of course" is completely unwarranted--several people here disagree (and I believe there is evidence to back us up, but I don't want to spend all day writing this post) so it is clearly not obvious to us.
    I'm sure that that is exactly what the Nature guy was referring to -- he was not making a threat!
    Looking at those comments together, I don't understand how you can be so sure.
    I don't think he was making a threat either, but I do think it shows he is misinformed and needs to think about what he's really trying to say.

  • Lisa says:

    Sorry for the verb-tense typo--I originally wanted to call the authors "they" but everyone else was saying "he", which is a bit unfair, but I just went with it. Who writes an unsigned editorial anyways?

  • Mecha says:

    Jeffk, you don't quite understand. Let's run through things. This is probably going to be a bit long. At least Lisa has dealt yet again with how children can't be the only problem, and _certainly_ aren't an _insurmountable permanent block_ to women being treated equally. However, if you want more detail, please read previous posts and literature, including the one that _Zuska helpfully linked_, about how there _is_ explicit sexism and discrimination. (There are a lot of posts.) Your assertion is based on idealism, not evidence. I will touch on this again in a moment.
    The 'only be nicer' thing is plenty sarcastic, and for good reason, which you may not be aware of, which is okay, but now we're gonna change that. While I am, to a point, sympathetic to being driven off by being being 'mean' (for values of 'mean' that equal 'unreasonable anger' or 'viciously insulting', and generally need to be analyzed on a case by case basis) just blurting that out does not take into account 1) what, exactly, various feminists are angry about, and if it is reasonable 2) whether the argument is or is not hurt by anger.
    Feminists are often angered by a wide variety of things, but the common thread is that they are generally systemic things which treat them like they are less than full members of society in one (of many) aspects of their lives. Is it not right, and sensible, and fair, to be angry when something happens which is unjust? This is injustice on a MASSIVE SCALE. But if they'd 'only be nicer', everything would get better? That isn't quite how it works. You want to be rational? Realize that sometimes it's reasonable to be angry about an injustice. Then remember that these injustices happen all the time.
    Secondly, how is this argument hurt by anger? The paper in question is putting forth giant lies and half-truths, which have been thoroughly debunked by other researchers, and ignores other major problems which have been thoroughly supported by other researchers. Imagine if this happened in science. Oh, hey, we have an example. ID versus Evolution.
    Consider how 'angry' some people are on Scienceblogs about ID and the DI 'going against the evidence' on evolution? Hell, consider the existence of Denialism Blog, and the kind of behavior it smacks around on a daily basis? Well guess what. Sexism in the sciences has a lot more evidence on its side than 'Scientists are all rational nonsexist beings.'
    Consider that you are spouting 'opinion', while Zuska and others are building off of 'research' and 'experience' which are years old and thousands (billions?) strong. As a scientist (or scientist ally), which should you believe?
    You may still feel insulted. But consider how Zuska is not saying 'All physicists hate women.' She is pointing out how some people are using 'That's just how science is' to justify sexism. The parallels in other spheres of argument are fairly obvious, and incredibly infuriating 'That's just how society and men are, you'll have to just put up with being treated like sexual objects and raped from time to time.' 'That's just how science is, you'll just have to put up with being treated like being a woman inherently makes you less fit to be a scientists.' Who's being insulting here? Zuska, or the idiot that wrote that women are inherently less fit to be scientists because they have babies, and that's the only real problem, ignoring years and years of research and reports?
    Sexism is real _even among scientists_. Scientists are chock full of the same invisible privilege that affects everyone else, and it's just as invisible to them as it is to _anyone else_. Why might that be? Because it's really, really hard to see and deal with, even when you know about it. I have numerous friends, all of whom know the concepts, but still have to fight with their various privileges.
    If you (or anyone) has been put off by the rest of the comment, read this part, because it's really really important. Read up on the concept of white/straight/male privilege (helpfully on the web at http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html for the white case) and consider how many scientists are white, and male, and just never have to think about this stuff. Realize that. White, male, straight scientists _never have to think about this stuff_. It's not in their classes, it's not in their views, their minority friends don't bring it up (some of them haven't ever analyzed it, and the 'feminists' are just 'too angry'.)
    There's a common phrase which, while I don't like it all the time, seems valid here. 'Check your privilege.' Read through http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/purpose/ and http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146 and some other things. And think about it. Even if you don't agree with pieces of the discussion, or don't understand them, consider the synthesis, and what the writers are _getting at_. Really think about it.
    Eventually, I hope that will lead you to let the concept of scientists as generally perfect logic machines that process data and spit out solid results in an infinite robotic process that in no way is influenced by our male heteronormative society die away (if they did, why so many disagreements, anyway?) Scientists are human. Just like everyone else.
    -Mecha

  • transgressingengineer says:

    jeffk said:
    "My point is that, being a scientist is a major life choice, even more than most other careers, because quite frankly most people that choose to be scientists could probably easily succeed in many other fields - business, law, or certainly engineering - and make much more money. Scientists make the choice to be scientists because they *truly* believe in what they do, and/or they have a deep respect for the academic system. These qualities make them much less likely to have agendas to keep women down, intentionally or otherwise."
    What??!!!
    First, I am an engineer and therefore, am a scientist. Engineering is not an easier form of science, as you seemed to imply, jeffk. I take offense to this statement.
    Second, you said scientists truly believe in what they do and have a deep respect for academia and therefore have less likihood of having/participating in agendas to "keep women down." Are you serious with this statement??? What data do you have to support this statement? Have you read Beyond Bias and Barriers that Zuska highlights in her post? Scientists know better than to make such sweeping generalizations when the multitudes of data before them contradict those statements.

  • Bill says:

    Scientists are frequently more rational than most other people [...]
    being a scientist is a major life choice, even more than most other careers, because quite frankly most people that choose to be scientists could probably easily succeed in many other fields [...]
    Scientists make the choice to be scientists because they *truly* believe in what they do, and/or they have a deep respect for the academic system.
    What planet do you live on? I want to live there too. Here on Earth, scientists are just like other people -- most of them are stupid and greedy, their primary motivation is self-interest, and frankly most of them couldn't run a hot dog stand let alone "succeed in many other fields".
    In fact -- caveats about generalizations firmly in place -- the most accurate generalization I've heard about scientists is that research institutes are sheltered workshops for personality disorder patients.
    That's not to say there aren't people like you describe -- I suspect you are one, or at least try hard to be one, or else you wouldn't see science and scientists through quite such a rose-tinted lens. But let's split the difference: somewhere between my disgruntled-postdoc view and your idealistic view is probably where the majority of scientists fit. That leaves an awful lot of room for assholery -- particularly of the "inadvertent" variety, since everyone tends to take the path of least resistance and the status quo is heavily weighted against women.
    Here's a case in point:
    Further, I don't know if the "only be nicer" thing is sarcastic, but I'm quite serious about it.
    It's sort of an in-joke. Everyone who writes about feminist issues gets those comments-- "if you just wouldn't be so aggressive", "you're turning away potential allies", etc -- in nearly every thread or discussion. For those arguing in bad faith (I don't mean you -- bear with me here), it's an easy way to shut down or divert discussion. Those women who do heed the advice, and play nice(r), soon find themselves being patted on their pretty, inoffensive little heads and then ignored.
    So here's the thing: just as every feminist writer hears those comments over and over, so every well-meaning, sympathetic man (and here I do mean you) who comes to such discussions feels like saying "whoa, ease up there, I'm not the enemy". But if you spend enough time having such conversations, online and in meatspace, it sinks in that you don't need to take it personally, and there's simply no value to feminist activists/writers/etc in being "nicer" to you. Chances are you'll let the status quo continue if no-one makes it uncomfortable for you to do so, which means that telling someone like Zuska (whose pen is not particularly poisonous!*) to "be nicer" really is giving aid and comfort to the patriarchy.
    *(try reading Twisty or ginmar for a while)

  • j says:

    As a male who really wants to be a feminist, I often feel chased away by hot-headed and accusatory language.
    Ah, that's a classic. It functions nicely as a disguised threat: "Be nice to me, or I'll withdraw my oh-so-necessary support for feminism!" Or as a condescending command: "Now, now, ask nicely, or you'll get no dessert, young lady!" It's similar to those who complain about "militant atheists" hurting the atheist cause.

