Science Has A Thomas Jefferson Problem…

Early in the day yesterday I had two very interesting interactions with two older women that made an impression on me. The first was a woman who has been teaching, but never pursued a research or tenure track career. She remarked to me about how “..if she had it all to do over again..” but she came “..from a time when a career in nursing or teaching or administration was expected.” The other visit was from a tenure track woman who came by to gush about how happy she was that I had come and how she felt a responsibility to make sure I get tenure at my new MRU.  Both experiences were humbling.

Then last night I, like many, read Hope Jahren’s piece in the New York Times about her assault while scoping out a site to do field work.  My heart breaks for her and for anyone that suffers that sort of trauma.  It’s a damned tragedy and I wish her nothing but all thee healing and support that she needs. It saddens me that these types of events can dictate and redirect the way a woman pursues her scientific interests

But, in the piece she makes reference to a recent study from Kate Clancy’s group documenting the incidence of sexual harassment and assault in scientists doing field work.  It’s people’s reactions to this that have made me salty as fuck.

My fellow tweeps, people that have been reading the science feminist internet for as long as I have been around (aka, a long time) describe her story as “eye opening” and “stunning” and “shocking”.  In my eyes, the results of Clancy’s study are completely and entirely predictable.  and I can only hope that having actual data to present to people in positions of authority will empower the SAFE movement as they work to make changes to how women are treated in science.

Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the notion that “Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem” makes me salty. Life has a sexual assault problem.  26% of women scientists are assaulted in the field, but about that many women in general report sexual assault. A large portion of the attacks against scientists are perpetrated by someone the victim knew, but many women in general know their attackers. So, at the crux of the stunning and shocking and eye opening is something that I find more insidious – it is the belief that science is somehow different than society at large.

After all, surely rape and assault and violence are acts committed by poor people, and brown folks, NFL players and the occasional misguided frat boy. Certainly our logical, skeptical, professional and enlightened scientific brethren aren’t capable of the type of violence that Hope describes. Surely, tenured white women aren’t at risk for that type of violence. If Hope’s story shocked you, or you found Kate’s study shocking, where the fuck have you been? I will cosign the notion that we should strive to create a place where people are mutually respected and protected and cared for, but it you’re surprised by any of this, it’s worth reevaluating your preconceived notions about who can be a rapist and who can be a victim. If you’re shocked, I’m willing to wage money that your preconceived notions are fucked.

How many of these stories do we need to hear to stop being shocked?

The only portion of Hope’s essay that I take exception with is her statement about young women that “[t]hey need to know that daring to act upon their dreams of science can be both a beautiful and a dangerous thing.” Choosing to do anything in the context of having a vagina can be both beautiful and dangerous.  Choosing to sit around and eat Cheetos can be dangerous. Hope describes how she did “everything right” by covering her head and averting her eyes and she was still a victim, but there is nothing a victim does that makes her any more or less a target. The issue is with them men that perpetrate these crimes. Being a woman is the single greatest risk factor for experiencing all the horrible shit that happens to women.

What we need to do is knock down the narrative that academia is an enlightened, safe place that is somehow immune from the discrimination and prejudices that afflict the rest of society.

Additional Pro-Tips for a Thursday Afternoon

If you’re a new scientist writing a career grant and you write that you are going to learn a technique by coming and studying in my laboratory…

..you should probably tell me that first. Because, when the reviewer (who is my good friend) calls me and asks if this is true and it is the first I have heard of it, the fact that I have the following reaction…

britta-surprised

…is not going to help your grant.

The shitty part is that, if this person had called me and said to me specifically “I want to list you in my grant,” I probably would have said “yes.” Even if I have said in the past, “Let me know what I can do to help,” you still *let me know*.

2pm Sleepies and Nice, New Offices…

This is a post about absolutely nothing of value. There is no insight to be found in the text below..

This is about the time of the day where I start to get sleepy and tired and non-productive. I don’t know what it is about 2pm, but my eyes start getting heavy and  I have decided that I am going to start hitting the gym when my eyes get heavy…if I can make my sleepy self get out of my extremely comfortable office chair.

I think that I like my new office. I’ve got a big window that looks out over campus and I can see people scurrying to and fro, but I also miss having my office/cave attached to the lab. People would come in and ask me questions throughout the day and it was easy to see what people were working on.  But, being slightly removed and isolated means that it is quiet and I am generally undisturbed. With all that quiet time, I’ve been a very productive writer in this space. I’ve been efficient at outlining my grants and some papers I have left to write and I have had the time and peace to strategize my plan of attack.

I’m glad to see my plans for world domination coming together, but I’m also looking forward to being distracted by busy lab of ratchet science again..

Blessings and Challenges…

I’ve been at my new MRU for about three weeks and it has been generally amazing. I am loving my new department so far. Everyone is friendly and supportive so far and I think things are moving forward well. One of the things that I am both blessed by and conflicted about is how much Little Isis has stepped up to the plate since we’ve been living the single parent lifestyle during the week. Getting himself ready in the morning. Doing the dishes. This morning he made his own breakfast. He’s also hugged me when I’ve felt overwhelmed and cried. I feel conflicted about that. Children shouldn’t have to care for their parents, but he’s taken some sort of ownership for the functioning of our life and I am grateful. He’s still seven, and is occasionally a wild and crazy guy, but he’s matured exponentially in the last few weeks…

My schedule over the last two days has also challenged my single mom lifestyle. Yesterday I had to teach until 6pm. I warned my chair that this would mean that I would have to get them from daycare and bring them with me to teach. I set Little Isis up with the iPad and Tiny Diva got some episodes of her beloved Dora the Explorer. I was generally confident that they would be good, but nervous that it could go very, very poorly. I feel fortunate that they were so well behaved, but by the time we got home they were exhausted. We had a quick dinner and snuggled and settled back into our routine.

This morning i had a required orientation that was supposed to start at 7:45. That’s just bananas and I figured I would get there when I could. More than even I am thinking that scheduling anything “required” before 9am or after 4pm is just a dick move. There’s just no need for it. But the irony is that this meeting, that began before 8am, begins with a discussion of how much my new employer values “work-life balance.” I feel you, but…

mariahc

I also am realizing that I may be a bit of an over-sharer. I know that will not be a surprise to any of you. This morning my new department mate turned to me and said “Everytime I notice my thighs rubbing, I think of you.”

Huh.

Additional Thoughts on Moving to a New Place – Part 52 in the Series

There were a lot of things I was prepared for in moving MRUs – having to rebuild my lab and figure out the bureaucracy.  I was prepared for having the learn the general logistical bullshittery of a whole new place.

 

I was not prepared for the fact that every piece of software I use has a new version since the ones I purchased at old MRU and now I know how to use none of them. Even Word is slathering me with fuckery today. Where’s my damned Cite While You Write, bitches???

 

Damn it.