Sunday, July 15, 2007


(Hey, it's a word for when it's both humid and polluted out ... what, stop snickering! It is.)

I am pleased to announce that Cool Scientist Friend is back! I was feeling vaguely unloved because she hadn't responded to my phone message, and was wondering if she had been lost on a field expedition and I'd have to go find her (lotsa luck there). But no, she was in Europe and her cell did not work there.

Of course, I was not in Europe, nor do I get to jet off to see exciting vistas on the university's dime. Sigh. Neither am I presenting my brilliant research at an overseas conference and then touring the wine country of France, as is my Dissertation Buddy. Stupid people with reasons to go to the Continent! I'll show you! I'll ... write my chapter, dammit! That'll teach ya! Sigh.

Not that I'm sure I'd want to change my lot with Cool Scientist Friend, though. She's very cool, and smart, and has great politics (we met through cool political stuff, although we first spoke at the school bus stop because she was reading --- if I remember correctly --- Bukowski). But, having interests outside of a very narrow scientific range and having progressive politics and, oh, you know, being a girl, all combine to cause trouble for her in her department and make her feel like she doesn't fit in. It's so great to have friends in academia but outside your discipline, because our conversations make me really aware of the positives and negatives of study in the humanities. I may not get, you know, money, or summer fellowships, and have to teach, unlike some of her colleagues who have yet to step out of a lab and teach something, but I am reminded of how much in other ways I am in a wonderful and protective little bubble, particularly in regards to gender. Case in point? Cool Scientist Friend was one of maybe 10 women at this huge international conference that lasted a week, most of whom were younger than she was ---- a sign that change is only barely moving up through the ranks. One woman who was presenting on a panel was introduced with, "And here is the speaker ---- oops, I should say, speakeress, now!" Gahh. And Cool Scientist's Friend's department brings in one woman candidate every year they have a job search (they have yet to bring in anybody nonwhite, including Asian, the whole time she has been here --- Russian is their closest move toward diversity) ---- and they refer to each year's woman candidate as "the woman," including to her face, throughout the search. And then, of course, don't hire her.

So, I'm pretty glad not to have to deal with that. Not only do I have women role models in our dept (it being about half women on various levels of the tt), but I have at least four different styles of crazy to choose among. A recently graduated member of my dept. once made the argument that the effort of blazing a trail through misogynist male departments back in the 60s (even 70s and 80s) kinda warped a lot of the women profs, making them decide that they either need to destroy the women grad students who seem most like them, as potential threats, or treat them harshly and "haze" their students to make sure that, no matter what happens to you out in the real world, you can take it because you've survived worse here (that last is verbatim from my advisor, btw). But we have a couple profs who manage to combine 1) sanity, 2) decent productivity, 3) personal lives and 4) niceness, so I think us future profs have a high chance of getting out not much more crazy than how we came in.

Cool Scientist Friend had a woman advisor ---- only woman in the department ---- who combined the worst aspects of the sabotager and the hazer, who then died in the middle of her project (actually, somewhere between the MA thesis and diss prospectus). Now she is working for the Kindly Old Men committee, who are supportive if a constantly a little startled that she is, still, a woman, and wouldn't it be politer to just get over that identity and be "normal," i.e. a white male? I think she will make it out without becoming crazy, but she's not going on to be a prof --- she has already decided she's not worth it and not capable, and really I can't undo years of an evil advisor's training. Luckily, scientists can go into industry, or, what I'm really hoping, politics, where someone who appreciates both Bukowski and Lenin can really get in there and do some good boring from within.

But I didn't want to talk about that! I wanted to say that Cool Scientist Friend called me and we had a lovely, if smuggy, day where we got sandwiches and then went to the beach and caught up with each other. There were stupid tourists everywhere, but other than that it was a lovely day. Heading back we got thirsty from all that inability to sweat and had to stop off for drinks --- wine for me, a mojito for her --- and we talked the whole afternoon away. She still has to show me pictures, and I still have a pile of books and clippings ('cause, yes, I am a dork, and yes I am also turning into my mother) to show her. But she's back! And she brought cheap Grappa and turkish cigarettes! The fun is just about to be starting here in Cogsville! At least until she has to go out into the field again. But still, good times!


Eddie said...

I love your word--smuggy!

Amber said...

Aw, I feel bad for your friend. I experienced very similar behavior from most of the professors who are women during my MA. They'd either verbally attack you during class, embarrass you outside of the classroom, and/or pull this inappropriate mothering thing ("Have you checked your mailbox today? Did you work on your journal?"). Each semester there seemed to be a golden child of the department, and it was always a guy. So much for solidarity.

Sisyphus said...

Yeah, it's all weird. I'd take the mothering over the "what are you asking questions for? You should already know everything already!" response any day.

Thanks all for stopping by!