  • Zuska says:

    DrugMonkey said:
    I notice a subtle but persistent trend that is a difference in the way men and women view careerism. The difference being the degree to which one views one's science as something one does because one wants to versus because one has to. The latter breaks down to, "sure, this is a great job that I chose and I often find it personally satisfying. But at the end of each and every crappy day I recognize that I put up with this because it is my JOB that brings home the BACON." I find there to be gender bias in how "optional" one finds one's job to be.
    This "gender bias" - I would call it, observed difference in gender orientation to work, if indeed this observation holds up - can itself be the product of a society with different gender role expectations for men. And I wouldn't expect to see it limited to science. That is, society expects men to be primarily oriented toward their work - outside the home - and women to be oriented toward family - inside the home. This public/private distinction is the basis of some of the very earliest feminist theorizing about women. My point here is to note that such an observation is not of "natural" or biologically based, inherent, behavior, but reflects the result of society's different expectations for men and women.
    These differential expectations are harmful to both women and men. They keep women from realizing that they need to be able to be economically reliant on themselves, and they deprive women of the pleasures and joy to be gained in work that is interesting and well-paid. They make men feel excessively responsible for supporting not just themselves but for the entire family unit, alone, and they keep men from feeling like it is okay to be more involved in their children's lives.
    The resulting "careerism" of men is then put forth as the normal and desired orientation towards work and life, and women are penalized for not being able or willing to meet this standard, which is a gendered expectation, not a neutral norm. When the Nature Physics editorial writers say "the playing field will never be level", it means "we see the gendered role orientation toward work as the desired norm and we are unwilling to challenge it". Of course, they aren't thinking that consciously, because they aren't even aware that it IS a gendered orientation to work; they just think it's the norm. That's why they think the playing field will never be equal. Because "that's just how things are".

  • Zuska says:

    Jeffk, I recommend you read "Why I Am Not Polite"
    http://scientopia.org/blogs/thusspakezuska/2006/12/why-i-am-not-polite
    And to think, just this morning I was contemplating writing a post entitled "Why So Crabby? The Infinitesmal Advancement of Women".

  • jeffk says:

    First, I am an engineer and therefore, am a scientist. Engineering is not an easier form of science, as you seemed to imply, jeffk.
    No, you're an engineer. You don't get to be both. There are similarities, and key differences. I spend several years in an undergraduate engineering program; many of my friends are engineers. Now I'm in a graduate science program. And I can tell you, that at least in my small-sample experience, the two situations attract VASTLY different people, at least *in general*. My friends who are engineers don't care much either way about their jobs, would completely switch to different work if it meant making $67k instead of $65k, and tend to have libertarian social views that hold individual women responsible for not making it further in their fields, and usually are completely oblivious to social forces. These people are not feminist allies.
    My science peers are about the exact opposite. I don't know about other fields, but I'm in experimental physics, and arrogant as it may sound, these people are highly competent and I am absolutely certain that any one of them would be a highly effective engineer and could instantly double their salary in doing so. In general - my claim is if you average over everyone - these are people much more familiar with and happy to advance feminist ideals. I didn't think the claims that a) scientists are less likely to be in it just for the money and b) academic types are more likely to be familiar with and support feminism would be so controversial.
    What data do you have to support this statement?
    Look, I don't have a peer reviewed study to support this because one doesn't exist. I'm speaking from my own observations, experience, and reasoning, which are better than nothing at all. If for no other reason than scientists are stastically more liberal than people in other fields, this implies they're more feminist-friendly.
    bill, yes, I understand what you mean. I'm fairly familiar with this type of forum. Clearly I'm not going to make anyone "nicer" so I'll just drop it. I'm more concerned with my point that physicists are, in general, going to be a pretty sympathetic audience (as outlined above).
    It's similar to those who complain about "militant atheists" hurting the atheist cause.
    As a militant atheist, that hits close to home. I guess the difference I see is that to me, the fact that there's no god is so blindingly obvious, I have no patience. Whereas, in my support of feminism, I see a lot more subtleties and tricky areas. The comparison offered is a point well taken by me.
    I appreciate the criticism but I think a lot of my main point still stands, and I'm also feeling a bit straw-manned. I'm not threatening to withdraw my support. Only offering a critique.

  • Zuska says:

    Mecha wrote a great comment that got hung up in moderation because of the number of links in it; if you missed it, do check back up above to see what she said. She was responding to Jeffk but there's lots of good stuff in there and the links are interesting. It's about 6 comments above this one.

  • Laura says:

    That "Do Babies Matter?" presentation was one of the most chilling things I've ever seen. I especially like the part showing that single female postdocs put in MORE hours than single male postdocs, but that married female postdocs with children work merely full time (41 hours, as opposed to 55 hours/week, the average single woman's work schedule), and are thus outperformed by married men with children who remain workaholics.

  • Beka says:

    Drugmonkey, I agree with your [flame]. There are cultural forces that influence well-meaning Dads, so that they often wind up not doing their fair share. This happens even if a couple's original goal is to share parenting duties equally. As Zuska has pointed out many times, the decisions families make about how to allocate childcare duties occur in a cultural context that still assumes that husbands are going to be the primary income earner and that a wife's career is secondary, if not expendable. You have nicely described some of the pressures men feel that interfere with their ability/willingness to participate in equal parenting.
    These issues, and strategies to overcome them, are extensively discussed in Kidding Ourselves. The "baby only wants Mom" problem is also something that the book deals with.

  • jeffk says:

    I recommend you read "Why I Am Not Polite"
    I'm not really talking about polite vs. impolite. I'm talking about being *correct* in pointing fingers - and I don't think that calling physics an old boys club is a very good place to point to. The point I've been trying to make is that by any metric that involves comparison to any other existing field, university-level physics is about as not responsible as they come.
    I make very impolite statements and arguments about theists all the time, particuliarly the more fundamentalist ones. But I KNOW that come tomorrow, Jesus isn't going to descend from the heavens and prove me wrong. On the other hand, I'm not so certain about the cabal-of-physicists thing.

  • Lisa says:

    I didn't think the claims that a) scientists are less likely to be in it just for the money and b) academic types are more likely to be familiar with and support feminism would be so controversial.
    I tend to agree with a) and b) as you stated them that time (not that I can be sure without any evidence), but the problem is you are not just talking about "academic types", you are talking about physicists, who in my experience have been more sexist than other academic scientists/engineers. I'd like to think that it's not because assholes go into physics preferentially, but rather that they have to deal less often with women since they have one of the worst percentages of them, and therefore any bias against women is harder to see, and it's easier to think that it's just a made-up problem. If you don't deal with any women in your field, it's natural to see them differently because every woman you know is interested in other things. One of my best friends actually disliked most girls/women when she was young (I guess I did too when I was very young) because so few of them seemed to be rational/scientific/smart people that she figured it had something to do with being female. Also, physicists being so "idealistic" actually makes it harder for them to see the problem.
    PS I thought Mecha was male? (not that it should matter)

  • Mecha says:

    You're assuming 'cabal' when you need to be thinking about 'male heteronormative society' and how that affects the supposedly perfectly rational physicists.
    It's not that there's some huge percentage of male physicists are sitting around _plotting_ to keep women out (although there are perhaps some), but that a huge percentage of male physicists don't think about sexism, or society, or deal with the privileges they get as a function of being male, or white, or powerful, or whatever. (See my above post talking about privilege explicitly.)
    The concept of the Patriarchy is not a 'cabal of -ists'. It's talking about the systematic and near universal establishment of a societal norm where white, male (sex and gender), clean-cut (in a white sense) and straight is a positive norm, and the appearance of being outside that norm means that you are in some way disadvantaged in general society. Specific subgroups also behave similarly, but it's all _based_ in this same stereotype, and without self examination on a serious scale (I don't remember a 'How to deal with your inherent societal privileged' class I was forced to take when I went to college, do you?) most people will just never think about or deal with it.
    Not necessarily maliciousness on the part of physicists. Just a lack of knowledge about minority concerns and discrimination and true equality and how the 'meritocracy' isn't quite as meritocracy as we'd all like.
    -Mecha

  • Beka says:

    jeffk, as someone with a physics background who has studied engineering and has worked in the biological sciences, I strongly disagree with your characterization of physicists in general as being familiar with and happy to advance feminist ideals. Back when I was a physics student I myself was fairly hostile towards feminism and my professors and male peers encouraged this tendency.
    However, assuming that you are correct about physicists, there is extensive well-supported evidence to indicate that stated liberal, non-discriminatory views do not prevent one from having and acting on unconscious biases. Check out the bibliography associated with Project Implicit for one source of info.

