I am currently flabbergasted. I’m drinking scotch, hanging out with my son as he gets ready for bed, and trying to talk myself into some perspective on the recent online science blogging community
debacle breakdown complete shitfest. It’s a long story. Each part of the story is awful independent of any other component; each act is strangely linked to one another. I didn’t get enough work done last week while watching the events unfold.
In response to the online revelations of racist/sexist emails, sexual harassment and weird conference interactions, @kejames penned the #ripplesofdoubt hashtag. Go read it. Right. Now. Be prepared to cry. Or at least get choked up. Hopefully angry.
The thing about trying to make a name and a career for yourself is that you learn fairly early you have to pass certain thresholds to get by, or be included, or at least known. The first threshold is, usually, doing an undergraduate research project and doing well. The next is getting into graduate school and beginning the climb to independence. Finding a decent post-doc position is less of a sieve (or at least was for me prior to the economic crash)–next there is a huge hurdle at landing a position following which you attempt to get promoted and keep your position. And on and on until we are in our sixties and our bodies are screaming for retirement and only cynicism keeps us from smacking others at faculty meeting.
If you stumble at any threshold for whatever reason–death in the family, depression, uncertainty–you may not make it to the next stage. Furthermore, the power dynamic along the way often feels more lopsided, and is presented to us as more unbalanced, then it may actually be. You may be told to keep your head down and play by the rules to get to the next stage; however, there are no rules, really. You don’t know this since you are a peon. And, you may be under bad advisement.
When the call finally came I hadn’t spoken to her for a month at least. I can’t remember how long it was that I punished her with my silence–it may have been two months. I was pissed she bailed on a visit to her mom. I was going to drive to her house, pack she and her vodka, cigarettes and hilariously floppy straw hat into my car and deposit her at my grandmother’s house for a visit. No one else wanted to make the drive or could convince her to leave her house. I could get her to take little trips–the grocery, the duck pond, the liquor store. She drank a fair amount of gin in addition to the vodka. She never ate. Sometimes I could get her to eat cheerios.
When she called us–and I mean, she called my mom–we thought she needed to go to the hospital because she was starving. Her belly was strangely fat in the middle, her pants hadn’t been fitting she said–we stupidly thought it was malnourishment. It was her liver, swollen and barely functioning. Then in the ICU her kidneys stopped working, she slipped into a light coma, and she died.
My aunt, the painter, the woman art professor was denied tenure because she fought with one of her colleagues who was male. This was the late 70′s and 80′s. We don’t know too much about it except that she was told she had a case–she never fought it. She taught out of her home for a while after that. She was still vaguely well-known regionally; her students have gone on to bigger venues. We had her collection on loan in a university museum. Now, it sits in my parent’s basement and some pieces hang in my house.
Events at the beginning of your career timeline are, by definition, formative. Right after my aunt died, I began working in a lab for my undergraduate thesis. The PI of the lab was fired for sexual harassment–an affair, attempted affairs, etc, etc. I wasn’t targeted, but my time in the lab was not pleasant. I kept my head down, got myself into graduate school, and moved on. I wasn’t silent, but what can you really do when you have little power? The story, in my opinion, and for me personally, is larger than one guy abusing his power. The story is about anger, and trying to maintain your calm, and your purpose, when there are no guarantees that you will make it to a position of power. I want women to know, however, that I am here, working toward a goal, maintaining my calm, and willing to be active when the situation calls for it.
Doing my small part to fight against online bullying and sexism.
You have done it again. Now, I don’t really visit you all that often since my work is sufficiently outside of the society of folks that generally use this listserv as to make it only a monthly exercise in curiosity. However, it seems that when I do chance upon a visit, I see some kinda blatant misogyny just hanging out for all to publicly see, like your gangly bits accidentally falling out of an unfortunately loose bathing suit.
For example. The wise and learned NSF is putting resources into a Career-Life Balance initiative in an effort to support family-friendly policies, this time aimed at the post-doctoral stage (huge! huge!!)*:
The purpose of this DCL is to announce a gender neutral supplemental funding opportunity for NSF research awardees that support postdoctoral investigators. NSF recognizes that dependent care responsibilities and other family considerations pose unique challenges for postdoctoral researchers.
Principal Investigators (PIs) of research awards are invited to submit supplemental funding requests to support additional personnel (e.g., research technicians or equivalent) to sustain research while the postdoctoral researcher is on family leave. These requests may include funding for up to 3 months of salary support, for a maximum of $12,000 in salary compensation. The fringe benefits and associated indirect costs may be in addition to the salary payment and therefore, the total supplemental funding request may exceed $12,000.
Special instructions for use by PIs and Sponsored Projects Offices in preparation and submission of postdoctoral investigators-Life Balance Supplemental Funding Requests are included as an attachment (see below) to this DCL.
PI’s can get some supplemental income to perhaps hire a tech while a post-doc is out having teh babiez. Data flows in and the womenz stay in the pipeline (and note that this is a gender-neutral thing, see? up there it says gender neutral). A PI may be concerned about hiring a post-doc that will make babies and this funding can help cushion expectations about post-doc output, all the while helping carry us, as a society, toward a more reasonable view of people and their procreation. This funding may allow for more women to stay in the pipeline, help to make childcare more equitable in families, and is undoubtedly a GOOD THING.
