Archive for the 'Feminist Musings' category

"Happy" Women's Equality Day

Aug 26 2014 Published by under Feminist Musings

94 years ago, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Our fore-mothers fought for this right, believing that without political power any other rights could be denied. They also believed that with political voices we could achieve true equality.

Their belief in the vote sustained them through public humiliation, beatings, starvation, jail, forced feedings, and a number of other indignities.

Despite the passage of nearly a century, women still have not achieved full equality. We make less than 80% of our male counterparts in similar jobs. We are underrepresented in the best -paid careers, and even when we enter those fields we are marginalized. Corporate boards, congress, and other decision-making bodies rarely demonstrate gender equality, despite the evidence that more women in those positions increases profits and other measures of efficacy.

Today we see rights we thought were won under attack. It's time we used that vote, the political voice our ancestors fought for. Learn the issues and make your choices. Run for office, or at least support those you like in whatever way you can.


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Mean Girls

May 16 2014 Published by under Feminist Musings

When LL was an actress, not a punchline...


The Queen Bee phenomenon can be quite distressing for women who aspire to leadership roles. This term describes a woman who achieves and then believes that having other women achieve will diminish her own achievements. Queen Bees tend to ascribe their own success to a lack of "girliness" and suggest that all women could achieve at the same level if they just followed her example. For a review of this behavior and some research on it, click here.

Mean Girls ostracize women who fail to fit in. In the 2004 movie, the top clique demeaned those who marched to a different drummer, failing to aspire to their standards. You simply can't have that; if anyone can set their own goals, how will those at the top of the pecking order continue to win?

In this month's issue of Journal of Women's Health (23 (5):365-7, 2014), Janet Bickel discusses some of the reasons women may hamper other women. Many factors enter into this behavior, including the lack of open competition in many girls' activities. Our female children have traditionally been funneled into activities without winners; instead of beating someone, they turn their aggression and ambition into gossip and other mental bullying.

It will be interesting to see if this behavior changes over time; more girls have been in competitive sports now, and even dance and cheer have become events with winners.

Another difficulty many women face is the overlap between their work relationships and friendships. Social relationships are often expected to trump "chain of command" relationships, even in work situations. This can be especially a problem between female physicians and nurses, as discussed in the article.

This piece gives us more to think about than immediate solutions, but studies on these phenomena are few and far between. Lucky for us, the article is open access, so you have no excuse not to click the link above (or here) and think. In the meantime, we should all keep these words from Madeleine Albright in mind:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."




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The Elephant in the Room at #scio14

Feb 28 2014 Published by under Feminist Musings

Today began Science Online Together, the blogging, social media, and writing conference that occurs annually in Raleigh. This gathering now attracts an international crowd, despite its humble roots as a local gathering. Over the (now) 4 years I have attended, I have learned a lot about writing and related things I would not have likely learned elsewhere.

This is the first year that the conference has not had its primary founder, Bora Zivkovic, in attendance. Last year women began coming forward to report inappropriate behavior on the part of Bora, including a lot of information about his sex life. He admitted to a single episode of impropriety after the first shoe fell; unfortunately for him, more women then came forward including one who had saved the inappropriate emails he had sent. They mirrored the reports of the other women, making it clear that this was not merely poor judgment. This fell into the realm of recurrent predatory behavior.

This morning at the first session, the conduct and harassment policies were reviewed with the group because of “recent events.” One of the first scheduled sessions dealt with boundaries (scheduled simultaneously with another women in STEM conference; no conflict there), and one guy (@ScientificScott) asked a very good question: 

Is Bora actually Voldemort as there's a sense of "he who shall not be named" at

The live tweets have been Storified here to give you a sense of the discussion. Many women, both in attendance and online, felt that the decision to gloss over these issues was inadequate. It will be difficult to maintain trust in a group that is not willing to publicly call out harrassment such as documented in these events.

Another issue arises here. On January 1, 2014, Anton Zuiker, another of Science Online’s founders blogged over 5,000 words about his friendship with Bora

he said things to others that would have been better shared with a best friend or a therapist, women called him on it, he apologized, he disappeared in shame and regret.Likely most have moved on, or maybe some still have a lingering hint of bitterness for my friend. [This was a clumsy sentence that minimizes the depth of emotion and pain. I was trying to capture a range of possible views, but I shouldn’t have attempted to speak for others. Rather, I should own my own statements.] But I sincerely hope that with time and reflection, and a dash of forgiveness, there might be a recipe for moving forward, for Bora and his family, for the women who shared their stories, for our science-communication community, and maybe for women and men in general.

The post could be boiled down to “a guy made a mistake, but he has been offline for 3 months. No one filed charges. Let’s forgive him.” Anton is getting a lot of hard looks from women as he passes by at the meeting; this attitude makes us feel devalued.

Personally, Bora's repeated, almost identical behavior with several women made me feel squeamy. My daughter is a twenty-something communications major who discussed pitching some story ideas to Bora. At the time I said to do it; now, I would not let her near him. I don’t know if I can ever get back any degree of trust. When I read Anton’s defense of Bora, it makes me sad. Although, as he repeatedly points out, no crime has been alleged, he clearly values his collegial relationship with Bora over the damage done to the women directly hurt by his actions. Also, we women wonder how seriously our own accusations would be taken if another in our group acted out inappropriately.

Unless Science Online can directly address these issues, to paraphrase George Orwell (a dude writing under a pseudonym), all of us are equal; but some are more equal*. Science Online has work ahead to better address these issues. One hour of facilitated discussion is not enough.


*Yes, I know I have made heteronormative assumptions throughout this post; however, the circumstances under review involved a male in a position of relative power harrassing women. Certainly other gender and power dynamics can present in various combinations, and all can do irreversible harm to those targeted by offenders.


