What We Learn When Professorly d00ds Take to Facebook…

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.

47 responses to “What We Learn When Professorly d00ds Take to Facebook…

  1. Pingback: SfN 2012: Professors behaving badly | DrugMonkey

  2. PharmaceuticalElephant

    I believe you, I believe you!!!!

  3. Isis the Scientist

    Yes, but allow me my rightgeous indignation that there is substantive proof they are in your society also, despite your previous assertions to the contrary!!!

  4. Yes, yes, yes. You were right and I was wrong.

  5. Do guys hit on women at conferences? during or after? I bet there were plenty of men and women hitting on same or other .. they just didn’t lament their failure to score on FB.

    Is this sour grapes? Or just one person’s idea of beauty unfulfilled at one onference? .. I thought women get better looking the more desparate or drunk ouget…

  6. Mama Wears a Lab Coat

    This is by far one of my favorite posts ever! I love the part about the one’s with a blind spot. This describes my doctoral mentor to a tee!

  7. Isis the Scientist

    I bet there were plenty of men and women hitting on same or other .. they just didn’t lament their failure to score on FB.

    Although still abhorrent, that’s not what his Facebook post says.

  8. BrutalCashMaster

    While it wasn’t the smartest thing to post to facebook, I think that a lot of people are reading more into this than what it says at face value. I think that it is just an observation which he probably should have kept to himself. It doesn’t state that being a super model is a requirement for ladies to attend the meeting and it doesn’t say or imply anything about the ability of women to conduct or suceed in science. It’s just his observation about the looks of the women at the conference. It’s very superficial but don’t pretend that a few women aren’t commenting on the lack of good looks of the men attending the conference as well. They just have the brains not to post it to Facebook.

  9. This shizzzz is on the REAL! And SO many of my well-meaning, happy male colleagues just don’t see it or don’t believe it. But, it’s so true…we share the lists of ass-grabbers with one another, we try to “protect” the younger students coming through….sad shit…

  10. Just the other day, I was ready to pack up my remaining supply of “Blogging Science While Female” BINGO cards (which also function reasonably well as “Being in Science While Female” BINGO cards) and put them in the garage.

    Obviously, I was being overly optimistic.

  11. Pingback: Want to play BINGO? | Adventures in Ethics and Science

  12. “It doesn’t state that being a super model is a requirement for ladies to attend the meeting and it doesn’t say or imply anything about the ability of women to conduct or suceed in science.”

    “Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? ”

    Summary fail.

  13. maybe if he’s interested in attending conventions with beautiful people, he should get out of neuroscience himself, and go into modeling as a career. Assuming, of course, that he’s as good-looking as he seems to demand the women around him to be.

    Fail on multiple levels: arrogance, privelege, double standard.

  14. Agree with David.

    What puzzles me about this person’s attitude are these things: (1) why ANYONE would consider an underweight, gangly, over-painted super-model attractive in any way whatsoever and (2) why he would think anyone interested in the brain would even consider looking like that at a conference. (By ‘interested in the brain’, I mean one or all of: researching it; being attracted to those WITH brains; or having themselves having any brains). And (3) perhaps he should consider the state of his own brain and examine the reasons he wants to go to a Neuroscience Conf in the first place (on second thoughts, delete (3) I think Isis has answered that and it has nothing to do with brains).


  15. Heck even the lanyards work against us! They are the exact length to always end up in the cleavage area and d00ds (prof and vendors alike) either 1) stare as though they can’t read the 50 pt font that spells your name or 2) reach down and grab the name tag with the infamous knuckle drag. ICK!

  16. They paw at your name tag? “Knuckle drag” is right….

  17. I never wear the lanyards for exactly that reason NeuroGrrl. I find ways to pin it to my label (above the cleavage) or clip it to my belt and make them introduce themselves with a polite handshake.

    Why am I not surprised at the lack of understanding in certain commenters. For some it doesn’t matter what goes on at these things because a) we must be doing it too and b) it’s just a few bad apples.