Unfortunately not all of the Ecologgers are on board with the NSF:
Sounds like institutionalized discrimination against unmarried people without kids to me. But with nepotism (spousal hires, etc.) running rampant in the ivory tower, I don’t expect better in academia. I wonder if I can get some funding to hire a maid or help with various things as such. I am not married and have no kids, but society forgets that people like me still have a LIFE. Some help with laundry and cleaning, maybe some errands now and then, would help me a lot to balance my LIFE and WORK. I don’t like the direction this NSF thing is going at all.
Some of your members came by and rather quickly pointed out the exposed ganglies this dude just let fly about his LIFE and his WORK, and for that I am grateful. Perhaps it is because of the recent (and apparently ongoing) kerfluffles with Clara B Jones – the heckles on the necks of your subscribers are getting twitchy, and few as yet seemed to be in agreement that the NSF’s new policy was discriminatory to those who choose not to procreate. I’d even wager a bet that many of your readers also think that the ‘direction of this NSF thing’ is a good one.
However, I’m surprised yet again that, while viewing job ads, random questions and other general announcements, I easily happen on the public indignation of a childless dude (likely also wronged by those rampant nepotists in the universities).
This was my OMG, WTF face this morning:
In lieu of coming to expect a daily (monthly?) dose of wackaloon, I decided to write this little blog post to add my voice to those that find initiatives like the Career-Life Balance of NSF to be positive and forward-thinking. I would like it if we could eventually drown out those wackaloons.
I think this was the anthem of my twenties.
In approximately one year’s time, Dr. Rad decided to go on the job market (not an easy decision in and of itself), went on the market, had a slew of interviews, a couple of offers and a relatively long negotiation followed by a very fast move. The easy part was selling the house and moving the kids; the difficult part has been the extraction of the Rad lab and her Radlings from oldjobUni. So Rad, having made some definite mistakes during this process, has prepared a guide for those of you that would like to imagine what burning it all down might entail.
1. Secrecy is key and very difficult. You can’t exactly squee down the hall when you get teh most awesome interviews if you currently hold a TT position and yet lack tenure. This is a different situation then when you secured interviews as a post-doc – at that stage you are a little fledgling full of innocence and promise and you could squee all you want and most people would squee with you.
2. It is probably in your best interest, if you are serious about leaving, to maintain this secrecy until you have an offer in hand – if at all possible. You may think being all open and honest is like, you know, the totally right thing to do. However, your internal code of totally right is not followed by other people. Keep that in mind, and as well, what action would most benefit you and yours in your specific situation.
3. Realize that leaving a good situation for a better situation is difficult, and even leaving a not-so-great situation for a much better situation can be difficult. Once you become established and you have ordered all of your equipment, learned how to use the photocopier, memorized your various university numbers, gotten a purchasing card, your keys, figured out which staff are willing to help versus those that best be avoided, etc, being confronted with the possibility of moving and learning these things all over again feels somewhat akin to jumping into boiling water.
4. Your trainees may be happy for you to move into a new situation, but they will still be somewhat upset with you for fucking up their perceived stability.
5. Realize that when you announce your intention to leave you may be jumping into a pot of boiling water. You will learn very quickly which of your colleagues support you as a person versus those that merely wanted a shiny object to adorn the faculty. Do not take this personally. It’s just business.
6. Some people leave their positions for spousal issues, lack of fit, etc; others may leave simply because they do not like the weather or the city. Regardless of your reasons for leaving, some of your colleagues will be upset — and may lash out against you. Be cool if this happens, attempt to put yourself in their shoes, and try not to dwell on it or become bitter about the things that may be said about you. (This advice from a friend, generally speaking at least).
7. Once you have broken all of the things and moved, you will need some time to rebuild. You may not have a lab space for a while — renovations can take time. Recognize you may take a productivity hit (thanks for the suggestion GR!). Depending on your career stage, you may be able to stack this time with writing and getting papers out.
8. In that vein of thinking, be willing to re-evaluate your annual goals, and the goals that you have set for yourself 2-3 years out.
9. Don’t hyperventilate. Be willing to let some things fall through the cracks. All of the things will not come back together after you have broken them. Don’t forget to exercise.
10. Apologize to your collaborators profusely for letting things fall through the cracks, and pick this work up first and foremost when the dust settles.
What have I forgotten?
Jealousy is not an emotion that I feel very often — and when I do feel it I usually make a very conscious effort not to act on it. I generally like to think of myself as supportive, careful, calm. Or at the very least, not involved. Instead of getting overly jealous about something, I extract myself from the situation. I do not like jealousy.
Unfortunately I had a jealousy dream last night. It was acute, clear, and devastating, and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling all day. I have very little to be jealous about — I would characterize my life as mostly spectacular, especially at the moment. I have no need for the thing or situation in my dream that I wanted and could not have.
So I was curious about the root of jealousy and its function as an emotion. Is it a relic of the intense selection for survival in dicey situations? Maybe hormonal and linked to fertility? I’m certain there are more two-bit hypotheses out there to explain human jealousy. When doing internet searches on the term, however, I realized something striking:
See here? Jealousy, for women, is about boobs.
Or it’s about not getting some dude.
Also, this emotion, stemming from the need for male attention, begins very early in our lives.
According to popular culture, jealousy is an emotion generally felt (or should be felt) by women, about sex, getting a man, and having an inadequate breast size — small breasts of course makes it more difficult to attract men and furthermore following it up with some sex. Most articles I viewed were aimed toward women and working through that jealousy, all the while reinforcing the concept that most women *should* feel jealous about certain things. Mostly male attention.