  • Zuska says:

    Jeffk: As regular readers know, I tolerate a lot of things on this blog in the comments thread. But there's really no point that I can see in even reading this blog if you won't even admit that sexism exists in physics. You can't just sit there and say "there's no problem with physics at the university level because I don't think there is and I don't want to believe there is" when there is a plethora of published data that shows otherwise. You are your own living proof that scientists aren't scientific when it comes to gender issues.
    I'm sorry, but we can't continue the conversation at this level. We are not going to sit here and argue whether or not a problem even exists in physics. You are not well-positioned to pronounce on this issue. Your opinion, based on your personal experience and lone point of view, is not as equally valid as the knowledge and data that comes from years of feminist research and studies.
    Take your denialism elsewhere. This blog does not exist to debate whether or not sexism exists in science in general, physics in particulear. It exists to point out particular occurrences, discuss its nature, ponder solutions, and give vent to women's rage about the crap we have to deal with every friggin' day.
    If, on the other hand, you want to learn more about the nature of the problem in physics, then continue in the conversation. Continued denialist posting will tempt me to delete your comments.

  • Lisa says:

    The point I've been trying to make is that by any metric that involves comparison to any other existing field, university-level physics is about as not responsible as they come.
    I am really getting the feeling that you didn't read the Beyond Bias and Barriers report or any of the other links. Feel free to argue about whether our culture as a whole and/or things that happen to girls before they come to meet university physicists are more or less responsible than physicists themselves, but I think it is just silly to claim that physics is "as not responsible as they come" when you have access to lots of evidence to the contrary.

  • Zuska says:

    Oops, sorry Mecha, if I got your gender wrong there in my post above...

  • jeffk says:

    you can't just sit there and say "there's no problem with physics at the university level because I don't think there is and I don't want to believe there is"
    Phew, that's good, because I'm not doing any such thing. My claims are specifically that
    a) most of the damage is already done before students make it as far as university physics, as evidenced by the tiny percentages in the major and
    b) that physicists, in general, in my experience anyways, are more aware and responsive to sexism than any other field I'm familiar with.
    I'm happy to follow the links and do some more reading as soon as I get a chance but I really don't think any claim or argument I've made is either completely off the wall, or has been accurately paraphrased by any other commenter.

  • Beka says:

    jeffk, as stated above, I strongly disagree with your assertion b, based on my own direct experience with academic physicists.

  • Mecha says:

    S'OK, Zuska. Not really offended. My gender identity's a bit fluid, and I tend to consider it a backhanded compliment of sorts: If I'm not coming off as male, then I can't be abusing my privilege too hard, can I?
    I thought about making the 'If you can't even agree there's sexism' point to you, Jeff, but I realized that wasn't quite what you were saying. But you keep ducking in that direction, especially with statements like 'that physicists, in general, in my experience anyways, are more aware and responsive to sexism than any other field I'm familiar with.' If, after reading Zuska's blog, and links, and such... If that's success, I really don't want to see failure. Evidence is against you.
    -Mecha
    -Mecha

  • Mark de Goz says:

    Women are less adventurous then men and more practical-smart. Therefore, they tend to view academic career as generally less attractive thing then men do. Why? Very simple: 6-7 hungry and stressful years in a graduate school followed by a few years of poorly paid postdoctoral jobs geographically smeared all over the country, with a looming perspective of not finding a tenure-track by 35 and having to start a new career from scratch, or equally attractive perspective of being denied tenure by the age of 40... does not sound like a smart choice, does it?

  • Lisa says:

    Oh, are we making up random stuff now and using it to extrapolate broadly to confirm our previously held views? Let me try: men are more interested in "bringing home the bacon" for their family than women (probably comes from the days when they lived in caves and women just sat at home all day growing babies and waiting for the big strong men to come back home and protect them . . . I know this because I saw it in a cartoon), so clearly men will be less interested in all those "hungry and stressful years in graduate school" than women. Therefore, if we could just get rid of this bias against women thing, women would take over academics and men could do all jobs involving any lifting or labor--you know, because women are too weak for that kind of thing, not having evolved to kill elephants with their bare hands like the men did.
    This is fun. I can string irrelevant ideas together to make any argument I want! It helps if you pretend to compliment the other side first.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    hmm, no flaming, go figger.
    Zuska, i wasn't suggesting biological determinism as such, just reflecting on a state of affairs. The relative influence of society/culture vs. genetic imperative is in some ways unimportant to me. Mostly because I think it is at least as important to focus on present solutions (which must deal with present reality) as it is to change society so that the kids being born now develop in a different context.
    Let's move a bit closer to jeffk [flamesuit back on]
    There some comments above about "recognizing privileges" that one has. as an aside this is a theme I pursue from an economic perspective-tax payer selfishness deriving from an inability to recognize the privileges that one enjoys as upper middle to just plain old rich, sends me off. so i like the concept. getting back to jeffk-ian feelings though, it is a question how much examination of "privilege" feminist exhorters do. What fraction of men feel, somewhere deep in the heart of hearts or deep in the brainstem depending on favored metaphor, that yes, at some point in their lives someone else will economically support them? What fraction of women do? What fraction think this *should* be the case whether they expect to or not? I think some review of Zuska's positive spinning on Leak'ing is informative here. Those of you more familiar with the lit can perhaps point me to the studies that examine choices voluntarily made, rather than simply viewing the statistics as reflecting external pressures.
    Am I descending into blame-the-victim? I think not. I think an exploration of these factors has two specific benefits. First, the discourse could be more cordial (!) in the abstract AND on a personal scale for the many couples who struggle with two academic careers in current times, if these pressures were actually acknowledged. I take your points about not needing to be civil in the public/professional/societal debate but on the family level.... Second, it might help individuals to grapple with their own decisions to discuss these influences more openly-on BOTH sides. Third, there is a strategic lesson here somewhere. I take the case of the tenure struggle since it is a common enough blogo-topic around here. There are many subtle factors that go into tenure decisions of course. Subjective opinions of how "serious" and "committed" a young scientist/professor is may be important. Steps to appear more committed to the career may emerge from an understanding of the pressures that influence male scientist/professor actions. Likewise, an exploration of the costs to said males in terms of family time may, just maybe, help Greybeard full professors (...the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.....) to examine their decision biases.
    [flamesuit off]

  • Chris says:

    I've just got a second, so this will be brief and limited. I assume that everyone will take me for a sexist in training, so I'd ask to be given the benefit of the doubt that I do not contradict the post or view the status-quo as acceptable.
    I try to be considerate and reasonable to the people I work with. I don't typically think of myself as an oxygen depleting shithead, but somehow Zuska's posts always leave me feeling like one. I agree with her aims as near as I understand them, but I get feel targeted for being male, and particularly for liking physics. I remember my mom always railing at me about gender inequality as a kid, and never understood why I was getting an earful for something I had nothing to do with and no control over. I'm not looking for sympathy, but clarity would be nice. It seems reasonable to ask that if you're angry at someone or some group in particular you yell at them, and not just fire shots blindly into the sky.
    Maybe this is just narcissism on my part, but if people really are pissed at the undergrad/peon crowd, I'd ask the following: What more do you want from me? I mean that as a sincere question, and I would really appreciate an answer from Zuska or resident's of the blog.

