Monday, May 26, 2014

Guest Post

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this special announcement.

I am a woman in academia. More specifically, I am a woman in an historically (and even still) male-dominated field. For years I was the only woman in my graduate-level courses, or at my weekly area-specific seminars. I was a member of a department where every single female professor "happened" to be married to a male professor of the same department--and since I attended a public university, I was also able to see the distinction in pay and title of the couples.

I have dealt with my share of misogyny in the work place. I have been asked by (male) professors if I chose my particular specialty because my boyfriend at the time also happened to be in that area. I have wondered if a (male) professor asked me and not any of the other (male) students in the class to take notes because of some (subliminal?) connection of women to secretaries. I have had (male) professors tell me that I should have an easier time on the job market simply because I'm a woman in an increasingly PC-conscious world--screw any other qualifications I may or may not possess. I have had (male) graduate students tell me they don't believe in calling a woman by her last name until she's married, because until she's married it's not actually her last name.

To say these moments have been insulting is an understatement. And I know that compared to women of previous generations, these instances are mild. I should stress that most of the misogyny I encountered has come from tenured professors who earned their PhDs prior to the year of my birth. With few exceptions (most of which come from openly religious people--a whole different matter) the newer generation of academians is some combination of "refreshingly accepting" and "cautious of litigation".

Over the years I've felt these experiences have made me become somewhat of a feminist. I have attended, and very much support, "women in (fill-in-subject-area)" conferences and grants. I have participated in educational outreach programs for elementary-school and middle-school aged girls. I vehemently believe gender does not prevent a person from succeeding in or contributing to my field.

At the same time…I've noticed that I've become very tough on my own gender. Whenever I see a female academian who adds fuel for or support to the "misogynistic fire", who provides an example for the men who believe women cannot cut it, I become livid. These females include, but are not restricted to:
  • Those who male-bash or who exclude males, ESPECIALLY if it's in the name of feminism. In doing this, they become that which they want to fight. Men should not be excluded from "women in (fill-in-subject-area)" conferences, for example. The purpose of those conferences primarily is to encourage women to enter the field. Having men who support the cause is natural and--one could argue--meets a long-term goal! It is illogical and hypocritical to exclude men or to male-bash in the name of gender-equality.
  • Those who pull the gender card. Those who subtlety or blatantly exploit others who want to appear (or who actually are) pro-feminist…or even just not anti-feminist. I'm talking about the female grad students who tell their professor that they're just swamped this semester and could they please only turn in half of the assignments. It's true they may be swamped; it's also true that the boys aren't gonna pull that crap if they were swamped. The ones who beg successfully for extra time to pass qualifying exams or oral exams (this happens rarely. However, EVERY SINGLE TIME I have seen it happen, it was a female student. Similarly I've seen many males asked to leave for failing these same exams.). Do these women not understand what "gender EQUALITY" means?
  • Those who appear as the misogynists' stereotype. First are the action-related stereotypes. Whenever I see a female graduate student crying or acting "hysterically" in a department lounge or (drunkenly at times) at an office event I want to slap her silly. We all cry in grad school; but do it in the privacy of your home or door-closed office--don't appear weak. It's OK to drink too. Just show some respect for your coworkers--don't go on angry rants or all Girls Gone Wild. These women are an embarrassment to themselves, their department, their profession and their gender. Trust me, the boys don't act like that.

  • There are also the visual stereotypes. This is a more delicate issue. On the one hand…as long as it's professional, wear whatever you want. But there are many in my field who believe that the more "presented" one looks (regardless of gender), the less time you spend working. This seems insane, but even I have wondered about a few female colleagues. How is it that they can change their hair color every month, and always match their nail colors to their outfits? How is it that they never wear the same pair of shoes twice? Where are their priorities? Is it coincidence that I never see these well-dressed females in the department or in local coffee shops on weekends? Is it coincidence I never see them pulling late nights in the office?
The way to beat misogyny, the way to equalize genders, is by earning RESPECT. Keep up with the boys and beat them at their own game. Do all the assigned work, as well as the extra (secretarial) work. Do it well and without complaint. Work at odd hours and on weekends like every other graduate student EVER [worst-case, it's a way to get study buddies]. Be as big of a hard-ass and tough-cookie as any of the men. In short, grow a pair.

This post is presented without alteration or editorial comment and represents the opinion of the original author whose credentials have been verified by the editorial staff of The Other Dunwoody. It is released under the same license (see "TOD: Taking It") as any other post on The Other Dunwoody. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.