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Yes, It Matters

Jan 31 2014 Published by under Feminist Musings

Vacation planning can brighten up an otherwise tedious period of time when the weather is less than ideal and work is, well, work. The other day a hotel site greeted me with the following choices for my title:

Required field, no less

Required field, no less

This web site insisted that I pick a title, either Mr (which is inappropriate for my gender identity), or a female title that immediately tells them my marital status. I declined and ended up booking the same hotel through another site.

Most web sites will let me opt out of a title. Some insist on it, but provide appropriate options like Ms. I can also choose Dr. at many sites, one that is completely appropriate as well. Some sites go a little crazy, including everything you can imagine: Honorable, Reverend, Sir, Dame, Marchioness, and every military rank ever.

Now, if someone calls me Mrs. Lane in real life, I don't get snitty. I just answer*. I do use my married name personally and professionally, and there is no sense being rude to people. When a web site asks for my personal information so they can contact me, they better give me an option I like, including the option to not identify a title. After all, why do they need to know my gender and marital status to book my hotel room?

I used to ignore such things, but over time I have realized that labels can be quite important. I have learned that ignoring such things means they never change. In the 21st century, why should a woman's identification include her marital status?


*Unless they call me Mrs. James Lane. Then they will get politely corrected.


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Keeping Score: What Really Counts

Nov 03 2013 Published by under Feminist Musings

Earlier today I tweeted a story that really hit home based on the retweets:

Basically, when a man takes on an unpleasant task or otherwise does something "above and beyond" for a boss, that "favor" gets added to a mental tally of that which is owed. When a woman takes on such a task (extra teaching, committee work, etc) it is not counted as a "favor". No, it's  merely part of the service she should be providing.

On further reflection, this explains things at home as well. When my husband does chores indoors (dusting, vacuuming) he wants an acknowledgement of his extraordinary contribution to the housework, a cookie if you will. The fact that I have done 6 loads of laundry, cooked dinner, and cleaned the dishes is just my job.

When I help him with yard work, it's no big favor. It's just me doing my part.

This mentality may be, at least impart, generational. I suspect it is a common scenario in my age group.




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No New Thing

Sep 12 2013 Published by under Feminist Musings

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9, King James Bible

You know it's going to be a special post when I quote the bible.

I have been watching the fall-out from Riptide and Titstare (nicely summarized here) via Twitter while working on a talk I'm giving in a couple of weeks. The talk features my work on women leaders in academic medicine, but I am starting with some background on the US suffrage movement and the next wave of feminism beginning around 1960.

For your edification, I post the following:

First, we immasculate the menfolk (Click to enalrge)

First, we immasculate the menfolk
(Click to enalrge)


Next we completely lose our feminity...

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Finally, we take over the world!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Letting women vote meant sharing power. It could only lead to no good! I'm sure any woman who failed to find these cartoons funny was told that she couldn't take a joke.

It seems those in power never want to give up any of it, even to make things right. Thus, we get terms like feminazi and apps like Titstare.

For the best illustration of the issues I have seen, please enjoy this video:

But I'm A Nice Guy from Scott Benson on Vimeo.

The vid has become so popular it spawned a tee shirt that you can purchase here.





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Floral Hardware

Jul 25 2013 Published by under Feminist Musings

Click for source page

Once again, I have encountered folks complaining about feminization of tools with pink or floral patterns on hammers, screwdrivers, and toolboxes.

When I first encountered these items in a craft store, I also felt this way. How condescending that we women need girly designs on our contraptions to feel comfortable!

I had purchased my own screwdriver and hammer to keep in my utility drawer for household repairs. That way I did not have to muck about in a toolbox in the garage, especially in extremely hot or cold weather. Unfortunately, my husband and son discovered my tools, and their convenient location, and started using them. They inevitably ended up in my husband's garage-based toolbox rather than my utility drawer.

I bought myself floral tools.

There is now no question about whose tools these are and where they belong. Sure, I could have inscribed my mark with a Sharpie, but the boys would not have noticed that, even with bright 1-inch letters. Flowers and girly colors cannot be ignored, though, and my tools make it back to my drawer now.

In general, I dislike the "pinkification" of all toys marketed to girls. On the other hand, I refuse to believe that anyone might doubt my abilities because I wear pink shoes.

And no one can doubt the power of my blue floral hammer.



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Last Week's Travels

Nov 20 2012 Published by under Feminist Musings

Last week I flew to Portland, Oregon, for the third annual congress of Vision 2020. Our group wants to drive women to full equality by 2020, the centennial of the 19th amendment granting women US voting rights.

We have some distance to cover in the next 8 years.

The congress did include a screening of this video; I think you will enjoy it!


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MegaTrip In Progress

Nov 07 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

Last Friday I left my home at 7:30 am and arrived in a different time zone before noon. I am still at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (#aamc11) having a great time. I went to a very interesting session on social media yesterday, and I will share my thoughts in a bit.

Wednesday I fly to Philadelphia (without an interval at home) for Kidney Week (#kidneywk11). More blog fodder will arise from that gathering.

Today I posted over on Academic Women for Equality Now about a Dutch study and the ability of gender bias reminders to elicit queen bee behavior. It's an interesting phenomenon for those of us XX types, and yet one more reason to try to get bias out of our institutions (like we needed another). Click on over and enjoy (or be dismayed) by this research.

Later, Whizbangers, I will post something here.


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Get Off of My Corporate Lawn!

Oct 24 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

The current Harvard Business Review includes a nice visualization of corporate board composition in the US, along with comparisons to stats from 1987. In general, boards have gotten smaller and older over the past 24 years:

Click to Enlarge

Yup, white men still rule.


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