  • Zuska says:

    Here are some things that would be nice:
    1. Learn something about how you benefit from unearned male privilege, even if you don't want to, even if you aren't aware of it, even if you are a "nice guy".
    2. Learn that gender bias is a systematic and structural issue, that everyone needs to be part of the solution, and that means more than just being nice to the people you work with (though that's a good start).
    3. Learn that everyone - men and women - is subject to implicit bias, and that it affects us all the time. Learn how to try and be more conscious of this, so you can work against it in your own actions.
    4. Be a more active advocate for women's issues - more than just "being a nice guy".
    5. Take steps to educate yourself. There are millions of books out there. I managed to find them all on my own; you could find some too. Take responsibility for your own education. Don't assume it's some woman's responsibility to teach you everything you need to know about gender issues.
    6. Realize that women are PISSED OFF from having to deal with crap day after day after day after day...for years, all through their education and work life; that it wears on us; that we are sick of it; that it makes us angry. That we are tired of swallowing our anger. That we are tired of being nice about it. That we need to let you know how angry we are.
    7. Try not to collapse the minute some woman vents her anger. You will not die from becoming aware of how angry women are; your testicles will not shrink, your penis will not fall off, if you listen to women's anger and let them express it.
    8. Stop letting your personal discomfort with women's anger at discrimination and gender bias get in the way of you doing something about it. When people of color talk to me about racism and white privilege it makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm a nice person too! But I would never think to tell them they ought not to be so angry, or that I need them to express their thoughts to me in a way that takes into account my tender sensibilities and is calculated not to distress me in any way. You know, if I would do that, I'd expect them to experience me talking to them that way as a form of white entitlement: people of color must take care in their speech not to distress white people. That would be awful.
    9. Nobody says you shouldn't like physics, for crying out loud. What you should do is this: think of how much you love physics; now imagine that everytime you try to participate in it, people harass you and discriminate against you for things over which you have no control. Daily you are made to feel in ways small and large, implicit and explicit, that your presence is not really wanted or valued. Imagine experiencing this for years. Imagine watching other people who are no better than you at physics be rewarded and promoted and welcomed into the inner circles. Imagine wanting nothing more in life than to do physics, but being hampered at every turn by this unreasonable prejudice. Imagine how you'd feel. Would you be angry?
    10. Try to realize that EVERYBODY has something to do with gender equity. Let me reiterate: you benefit from unearned male privilege, even if you don't want to, even though you aren't aware of it.
    11. Read "The Gender Knot" by Allan Johnson. http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1339_reg.html Do this before you ever say to anyone again "but your anger makes me feel bad/guilty/upset/uncomfortable; why can't you talk about this in a more polite/civil/quieter/nicer tone of voice?"
    This is not an exhaustive list. Just some things off the top of my head.

  • Beka says:

    Yeah, "The Gender Knot" is awesome. I am reading it now.

  • Sophist says:

    As a male who really wants to be a feminist, I often feel chased away by hot-headed and accusatory language. It's devisive, and maybe I'm just a thin-skinned wuss that should deal with it, but I'm telling you that feminists often scare off very sympathetic (in the literal, not emotional sense) males like me with scathing posts like this that draw a lot of conclusions without more carefully examining the situation.

    Oh, cry me a bloody river. You can't want to be a feminist all that bad if all it takes to scare you away is a failure to properly couch ideas in language that doesn't make you feel guilty.
    Besides, what the hell does what people write abou feminism have to do with it's validity: either you agree with it or you don't. I mean, do you go around threatening to withdraw your support for the righ of african americans to vote every time you read something from Louis Farrakhan that rubs you the wrong way?

  • Drugmonkey says:

    out of curiosity Zuska, what aspects of white privilege do your african-american friends rail to you about? what aspects of unearned white privilege do you constantly remind yourself of so as not to be a bigot? how are you a "more than active advocate" for minorities?
    The specifics on this might help these dense men to understand what they are to do...

  • jeffk says:

    Sophist:
    I DO agree with its validity in general, but often the execution of it is short-sighted and misguided. It's then then the language is particuarily frustrating. I'm not 'offended', I don't sit and feel bad about myself over it, I just feel like very strongly worded language should be reserved for times when the certainty of the user is completely assured. Otherwise you're hurting your cause. Maybe that *shouldn't* be the case but as best I can tell it IS the case. The basic tenents of feminism should be strongly worded! Women as equals, exposing mysogyny, reproductive rights, etc... the problem is when that passion gets carried into more obscure things, like string up the physicists. This is more complex territory, and discussion of these ideas, I think, should be more... conversational.

  • transgressingengineer says:

    jeffk, so let me see if I understand what you are saying in your post above... you want feminists to use nicer language so we don't scare people off? And you think that feminism should be reserved for reproductive rights and equality but should not be carried into the world of science without feminists making sure that we are 'taking care' of others (read white men) along the way during debates?
    This discussion is not about stringing up physicists. It is about discussing the very REAL issues women face in disciplines such as physics. For example, go back to Zuska's post that lists points- see point #9. I have a BS in physics and math- I no longer work in those areas mostly for the reasons she lists in point 9. We aren't making this stuff up. Go read "Talking about Leaving" and find out more stories of women who leave the sciences for the reasons that Zuska and friends have pointed out.
    Being more 'conversational' or more friendly or however you may want to describe it has not worked for 100s of years so far.... tell me why it will work now. My goal in life is not to make you feel comfortable about issues of discrimination- if that is what you are seeking, then that is an exercise of your white male privilege. My goal is to work on ending institutional ways that discrimination happens to me, to white women, to women of color, and to men of color on a DAILY basis. Let me ask you something- did being nice help people of color in this nation work at gaining a bit of equality? (and I say a bit because there is no such thing as equality amongst whites versus non-whites in this country- but that is a discussion for a different time).
    As to your post much, much earlier in reply to my post that engineers are scientists (sorry for the delay in replying- I've been away from my computer for most of the day): no, I am both an engineer and a scientist. You do not get to label me (an exercise of your privilege) without knowing a drop about my work or about what I value. Just because you have a few "data points" who are your friends (are they white males?) who are engineers and value money above contributing to a greater good does not mean that all engineers are that way. Further, liberal does not equal non-sexists, non-racist, non-homophobic, etc, etc, etc. Privilege does not care what side of the political fense you happen to be on.
    Drugmonkey-
    Interesting question. But bigotry and white privilege are not the same. Bigotry is conscious acts of discrimination with the intent to cause pain to another group that is different that you. White privilege is the systematic granting of "rights" to whites over non-whites. Think of it this way: If you, as a white person, work in a predominantly white university, you are resonably assured that when you walk into a meeting or into your classroom, you will be surrounded by (mostly) whites. In other words, you will be around people who look like you and therefore, not "stick out" as different or as an 'other.' This is an aspect of white privilege. Bigotry would be if you, as a white person, went into a classroom and singled out the minority of non-whites in that room and verbally harrassed them solely based on their membership of a racial group. Does this help to answer what you were asking?

  • Sophist says:

    jeffk:

    ...I just feel like very strongly worded language should be reserved for times when the certainty of the user is completely assured.
    [...]
    ...more obscure things, like string up the physicists.

    Equating valid criticism to a lynch mob, while telling us to tone down the rhetoric?
    Oy, gevalt.

