Drugmonkey and Dr. Free-Ride have posts up right now about d00dly University of Chicago professor Dario Maestripieri who recently attended the Society for Neuroscience meeting and lamented on his Facebook…
My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone..
The original screenshot from Facebook is on Drugmonkey’s blog.
You might imagine my general feelings about Dr. Maestripieri are less than warm. And while I am certainly not one to stab a guy with a stiletto while he’s down, I did want to offer up a bit of brief commentary. After reading a post from Prof-Like Substance, I have been thinking about how men perceive the treatment of women in science…
You see, once upon a time I had a cocktail with a dear male friend who shall remain anonymous for the purpose of this post – let’s call him PharmaceuticalElephant (PE) – at the annual Experimental Biology meeting. PE is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, among other societies I am sure. This cocktail occured after I had been at another event where I had experienced a bit of overt assgrabbery. I was a bit upset over the incident and told PE about it. He replied to me that he had never heard of such a thing and when I told him that I was certain that these sorts of things happen all the time, he replied that he was certain that these must be incidents unique to this particular meeting.
Well, unto him and the other male disbelievers in the audience I say unto thee ta-freakin’-da!!!!! If you ever needed proof that some (certainly not all) male faculty use scientific meetings as their own personal fucking grounds, there it is.
Now, Dr. Maestripieri’s comments will certainly come as no great shock to the women who read them. That’s because those of us who have been around the conference scene for a while know that this is pretty par for the course. There’s not just sekrit, hidden sexism in academia. A lot of it is pretty overt. And many of us know about the pockets of perv-fest that can occur at scientific meetings. We know which events to generally avoid. Many of us know who to not have cocktails with or be alone with, who the ass grabbers are, and we share our lists with other female colleagues. We know to look out for the more junior women scientists who travel with us. I am in no way shocked that Dr. Maestripieri would be so brazen as to post his thoughts on Facebook because I know that there are some who wouldn’t hesistate to say the same sorts of things aloud. As women, screenshot-captured, internet-archived evidence may give us the opportunity to be indignant, and it gives us another name to add to our list, but does it really change what so many of us already know?
The real question is whether the ability to evaluate Dr. Maestripieri’s asshattery in all of its screenshot-captured glory will actually actually change hearts and minds. I suspect that there are three cohorts of men in academia – there are those who already know how some of their colleagues treat women at meetings and they actively speak out against such shenanigans. At the opposite extreme, there are men who probably have an interest in maintaining the status quo. But, in the middle somewhere there may be men who believe that women have the right to respect in the workplace, but are blind to the types of things that are said and done. And the funny thing about most men that I know who fall into this category is that may of them have the inability to believe that something is a problem – to see beyond their blindspot - unless they think they came to realize that there is a problem on their own. For there to be a problem, they need to decide that there is a problem. Its just not enough for a woman to say, “I am treated this way.” This group of men needs the type of concrete evidence that only this type of event can provide. And, sadly, it will be helpful that another man is showing them the evidence. Because although women can make great strides, when a woman provides this sort of evidence, chances are she might as well saddle up for a long game of Bingo.
And then, once some of those men come ’round, we can start passing around the cookies.