  18. FlabberGasted

    I think these negative reactions assume way too much about the intent of the poster. I am not trying to justify “ass-grabbery”, literally or even as a metaphor for unwelcome attention. There is no evidence that he indulged in any. He commented on his Facebook page about his perceptions of beauty at the meeting vis-a-vis general society, and he works in a field that includes the neuroscience and psychology of facial attractiveness. And I am surprised people find his comments unusual: what he said could have been said by any number of women and men I know. For me, the moral here is that he needs to be much more careful about the circles he shares such opinions with. (On an related note: I think a careful survey will easily show that much, much more happens at the SFN meeting (a simple polling of anecdotes among friends should suffice).

  19. “Although still abhorrent, that’s not what his Facebook post says.”

    yes but I meant that said failure then leads him to attack all the women as ugly and not up to his standards… a defense mechanism if you will..

  20. Not much has changed since that asshat wrote The Double Helix. These jerks still don’t see that there’s anything wrong with deriding a woman’s appearance when she’s doing work (and then, of course, stealing said work because she refuses to just give it to you). Perhaps it is easier to take credit for her work if you’ve diminished her as a person and a scientist first.

  21. Can we talk about the fact that Maestripieri is head of a job search committee at U Chicago right now? Is the job market now a meat market?

  22. hm. i could use these in a demonstrated response comment to dr. maestripieri.
    and i’m totally with madhatter – i pin the nametag to my shoulder region.

  23. Pingback: Where's the use of looking nice? - Research Centered - The Chronicle of Higher Education

  24. I’m a female undergraduate student about to travel to my first science conference in January (Scio13 anyone?!?). I will be going alone (although I have been contacted by a guy to fly out together), and I’m not going to lie, this post has made me a bit nervous! Any tips or specific things I should look out for? I will take the lanyard thing to heart (and keep it away from my heart😉 )

  25. Scio13 isn’t a science conference. You’ll be fine.

  26. Pingback: Where’s the use of looking nice? | Science Target Blog

  27. Nervous, attendance for ScienceOnline 2012 was about 60% female, and it’s likely to be that again this year. As well, the vibe is very community-centered and welcoming, and plenty of the “old timers” (such as we are) would be happy to address particular problems that you might encounter (right away, if desired). Or just to hang out with you.

  28. I’ve now seen a FEW .. that is, MORE THAN ONE… attempt to lamely defend this professor by saying something along the lines of, “if the roles were reversed, it wouldn’t be seen as sexist”. I have to say: I am a biologist who attends all sorts of conferences on a regular basis and I can honestly say (go on, subject me to all your rigors) that I never ONCE judged someone by their looks on a “sexy” scale. It literally never crossed my mind until someone pointed out just now “if the roles were reversed…” and I tested myself to see if I had ever done that. Nope. The only type of judgment was based on how someone carries themselves, how they dress, and all the typical character judgements that you do when you first meet someone. And, actually, YES. If the roles had been reversed, this type of comment is STILL abhorrent. No professional man or woman would have even had this thought cross their mind, and less so be so frustrated by the thought that they just had to get let it out on social media.

  29. Pingback: Sharing the love « The Lady Garden

  30. Pingback: Sexism in academia does, in fact, have consequences « The view from Helicon

  31. Pingback: Hey You Men Who Yell “Nice Tits”: STFU. Again. | Oh Emma Top

  32. WhatHappensAtSciConferences

    “If you ever needed proof that some (certainly not all) male faculty use scientific meetings as their own personal fucking grounds, there it is.” Who needs proof? Male and female attendees routinely hit on each other at conferences. That’s really not the issue that Dario’s post raised. Getting your asss grabbed is, however. That should never happen, without pre-approval.

  33. “He commented on his facebook page about his perceptions of beauty at the meeting” You mean, he commented about his perceptions of the beauty OF HIS FEMALE COLLEAGUES at the meeting. The men got off with their beauty unexamined. Why do you suppose that is?