  • Maxine says:

    "The Nature guy" -- we do employ women. I run the blog to which your post kindly refers, I'm a woman (and mother). The Chief Editor of Nature Physics, the journal that ran the Editorial on which you comment, is a woman, Dr Alison Wright.
    Very interesting debate here, many points are close to home for me. One aspect of the "parent/career" issue that always strikes me, and is touched on by Lisa, is the assumption that women are "more" responsible for childcare logistics than men. It seems to me, and always has done, that once breastfeeding is over, the responsibilities are just as much those of the male as the female parent.
    I am no longer a scientist but a mere camp-follower (I did not have my children until after my postdoc and after joining Nature), but I see all around me men who are (not necessarily recent) fathers carrying on just as they did before children, going to late meetings, socialising after work, etc, whereas I see plenty of women dashing home to pick up from nursery, childcare, etc by the infamous 6 pm deadline. This assumption, that women bear the burden, is thankfully not held by all men (;-) ) but it is held by a lot of them (and by a lot of women too, it has to be said).

  • inel says:

    This post is unfair criticism of all the men (mainly engineers, but also physicists and mathematicians) I know who have encouraged, supported and, yes, rescued me in my engineering career. I am indebted to them, though I have yet to see a blog celebrating the men who mentor and advocate on behalf of those of us who wear skirts to work! Perhaps I shall write a positive post myself ;-)
    It always strikes me as counterproductive to criticise any group indiscriminately--tarring all male physicists in this case with the same brush--when it is clear to many (quiet people like myself) that such generalisations do not apply to our colleagues and friends.
    As an electrical engineer, I tend to agree with Maxine, though not entirely. I have three children in middle school, and I know several women physicists who are in similar situations to my own. The constant responsibility of logistics for four people impinges on our daily lives in a way that does not apply to our husbands. That's without including the drop-of-a-hat emergencies that crop up and need a parent to deal with!
    So, our men have complete freedom to attend meetings anytime anywhere as before, and as expected by other men. Meanwhile, we mothers have solved our time and location constraints in a variety of ways. I gave up working in laboratories, field offices, headquarters, and visiting customer and distributor premises, and global travel, in favour of being at home, and working flexibly from home.
    Life is busy, but good. In fact, I can keep in touch with other engineers, scientists and businessmen online quite well, with occasional meetings, and I have broadened my horizons as a result. In other words, having a change of lifestyle by becoming a mother and leaving the lab and office as a result is not negative if it is a choice I have made with clear priorities.

  • jeffk says:

    I'm tired of clarifying my argument. I think I'm making a much less outrageous claim than people are interpreting me as making. I am most certainly *not* saying that feminism should not be carried into the world of science, nor am I saying it should not often times be in-your-face or downright angry. I am saying there are accusations that should not be made with that same in-your-face and angry tone. And that I think this is one of them, due to my person experience with the people in question. Now, there may be data that contridicts my personal experience (and data is more valuable than that experience), and there may be OTHER peoples' personal experience that contridict mine. So I think it's up for discussion how bad the university level physics world has treated and does treat women and what should be done about that. But I think it's up for discussion, not enraged finger-pointing. At least that's where it is for me.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    transgressingengineer, "But bigotry and white privilege are not the same" seems an attempt to miss my real point, no? Call it what you like. I can grasp the essential differences between covert and overt discrimination, yes.
    The real point is that the comparison of women's experiences and those of ethnic minorities was drawn. I'm curious just how rigorously the enthusiastic feminist advocate of the majority persuasion applies prescriptions for gender sensitivity to their own white privilege. In a practical way, examining this internally may help one to spell out more clearly what is expected of the well-intentioned male (which the enthusiastic feminist advocate feels is still deficient in behavior, going by some of the above comments).
    Dynamics of Cats picked up on a highly appropriate example for you to contemplate, it is even "engineering" relevant!

  • Mecha says:

    Jeffk:
    'There may be data which contradicts my personal experience' (is data) and there may be other peoples' personal experience that contradicts yours' (there clearly are.)
    So why is this up for debate? There is no significant study that I know of that women are equally advantaged in science/physics, with data backing it. It is not the case the other way around.
    You say scientists are more rational than others, on average? You are making a poor anecdotal argument for it by your insistence that 'my disagreement means that the topic is open for debate.' You have no evidence of your opinion, and evidence against it. Your rational argument that you are right is...? When you can come back with that rational argument, with evidence, to stand against the mountain of evidence on Zuska's side, _then_ maybe there can be 'discussion.'
    Secondly, realize that if you do not agree with the basis of a forum, and you come into it stomping around, you are engaging in what is not-so-politely referred to as trolling. People generally do not go into skateboarding forums and say 'Skateboarding is a worthless activity!' and expect to have a good conversation. People generally do not go into science forums and say 'Science is stupid/wrong/worthless!' and expect to have a good conversation (unless they're DI types, which are generally considered trolling.) Why do you think that you can come into here and say 'There's no explicit discrimination in science that isn't anywhere else (especially by physicists!)! Your blog has no point!' and it's okay? Zuska was most likely right to point out that you should just back away.
    In summary, due to these two factors and your general train of argument, you have provided no actual argument for anger not being justified, except that 'you don't think it's a problem, despite the evidence.' Nor have you provided any evidence for your assumption that physicists are very enlightened sorts who would not generally be sexist. I'm sorry. That's denial.
    Drugmonkey: The questions you're asking are addressed in numerous links in this thread alone. The examination has begun, and the spelling out has been started. Please read the links, especially the ones that I have linked earlier in the discussion, which directly deal with your problem.
    -Mecha

  • Frumious B says:

    Continued denialist posting will tempt me to delete your comments.

    But how will we fill out our bingo cards if you do that?

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Mecha: Read 'em, thanks. at least the ones that weren't links to "go buy this (my?) book". The linked thoughts on white privilege are part of what motivates my questioning. How do you (read comments in this thread) stand on this? One point conveyed by Peggy McIntosh was how incredibly difficult it was to be aware of white privilege and she wrote out what, to some views, are incredibly trite and obvious observations as a self-reminder. The impatience with a jeffk-ian type position begs the question. How good are you on your issues of privilege? Perfect? One doubts. Blowing off the question with "go read Fem101 because i'm tired of reiterating the points" is too facile. Can you imagine how furious you would be if every time you raised feminist agenda points someone told you to go read the "Feminist Rebuttal FAQ by OldWhiteMale"?
    Look, I agree the debate with BiologicalDeterminismMan, with SelfishDefenderofStatusQuoMan and with ObliviousMan gets old. Not altogether convinced that the debate with WellIntentionedMan is as completely matured. Comments here at times sound like a straw-ification of WellIntentionedMan into one of the former categories.
    I'll point out what might be obvious. This blog is in ScienceBlogs. The readership might just be made up of a useful target audience, namely science faculty. Some of them may be stopping by here to pick up some hints on how to deal with situations raised by mentoring both male and female colleagues (trainees and other faculty) and in the two-career family. It may be exhausting to deal repeatedly with jeffk type positions, I can understand this. But I submit to you that it is also exhausting dealing repeatedly with students who can't seem to pick up the basics from the lectures and texts. Sometimes this is through laziness but sometimes the professor can actually help make the well intentioned but not-getting-it student make the connections. Some people take professional pride in serving such a role. just a thought.

  • Beka says:

    There are data available that are relevant to the discussion of whether academic physics specifically has a problem. I am going to summarize what I remember of the data without providing links, but one good place to start out is by doing a search for articles written by Debra Rolison.
    What is commonly done is to compare Physics with other fields that are likely to require similar skill sets. Typical choices are Mathematics and Engineering. When representation of women at all levels (undergrad to tenure) is compared among these fields, a common pattern emerges. Generally, Physics has a higher percentage of women than some engineering specialties (Mechanical, Electrical) but worse than other specialties (Biomedical) however, this is hardly an accomplishment, because ME and EE have pretty much the worst female representation of all scientific fields. Mathematics consistently outperforms Physics when in comes to representation of women.
    I find the Physics/Math comparison to be especially interesting for two reasons. First, physics relies heavily on mathematical ability, so there is a strong case for overlapping skill sets. Second, the cultural assumption that women are bad at math/"hard" sciences is likely to have a nearly equal impact on women working in both fields.
    One could reasonably conclude that Physics consistently ranks worse than Math because Physics culture is less friendly towards women.

