Friday, December 16, 2005

Are you there, Oprah...It's Me, Margaret

Warning: Random content resulting from severe lack of sleep and feelings of worthlessness.

Has Oprah ever done a show on women scientists? She talks a lot about equality and leadership and encouraging women to ignore whatever glass ceiling is lingering over them, but has she ever focused on the issues facing women who made it really far while at the same time stood still the whole time? She spent a lot of time promoting that quack, Phil, who deserves less air time than Tyra Banks in my opinion. At least Tyra only offers fake empathy and doesn't try to pretend she is anyone other than who she is, unlike that poser, Phil. She has also spent a lot of time convincing us that all we need is independence from abusive men, a makeover, and a car to be happy. As much as people believe that Oprah cares about real issues (as opposed to profiting from them), I often wonder if she really cares about the deep issues.

Anyway, I've decided that because I am too old and not sexy enough to be America's Top Model or American Idol, I need to find a different dream. I guess I'll lower the bar for myself and choose successful scientist. Oprah needs to do a show on this as I can't possibly figure these things out on my own.

Topics Oprah needs to cover:

--Why do you feel alienated from other people, even successful people, who are not in science?
--Why are you so angry with people on TV (movie stars, reality stars, and general folk)?
--Why do you avoid telling people that you are getting your PhD and that you are a scientist?
--Why don't you correct people when they assume that you are a psychologist instead of a molecular neuroscientist? Note--I'm in NO way saying that it's more hard core to be a molecular person; in fact, the opposite can absolutely be the case. I have just found that people are more comfortable with believing that I'm a psychologist--probably because it has traditionally been a woman dominated field for several decades now.
--Why do you apologize after correcting people or debating with them over their misinterpretation of a medical or scientific fact.
--Why do you demean your own intelligence in front of people after winning games? Why do you purposely lose games sometimes?
--Why do you lie about your scores to people, subtracting off points or honors?
--Why do you feel like you have to be extra prepared when collaborating or debating with men in your field, even if you have more knowledge on the topic of discussion?
--Why do you email people when you first interact with them as opposed to talking with them directly or on the phone?
--Why do you feel that there are not more tenure-track women in science?
--Why do you think the leaky pipeline exists?
--How do you explain the data showing differences in the evaluations of productivity of men versus women?
--Why do you avoid women mentors?

That's just a start. I know that some of these things are specific to my own issues, but after an interesting talk with another woman in the lab, someone who is so different from me but, at the same time, so similar, I think these questions could apply to a lot of intelligent women. By the way, just to eliminate any confusion--I still want the makeover and the car. Also, don't get me wrong, I occasionally find myself enjoying Oprah--she serves a purpose and I respect that.

Interesting side note: Spell check substitutes macabre for makeover. Hee...hee...


At 11:59 AM, Blogger sue said...

Let me just say as a non-scientific computer-geek woman, I can relate to many of these issues. I have wondered before why we pretend to be something less than what we are or dumber than? Probably topics for my therapist. (That I don't have).

At 12:05 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Ha! Make-over. Now, Oprah would totally make-over female scientists. She might not talk to them, but she'd give you all haircuts and junk.

I feel worthless today, too. And sleepy.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger truevyne said...

Girl Power! The questions you raised are fabulous. While I am not a scientist, I could make my own list for my own passions and alienation therein. But I don't need to today, because you've spoken for me.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Katie said...

I can really relate to the topics you mentioned. Thanks for putting it out there.

I am feeling pretty tired and worthless right now myself--I guess being in the middle of writing a grant will do that to you.

Note to all female scientists: Hang in there.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

With a lot of these "why" questions it sounds like you're asking "why" you're human instead of a research machine. Why not ask why the professional culture of science can't be more human? Maybe in the current culture of hiring a woman does shoot herself in the foot by trying to be friendly while criticizing, but then why not be mad? Or if you think it's not shooting yourself in the foot, or doesn't take out more the little toe, why not just be who you are and set an example? I dunno, I think "professionalism" and professional persona are faulty and over-rated concepts. Plus, to the extent our idea of what it means to be professional are old, they're male biased.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger post-doc said...

I loved your list of questions, and was a more than a little disappointed when I didn't see your answers typed neatly below them. One of the most amazing things about blogs for me is that you see that you're not alone in how you feel. I sometimes consider myself to be very isolated professionally, and while I'm trying to create situations where that's not the case (with some success), it's lovely to hear other women searching for answers to some questions I ask myself. So thank you!

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that post was very true. i'm a female scientist in a hard-core field that will remain nameless, and i can answer your questions no problem. it just so happens that i don't do any of those things, and... that's why many of my colleagues call me a ball-breaking bitch. which is what you are subconsciously trying to avoid. which of course, i'm not actually a bitch, it's just that not being bashful about being right and not being afraid to yell down an older man makes me scary to other people. very scary, apparently. but let me tell you, playing passive female will never get you anywhere in the long run except trampled.

as for trying to go easy on the non-scientists, many of us do that. people need more science, but they won't take it if it's shoved down their throat. so the light approach is still better.


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