    Let me suggest some possibilities. Perhaps he didn’t comment on the beauty or lack thereof of the men because he thought of them in terms of their ideas. Perhaps he thought about the research they had done, the hypotheses they had come up with, the strong and weak points of their work, the helpful, or cutting, comments they had offered about good and bad points of other people’s work, their strengths as teachers or mentors or principal investigators. Maybe he had so much to think about regarding the men, that their beauty never crossed his mind.

    In brief, maybe he thought of the men as colleagues. THE WAY HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN THINKING OF THE WOMEN.

    “And I am surprised people find his comments unusual:” You seem to have misunderstood. Part of the point here is that we don’t find his comments unusual at all. That’s the problem. Far too many men think of men as colleagues and women as… well, not as colleagues, let’s put it that way.

  34. seaotter wrote:
    “The only type of judgment was based on how someone carries themselves, how they dress, and all the typical character judgements that you do when you first meet someone. ”

    I’m offended. You judge people by how they dress? What about all those nerds out there who have no dress sense whatsoever? You wouldn’t give their ideas the time of day just because of how they dress?

  35. Pingback: Allison’s Space 10/24/2012 | Allison's Space

  36. Scientist turned Therapist

    I was a research scientist in a human genetics & molecular biology lab for years before an injury took me to another career where standing wasn’t as necessary. Our lab of 7 was all women, including our PI, so we were dubbed “The Barbie Lab”. And more than one of us was NOT BELIEVED at meetings when we spoke of our research or advanced degrees because we wore makeup and had stylish haircuts, put on cute blouse under our lab coat instead of a shapeless tee, &/or had a larger bra cup size. I must say that the women I worked with during this time are still the smartest women I know; but they are intelligent not just scientifically, but emotionally and socially as well. They certainly would have been smart enough NOT to post an opinion as stupid & ignorant as Dr. Maestripieri’s on Facebook.

    And to say something of the male scientists at conferences, I have been groped & propositioned for sex at more than one “professional” scientific conference, including Neuroscience. Built much like Bernadette on Big Bang Theory, my body & blond hair meant that I was taken much less seriously by men and women scientists alike. And much to my surprise, I was assumed to want an unwelcome hand on my ass in an elevator or anonymous sex. I’m sure there are not many male scientists that worry about this particular hazard, no matter what they look like. It makes me quite sad in 2012 that women are simply not equals in the professional workplace. Not in science…sadly, not anywhere.

    Here’s to those like Dr. Isis educating the masses! Hopefully our society’s daughters will not have to deal with this as much as our mothers & ourselves. And as we continue to help this change, it is hoped that the world’s attitudes towards women as objects or possessions continue to move forward to equality instead of ignorance.

  37. Pingback: U. Chicago Researcher Makes Sexist Comments: The Science World Explodes « Freewheel Burning

  38. I believe you because you’re right and I’m wrong ! ^^

  39. Funny women share who the ass-grabbers are…. and the men share who the easiest ones to take up to the room are. Big deal have you never gone to a night club before? He didn’t comment on your work just your looks – and I highly doubt you would have resorted to an internet smear campaign if you were much to look at.

  40. Disbeliever

    @seaotter ” I am a biologist who attends all sorts of conferences on a regular basis and I can honestly say (go on, subject me to all your rigors) that I never ONCE judged someone by their looks on a “sexy” scale. It literally never crossed my mind ”

    Alright, so I don’t know any biologists personally, perhaps this is something unusual about biologists as people, but if this is really true then you are the very first woman I have ever met to not judge their professional collegues on their physical attractiveness. A man’s unattractiveness (or a woman’s, for that matter) won’t keep me from working alongside them, but it will be noticed, and in private, talked about. There are plenty of men I work with who are tremendously unattractive; I simply try to avoid letting it show when I interact with them. Same for the less-than-stellar women I work with. The fact that I treat these people the same shouldn’t be taken as a sign of my ignorance. I just have the tact not to mention it.

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