  • Beka says:

    Drugmonkey, I am white, and one of the ways I consciously try to address my privilege is by not getting defensive when women of color make generalizations about white people. I think Zuska has already stated that she also does this.
    This is important, because I volunteer with a diverse group of women in an attempt to help address social injustice. So I really need to be able to hear them when they talk about their experiences in society. I need them to not hide their feelings from me.
    It is a mark of my privilege that when I am at work people of color generally never make explicit generalizations about whiteness in my hearing. I have to get off my butt and deliberately go to a setting where discussion of justice issues is "allowed."
    [flame] Dude, you really don't need any more specific examples. The fact that you expect us to do your "work" for you is kind of annoying, actually. [/flame]

  • Mecha says:

    Yeah, Drugmonkey... accusing me of pushing my book, acting like nobody here attempts to deal with their privilege, attempting to say that 'if you're not perfect, you have no right to complain'. You're pulling out all the old tricks. You may have 'read', but you didn't actually understand.
    For example, Tekanji's list specifically talks about how one has to deal with privilege constantly as long as one belongs to a privileged group. You are specifically accusing us of not being good enough. That's a technique to shut down debate. Zuska linked a very excellent book (even the example chapter reads well, and is a decent introduction.) But that's not enough for you. (Furthermore, there is no effective 'Old White Dude' FAQ. If it actually existed and answered questions in a way that hadn't been thoroughly decimated in social science literature, then it would be just as valid a response anything else. There's a thousand other FAQs out there! Are they all nothing but insulting? Yeesh.)
    More importantly, as Beka points out, responding to _every single random idea you point out_ is essentially the 'It's easier to ask a question than respond' method of debate. That's why the FAQ exists. That's why FAQs exist in GENERAL. Insisting that we answer you here, as opposed to pointing you to the literature, after some point... is a technique to shut down discussion about the main topic. (Note how you're not talking about the main topic anymore.) Are biologists just insulting you, because they have Talk Origins to point people at who ask basic questions? Then why are feminists?
    And there is no requirement, ever, to exhaustively deal with every person asking every question, ever. Even for teachers. Even for parents. But especially for bloggers. Rehashing arguments with you is not a 'right'. It's something people may choose to do based on their available time (I don't have all that much available time. Responding to you at ALL is taking away from that time. But I'm doing it because I want you to get _this_ specific point.)
    That said, I dealt _quite_ exhaustively with the basic arguments in my previous posts. As such, your attempt to just go 'You're not dealing with the arguments!' falls into rhetorical trickery. You're 'curious just how rigorously the enthusiastic feminist advocate of the majority persuasion applies prescriptions for gender sensitivity to their own white privilege.' Well, I certainly try, and the posts that I linked to explain how one tries in a shorter and more effective way than I.
    You may be well intentioned, but you are still edging close to (or in some cases, flat using) the same old techniques. That's why I pointed you at FAQs and other treatments of the subject: I thought you, being well intentioned, might be interested in reading them. As opposed to forcing us to deal with you, and only you, and only your implications that we might not care about black people, or asian people, or anyone who isn't a feminist (woman.) Or that we don't think about them. Or whatever. You don't seem to have a thesis, just a supposition. Questions. That you want us to answer. See above points.
    That is another thing that you would get, if you started reading the FAQs and the other thought on the topic. 'Well Intentioned Man' is just as capable of attempting to exercise privilege as anyone else. Which is why, instead of immediately calling all commenters evil (note how this is a near 50 comment long thread, and the hardening of opinions has happened later, not earlier,) people pointed at examples, and thought, and posted on their own. And then Jeffk _maintained that his clearly unsupported beliefs were more important than evidence and everyone else's experience_. That gives up the point. As one example.
    Now. See how most of this post is a deviation from any actual point on the main topic? That is how the tactics you are using move away from 'discussion' and into 'pushing people on the defensive' and 'shutting down debate on the main topic.' It's hard to do it right. And this really ain't it.
    -Mecha

  • Mecha says:

    There is one discussion which happened above that could also deal with being made clearer, even if it's a bit OT for the main post. 'Bigotry' (explicit -ism) versus societally based power structure given privilege. Most people would make the distinction of 'prejudice' and 'privilege.' Prejudices are everywhere. Privilege is given by society to groups. The classic explaination is that 'Reverse Sexism isn't possible, because women having an advantage over men is not backed by power. It is _prejudice_, but not _privileged prejudice_, and as such is not the same thing.'
    Attempting to add in explicit hatred (inexpertly), one possible phrasing of this is: Prejudice + Privilege = -Ism. Explicit Hatred + Prejudice = Anti-Group Hatred. Explicit Hatred + Prejudice + Privilege = Majority-Minority Hatred (Misogyny, Anti-Asian/Black/Etc Bigotry.) Note how there is a small notional difference _when it is not backed by societal privilege_. There's still a difference there.
    Also, an explicit vocal anti-group position (Bigotry, Misogyny) is generally seen as bad (very few people support the KKK.) As such, adding in 'explicit hatred' is not usually necessary to understand the taxonomy.
    But societally based power structure stuff, IE, privilege, is often invisible, or assumed correct. Each group of privileges are, however, somewhat different for each _type_ of privilege (sexuality, physical sex, skin color, religion), to the point where outsiders can get it, but not wholly necessarily get it. As such, we can try to be aware of privilege, but we cannot wholly assume that we have it right, _nor can we assume that it is exactly the same_. Zuska said it, Tekanji's list said it, the Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack essay said it... everyone's said it in one form or another. It is helpful to read those lists, and the sites attached, as they deal with this far better than I.
    -Mecha

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Beka,
    Almost by definition one is unable to arrive at the experiences of others by "work" if this is what you mean. If you mean you suspect that I have not put in sufficient hours in my lifetime reading up on and thinking about feminist issues...well, you presume to know a lot, not least my gender. The linked references to which I have been directed do not in fact address the topics I've raised to any great extent. The one most applicable to the white-privilege issue, if anything, suggests this is a VERY difficult thing with which to grapple. Even for an apparently well-intentioned person of majority ethnicity. This tells me that there might be some valuable experiences here, which by analogy might be useful/helpful to the question of male privilege.
    So yes, I do need examples. Your volunteer work actually sounds as though there are some available insights here which you seem to be offended to have to relate to someone to make your point. Or at least the point you think they should arrive at somehow. I don't understand this reluctance. The fact that we recognize that, say, African-American participation in science/science professoring is even less representative than is female participation does NOT minimize gender equality. It provides tools and experience to further the (preferably common) agenda of fairness, equality and (in my view) getting the best of the best into science careers. A suggestion that the majority culture feminist advocate may not reach the standard vis a vis ethnic advocacy that s/he trumpts vis a vis gender advocacy is not to invalidate said advocate. It is to ask whether there are insights that may help to, in this case, shift the behavior of the otherwise well-disposed male who one thinks may fall into the ObliviousMan category of 'problem'.

  • Ooh, I'm sorry, once I got to 'and I don't think that calling physics an old boys club is a very good place to point to' I couldn't read any farther. My science peers- in BIOLOGY!!!-are as close to feminist allies as the single-celled alga is to the baboon.
    Zuska, thanks for bringing up this editorial. If I recally correctly, APS did a study about how there's no leak in the physics pipeline! Really not! Which was subsequently completely discredited. Three cheers for the old boys' club.

