More Things Go Wrong Then Sexual Harassment...

When I started going into physics, I honestly thought the lack of women was due to lack of interest. But as I progressed, I realized there was a lot of sexism in the halls of academia. Advisors were disinterested in my goals, some even suggested I become a doctor or do other things. Others were flat out rude. One time I told a teacher I was having a hard time in my personal life (someone died) hence I did not do as well on a midterm (he probably thought I was lying) and he suggested I drop the class. Meanwhile, classmates who also did not do well were given pep talks. In my first research position I was put into a lab in the basement, alone. Eventually I was moved to where other people were. Though socially it did not improve much, when lab mates did talk to me, it was to tell me what I was doing wrong. When I was finally invited to meetings, I found that the new boys on the research group were getting better projects and more advice.

The amount of attention I got from my classmates depended on whether I was single or not at the time. My teachers did not acknowledge me in the hall. One went as far to walk quickly to get away from me when we were walking to the classroom he was about to lecture in. My grades were not great, but still pretty good. Men who had worst grades got into better schools. Probably due to the letters of recommendation. I didn't get many good ones because I didn't have many friendly relationships with the faculty. More out of awkwardness then anything. I didn't know how to interact because isn't that what I am in school for? The professors didn't seem to know what to say or do either. In one of my classes I actually caught the grader giving me lower grades for no reason. I dated a guy for a while and we did homework and had a lab together, we got good grades. Though in lab I got worse grades mostly for grammar. It made me suspect that the grader thought I was copying my reports. When I broke up with the guy he started getting Cs and Ds. Having worked with him for a while, I knew it was because he wasn't that good. But everyone seemed to think it was because he was heartbroken.

When I got to graduate school, I thought it would be a brand new start. I took a diagnostic exam, did poorly because I didn't study because they said I didn't need to. Was insulted by the head of the department for not doing well and signed up for undergrad classes. Luckily another graduate student said I should just take graduate level. So a week into the semester I switch to the grad level classes. Of course my classmates don't tell me there was a quiz, (they do this multiple times and one time they don't tell me homework is due - They made the excuse that I didn't ask them directly - but I did ask them what happened in class!) But anyway, I do bad on the quiz, which I wouldn't have, if I had known about it and studied ten minutes for it. So I embarrass myself in front of the professor I had wanted to work with. He insults me for doing bad on the quiz. I try not to let it get to me and ask him about research. Eventually (months later) he introduces me to another professor on the project. The other professor - though maybe he was trying to be nice, I don't know - kept mentioning about how I probably am not good enough to do research with him. Meanwhile most of the professors are still ignoring me in the hall. Most of the graduate students too.

I love physics, but I am getting sick of this ****. Right now I am studying for my qualifier and am letting a fellow graduate student walk all over me and blow off study sessions because I desperately want more friends in the department. He seems to think he is all super female friendly and understands sexism in the department. But I blow up at him during study sessions. Mainly because he won't listen to my answers - he seems to like studying when he is right all the time. He isn't the only one I let treat me sub-standardly. I do it because I don't want to rock the boat, but in the end it just makes me ashamed of myself and I think the other students know somehow I am demeaning myself while trying to look for some sort of approval.
ballerinapunk ballerinapunk
2 Responses Jul 18, 2010

I would like to be able to apologize for all the horrible behavior and sexism most men think is "cute" and normal; but the fact is I am a guy and I feel alienated by it myself.<br />
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I think anyone operating on hormones alone isn't fully human, as tough as it might be, and people who don't even notice other people because they can't get: sex, money or prestige from them are scum, too.<br />
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Academia is full of small people playing with politics and power plays just like everywhere else, just more so. Many friends have ditched lucrative, safe careers in it simply because of the people inhabiting the administration.<br />
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But, there are decent people everywhere, and pushing through so that there is at least one more is worth it and what this world needs more of. <br />
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And as an aside, I love physics... too bad I had a crappy math teacher who went on to run the administration or I might have stayed in that field... I mean, what else is there that matters (including philosophy that is)?

hang in there, as difficut as it may seem, you need to show them that you are not "a woman in a mans world" but that you are in a world of your own, one that is much smarter than them. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself, and , if you have to, be a total *****. Like mean- if you keep your mouth shut and let them walk over you, they wont respect you, once you show them that you are strong and confident, they'll see that they can't walk all over you. I believe in you :D