  • Zuska says:

    DrugMonkey said:
    I'll point out what might be obvious. This blog is in ScienceBlogs. The readership might just be made up of a useful target audience, namely science faculty. Some of them may be stopping by here to pick up some hints on how to deal with situations raised by mentoring both male and female colleagues (trainees and other faculty) and in the two-career family. It may be exhausting to deal repeatedly with jeffk type positions, I can understand this. But I submit to you that it is also exhausting dealing repeatedly with students who can't seem to pick up the basics from the lectures and texts. Sometimes this is through laziness but sometimes the professor can actually help make the well intentioned but not-getting-it student make the connections. Some people take professional pride in serving such a role. just a thought.
    It may be worth noting that this blog was in existence before it was in Scienceblogs. I didn't start it or design it with the Scienceblogs context in mind. I started it for my own purposes. I got asked to move my blog here, so apparently the Sb powers-that-be thought that what I am doing is just fine for the Sb community.
    Which, along with DrugMonkey's comment, begs the question of what this blog is for. I'm not sure that's something I want to attempt answering in comment. I will say, however, that I did not start this blog with the intention of devoting my energies to educating people like Jeffk. It seems to be a common refrain, that if only I would do X, I could be helping legions of Nice Guys become better human beings and committed feminists in universities across the nation. In other words, I ought to be focusing my energies on what I could be doing for men! This blog should be about...MEN! Alas, it is not.
    People like Jeffk make me insane. Part of what I wanted to do with my blog was explain and point out just exactly what in academia and the workplace makes me want to scream with rage. When I was employed, I had to be nice and polite and and try to deal with people like Jeffk all the time. Jeffk is legion. He assures you he means well, and he wants to learn. Only he never does. He will sap your energy, eat up your strength and time, drive you to the brink of insanity, and all the while never budge an inch from his original position - because his goal is NOT to hear you, NOT to learn about institutionalized sexism or racism, NOT to learn how bias operates in the daily activities of professional life; his goal is teach you how to be a non-threatening woman and help him feel good about himself as a progressive nice-guy. He may not be consciously aware of this; that makes it all the worse. The out-and-out bastards are easier to deal with than the Jeffk's of the world.
    There are many, many, many sources in the world where people can go and learn in a nice, non-threatening way about sexism and racism and what they can do to be better people and good colleagues and fine mentors to people of all stripes. Universities have workshops and seminars and talks all the time; they have offices of affirmative action who can supply anyone who wants it with oodles of resources. There are no doubt other groups on campus - Women in Science or Women in Engineering Programs, Multicultural Engineering Programs, diversity offices, what have you, that people can turn to for information and resources. There are colleagues down the hall one can have civilized and rational discourse with. There are even blogs other than mine where topics like this are discussed. Female Science Professor, for example, takes on many similar topics in a much different style than I do.
    This blog contains rage and anger. I think I made that quite clear in the "About" section:
    I verbally bludgeon morons, celebrate the fabulousness of techie women, and encourage every female to release her Inner Pissed-Off Woman.
    It does not say, in the "About" section, "I provide hand-holding and coddling for Nice Guys who would like their feminism in small, bland, easily swallowed doses that pass through the system will little or no effect." It does, however, say "This blog exists to complain loudly about the hideous conditions women in science and engineering must routinely deal with."
    But if I must provide education for men, then here is this week's tip: shut up and listen, really listen, at least once in awhile. Consider that your own personal experience is unlikely to be a good guide to solid knowledge about gender issues in science. You are an adult. Take responsibility for learning how to be a decent human being.

  • Alexis says:

    Oh, children, don't be so silly. Even us homos who will NEVER have children still do not get to play on the same playing field. The child issue is but another excuse for holding women back, not an actual impediment.
    And, for the record, jeffk, I believe zuska's arguments aren't so much that science is hostile to women (based on my experience, anyway, with the humanities and the sciences, I am totally reading it this way)...rather, academia is hostile to women. Academia includes science. Therefore, __fill in the blank__.

  • Beka says:

    Ok, I am going to try again. I don't really know why, maybe just to clarify my own thinking.
    By "work", I mean imaginative work, not going out and reading X amount of feminist theory, although that certainly is helpful. I have an imagination. I can use it to try and understand how people who are different from me might feel in a given situation. I may not get it completely right, but I can try. I assume WellIntentionedMan (WIM) has an imagination too.
    For example, when I thought about starting my volunteering work I didn't [egregious scenario] go to the black woman who works closest to my office and ask her, "I'm thinking about volunteering with A group, can you please explain to me how not to act like a clueless white chick?" [/scenario]
    Instead, I tried to imagine how the people at A might see me. I thought to myself, "OK, I am a white woman affiliated with Arrogant Prestigious Institution (API) which has a long history of dealing poorly with race issues. Because of this, the people at X might have a tendency to assume I will be yet another annoying well-intentioned liberal white person who turns out to be self-important, used to running things, and unwilling to listen." Then I tried to imagine what I could do to not be that person. I also suspected that I might experience some initial hostility as a result of my affiliation with API, and I made a promise to myself before ever showing up that I would keep on going, even in the face of some hostility, even if they made me cry, until people were able to get to know me. I also fully expected to be rebuked if by accident I did act like a clueless white chick. In fact, I never experienced any hostility directed at me personally. But I did hear frank criticism of white people and API.
    Nobody had to explicitly tell me that this was what I should do. I figured it out for myself. I'm going to give credit to WIM and assume that he can also figure things out for himself. Actually, I am going to expect of WIM that he try and figure it out for himself. WIM may have a hard time with this, because he is culturally trained not to identify with subordinate groups. I may have a hard time with holding to my expectation as well, because I am culturally trained to identify with WIM and worry about his feelings because he is a member of a dominant group.
    So, the fact that people on this blog explicitly don't cater to WIM and worry about his feelings is kind of one of the teaching aspects of the blog.
    As an aside, I'm reluctant to write about my volunteering because I don't want to use it as a badge that I'm a "cool white person." I actually play a very minor role.

  • estraven says:

    zuska: thanks for the great post.
    inel: "The constant responsibility of logistics for four people impinges on our daily lives in a way that does not apply to our husbands".
    And this is why, precisely? Are our husbands physically or mentally handicapped?
    Let me repeat what apparently was lost: a healthy pregnancy and childbirth wastes very little of your time. I worked until the very end.
    After the baby is born, both parents loose a lot of time and sleep. Only the mother can breastfeed/pump, but ALL other chores can and should be evenly shared, where evenly means taking into account the time the mother has alreadys spent breastfeeding. Once nursing-only is over (about 6-8 months) the parents are equal again.
    Sick pregnancies are just sickness: can happen to anyone, male or female, parent or nonparent.
    This with the children is an irrational argument, as should be particularly evident to supposedly rational scientists. I'm disgusted that anyone would dare to write it.

  • male physicist from Europe says:

    As a physicist married to a physicist, I can say that the problems women have in science are not limited to children issues in any way. There's a lot more to that. First of all, there is the prejudice that a woman cannot really "get it". I've seen this prejudice exhibited by otherwise brilliant researchers. My wife spent a lot of time convincing her professors that yes, she does get it. Being an attractive person makes only matters worse (the "stupid chick" stereotype).
    W/r to pregnancy itself: the problem is that you cannot be pregnant and do maternal care a few days each year. So the person doing hiring expects that a 25-year old woman will, in a few years time, probably be unavailable for work for several months. The chance for that is much higher than the chance that a male employee will get sick for a similar period. Therefore, a female employee has this stigma attached. This can be solved only in one way: by law. The law must forbid the employers (incl. universities) gender discrimination when hiring and afterwards, the law must guarantee that the woman can have children safely (before someone jumps at me with "what about the husband?": the law must also care about single mothers, too) without being afraid that she'll have trouble returning to work. Enforceable law. Chauvinists won't stop discriminating women because they changed their minds, they'll stop because they'll be afraid of the punishment.
    About the language of the original post: if the editorial was really as bad as the OP wrote, the language was fully justified. This is a blog post, not a legal motion... However, sometimes the feminists (like every other sort of political activists) can be too aggressive. It happens, and (I don't direct this at the OP) when someone points it out to you, think for a while whether he might be right.

  • zzz says:

    out of curiosity Zuska, what aspects of white privilege ..blah blah...
    Well for starters, I doubt that she takes the line that:
    1) I'm white but don't go around calling AfrAms bad names
    2) therefore racism doesn't exist
    3) and anyone who says it does is over-emotional and going to lose all their allies and is denying biology
    (Which is what seems to pass for "rational" male scientific logic though.)

  • Maddy says:

    Wow! Congratilations for if your mother worked and took maternity leave and had to suffer the most horrible pain ever experienced to give you birth. =)

  • Zebee says:

    THere's another aspect... the way women discriminate against women. I don't know how much of that happens in acedemia, not having been in the academic side of it myself (I've worked in unis but as a techie, not an academic.)
    I live in a very misogynist country and really didn't realise how much I had absorbed the prevailing sexism until I was called on it by someone I respect. Then looking at my life and my attitudes to women I realised just how sexist I was. I assumed they were mostly focused on family and boyfriends so weren't that serious, that they couldn't cope with the blokey atmosphere that I could cope with, that they were much more delicate than I, and just not good enough.
    Not male enough. Whereas me, I was good enough, because I was butch and while the world looked down on me because I wasn't willing to be properly feminine and so properly inferior I didn't care, I was OK.
    I am not alone either... Oh, the butchness, the whole gender bender blokey thing is not common, but women being sexist towards other women is. Think of Margaret Thatcher who was very male in her ways of dealing, and so made it in a man's world and required other women to be the same. THe male way of thinking and acting is the best way, and women must be male to succeed. But they should also wear makeup and dress well...
    I'm in a technical field, and it is often said that computer geeks aren't sexist. This is false of course, because the requirements of success are about long hours and taking part in the shared culture which is blokey in the extreme - ling hours, drinking, violent computer games. Plus being overwhelmingly male, the men tend to feel more comfortable around other men, and women feel this. Every time a well-meaning faculty asks me about "how can we get more women in computing" I say "stop the male students being blokes" and they just look at me funny. I've refused every invitation I've had to address female students about succeeding in computing because the only advice I can give is "be as blokey as they are and enjoy it, because otherwise you will always be an outsider. You will still be an outsider, but at least you won't be a complete outsider."
    I don't think I can really see my white privilege. I know it's there intellectually, but not at any gut level. I can sort of feel it because I can certainly feel male privilege but that comparison is still only intellectual. Given that, how can I expect men to really understand male privilege?
    How can the fish really comprehend how it feels to be out of water until they are on the fishmonger's slab their ownselves? Which as far as men are concerned doesn't seem to happen. Even if you put them in a mainly female environment, women are shaped by this male society and treat them still differently. Ask any man at a childcare group.
    Zebee

  • male physicist from europe says:

    "the shared culture which is blokey in the extreme - ling hours, drinking, violent computer games"
    By Sheogorath, what is blokey in working long hours? Nurses do it too, are they blokes? And I totally don't get this part about "violent computer games". I played a lot of FPS (First Person Shooter) games in the past (still have this Far Cry residing on my HDD) but I never considered myself a "bloke" (I read poetry, listen to classical musics, etc). My wife played such games too, and she's as feminine as you can get. Games are *fiction*, get it? "Iliad" is also full of violence -- des the person reading it "share a blokey culture"? Jeez.

  • Jenk says:

    SO I have some questions. If women choose to lessen their work load to care for children, how is that the fault of anyone but those that made the choice?
    How do people know if that is a choice women make voluntarily out of love for their kids, or if feel pressured?
    Why should a company pay the same and advance the same for someone who works significantly less hours by choice?
    How is it damaging to have the freedom and choice to work less hours and spend more time with your kids?

  • transgressingengineer says:

    Jenk- are you serious with these questions? I smell a troll....

  • jeffk says:

    Wow. I've never inspired such rage on a blog before. I'm a troll because I don't agree with the forum (I do, I simply don't agree with every small point). I'm wasting people's time. I make Zuska insane. Yikes! I suggest she go dredge up a more feminist-friendly and supportive man than me, and I wish her luck.
    My experience reading, usually agreeing with, and occassionally commenting on feminist blogs (here, feministe, feminsiting) leads me to believe that it is probably an awful lot easier to be vicious towards whatever highly sympathetic, open-minded and progressive, and occasionally cautiously skeptical men wander into the comment threads on such blogs than it is to go seek out men who are actually
    causing the problems. That being said, I think I'm more or less respected as a usually reasonable person on those other blogs.
    I'm one of two men I've ever known that even try to describe themselves as a feminist - the other is my homosexual, womens-studies-major roommate. When I have thoughts, I am expressing them in hopes of advancing the feminist cause, because I agree with the vast majority of it, even if I argue with some of the finer points. I think I would have inspired fewer angry comments if I had simply said that women should be chained to the stove and not be in science at all.
    I am not saying there should not be anger. I don't know how I can possibly spell this out more clearly. I am only saying that if a claim is made (physicists are an 'old boys club' and generally a female-unfriendly group of people) and I disagree with that claim, I will say so, and in this particular circumstance, being a member of the group that was expressed a great deal of hostility towards, I may go so far as to - *gasp* - suggest that some of that hostility be toned down because inspiration for that hostility didn't seem to be deserving of it.
    Furthermore, I may very well be completely wrong! Maybe there's more to the physicist-old-boys-club that I can see from my current perspecitive. But I don't think anything I said was outrageous or deserving of the ridicule and outrage I got. If I say, "in my experience, physcists are not this way", an appropriate response might be, "well, here is some data suggesting otherwise", or "my experience isn't the same", or "the effects are too subtle for you to see, and here's why" - not, "The out-and-out bastards are easier to deal with than the Jeffk's of the world." I'm glad to hear that my careful and respectful commentary is more damanging than the "out and out bastards", which I assume is a group that contains wife-beaters and George W. Bush.

  • Zuska says:

    Okay, Jeffk, I don't know how I can say _this_ any more clearly. You are wrong. Your personal experience does not contradict hordes of empirical data showing that physics is a field rife with gender bias. Your inability to personally perceive said gender bias does not make it cease to exist. Your continual denial of said gender bias because, in your experience, it doesn't exist, is maddening to those of us who have experienced it and who know the empirical data and who have pointed you to the empirical data which, for some reason, you continue to ignore. With the out-and-out bastards, I know where I stand and exactly how to deal with them. With someone like you who says "I'm a feminist, I'm your friend, but I don't believe gender bias exists here, really, I don't think there's such a problem like you say, but I'm on your side, truly I am", well, that kind of "support" just saps one's energy and time and is maddening and infuriating. Here I am writing yet another comment trying to convince you of something that you absolutely WILL NOT be convinced of, because, in your experience, that's just not true, and your experience must be the truth, data be damned. If women experience something else and if they collect data documenting those experiences, why, they must just be wrong, because YOU never experienced gender bias! It's hard to see just what about you makes you a feminist if you can't even listen to women who tell you that gender bias does, in fact, exist. Even in your own precious physics.

  • absinthe says:

    I think JeffK and all the people in this comment thread who think that physicists are less likely to discriminate against women just because they are smart and logical need to mosey on over to my blog for a while. My blog contains lots of statistics and links to studies that show how women are treated in physics (just a preview...being a woman in physics is like walking around with a target on your back that says "please discriminate against me"...being a pregnant woman in physics just makes the target bigger). Oh but wait, I use strong language at times on my blog, and it might offend JeffK and his ilk to be confronted with my anger (because they find so unjustified, since physics is such a great field you know, full of high minded people with impeccable ideals).
    Yeah, white male physicists don't discriminate against females and non-whites...it must be just a coincidence hat the field remains almost unrelentingly male, and overwhelmingly white.

  • etbnc says:

     
    "Fighting has always been, more or less, a form of blindness."
     
    (Jose Saramago, from the novel, Blindness)
     

  • sisterofphysicsbrothers says:

    It gets worse. APS was sued days before their great big gender summit for gender discrimination. How's that for credibitility?
    Go to wakeupapsphysics.blogspot.com, but only after you to to absinthe's blog.
    I could argure that being a non-physics professional woman in the physics realm means an even bigger sign that those already mentioned....