Thursday, December 14, 2006

Academic Starette

Someone told me today that I am an "academic starette". I don't even know how to spell that. I suppose it could be starrette (?). I suppose I am being ungrateful, oversensitive, and overanalytical, but what does that mean? Is that one of those 'you're a good female scientist' kinds of comments? Memo to those who wonder why I 'spin' everything to be about gender: I am constantly reminded that I am a 'female scientist' and not a regular scientist like all the men.

26 comments:

Dr. Brazen said...

Adding "ette" to things like that really pisses me off. First, it's a reminder that you're a woman and therefore not like the other boys. But also, it's a diminuitive. Like we're cute and little and therefore in a different category, little mini-people. Peoplettes.

Anonymous said...

I know this must sound offending (it's not my intention), but why do you insist on calling yourself female science professor on this blog, if you don't like to be reminded of the unfair treatment of women in science?

Anonymous said...

Previous anon: The blog name is the effect, not the cause: FSProfs professional peers do not know the blog, or at least not that it's her's.

FemaleScienceProfessor: I have a question on reference letters. I'm applying for a PostDoc and my PhD advisor (German) writes an ultra-short letter. I know, because I have seen it. It contains only very little information and would probably rank highly on your annoyance scale. I' m pretty sure, I will get a better and longer letter from my current PostDoc advisor and from another member of my PhD commitee. One of the positions asks for only two letters, can I still ask all three people for one? I HAVE to ask my PhD advisor, but the other two would be better....

I feel for you on that starette issue, Dr. Brazen has said all there is to say!

Anonymous said...

I hear you. I had a boyfriend in college that called me "professorette" and I could never get him to understand why I hated it so much. (He didn't last long.)

Kristin said...

Putting a diminutive onto "star" is really insulting. Nobody calls Angelina Jolie a "movie starette" or Madonna a "rock starette."

Ianqui said...

Oh boy, that's insulting. I suspect it is about your gender ('star' not being one of those words that has male and female variants), but it could also be a diminutive, which would be equally insulting.

Who's the person who told you that? Someone you previously liked?

Female Science Professor said...

The offical name of the blog is just science-professor (see the url). The title is Female Science Professor for the reason one of the anonymous commentors stated. Also, I see no contradiction in my describing myself and the sort-of theme of the blog (in which gender is relevant) vs. not liking being categorized as such in situations in which it is not relevant.

To the commentor with the terse advisor: if you can, have more than 2 letters sent (or give the names of more than 2 referees). I used to do that once I realized my postdoc supervisor wrote short, uninformative letters.

gs said...

Sorry to read that, FSP.

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely...
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes...

Zuska said...

Being diminuitive-ized is really being put in a one-down position via the means of gender politics. The first Anonymous has his (I'll bet it's a him) head up his ass. What are you supposed to call yourself? Male Science Professor? It's not that you don't like being reminded of the unfair treatment of women in science - it's that you don't like being treated unfairly as a woman in science. If you didn't ever want to be reminded of it you certainly wouldn't be writing a blog where you discuss gender issues. Anonymous, she wasn't just REMINDED of how things are bad for women, she was TREATED DIFFERENTIALLY to how a male would have been treated in the same situation. Would you call a man a starette? I think not. Therefore don't do it with a woman. Anonymous, hold out your feet; I puke upon your virtual shoes as punishment for your general cluelessness.

admin1 said...

Do you have any posts speculating about why women are in minority in the academia?

From my previous post about women and men now being equally distributed in the workforce overall, it seems that women, as wise as they are, prefer to go to where the money is. Why suffer the academic life you describe here? Endless administrative meetings with males with extreme facial hair who talk about nothing but sports analogies? Higher up in the earning scale the male/female issue disappears. I really don't see women in the workplace in general taking so much crap from male colleagues other than in the academia. But maybe I should read a similar blog by females in other fields.

MsPhD said...

Ack. dr. brazen's comment made me laugh.

To the anonymous who asked why female science professor, I personally like the sarcasm of the title. Look it up in wikipedia if you don't know what that means.

admin1, what planet are you from where the male/female difference disappears as you go up the earning scale??? are there any space shuttles going there soon? it sounds like a great place.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I aside from the misguided sentiment, "starette" is not even a word! Double stupid points for that one.

Am I a woman scientist? said...

Aw how cute. Just like Smurfette.

Anonymous said...

@zuska: I'm a cynical mind and yes I'm a guy. Thanks for personally attacking and treating me like a sexist asshole for asking a - in my eyes - legitmate question. I certainly agree that there is gender-specific treatment in every employment-sector and usually women are negatively discriminated. However, I doubt that your way of tackling the issue resolves any problems. You are exactly the reason why many men hate and fear extrem feminists.

@MsPhD: I did. Catharine MacKinnon?

Pam said...

"Why suffer the academic life you describe here?"

Perhaps - because we love 'it'? Perhaps we're (really) good at 'it'? Good at the science, at the mentoring, at the teaching? Not just good, but perhaps really good? Perhaps it's because we couldn't imagine doing anywhere else?

So - you seem pretty sure that male/female issues 'disappear' higher up in the 'earning scale'. In academia, from what I've observed - women just get more isolated. I don't see the struggle lessen at all.

Lisa said...

anonymous:
"asking a - in my eyes - legitmate question"
I think it was a legitimate question (if you really couldn't figure out the answer on your own), but its tone was rude. You may have tried to make it sound unoffensive, but I read it (as did Zuksa) as though you had already judged FSPs choice of name as ridiculous. Putting something like "I hope this doesn't offend you" at the top does not change the tone of the rest.
Had you really just been curious and not judgemental, I believe you would've simply asked the question, without bolding the word female (as though she wouldn't otherwise understand the question) and especially without the word "insist". Think about it for a moment. She is not "insisting" on calling herself FSP--that is simply what she calls herself. You are not already engaged in a conversation with her where she has repeatedly insisted on you calling her FSP (except perhaps in your head).
Kudos to FSP, though, for being polite. Also, kudos to Zuksa for trying to get anon to see that his comment was rude (and/or backing up FSP). Sometimes people need to be polite, and sometimes they just need to express themselves. If we are to make every comment polite, not as much will be said.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brazen said...
Adding "ette" to things like that really pisses me off. First, it's a reminder that you're a woman and therefore not like the other boys.

Good to see that men have no monopoly on being patronising, then.

Lisa said...

Dr. Brazen is allowed to be patronizing towards those who would patronize her. Besides, I think she was saying it from her interpretation of the mindset of the man who would add "ette" to things; he sees women as special and as outsiders, but his male colleagues are his buddies and so he can think of them colloquially as "the boys". Also, that mindset is more appropriate for someone who is 12 and therefore is a boy.

Anonymousette said...

Anonymous, you make it sound like "we" think many men hating and fearing "extreme feminists" is a bad thing. Hah!

TW Andrews said...

FemaleScienceProfessor: I have a question on reference letters. I'm applying for a PostDoc and my PhD advisor (German) writes an ultra-short letter. I know, because I have seen it. It contains only very little information and would probably rank highly on your annoyance scale. I' m pretty sure, I will get a better and longer letter from my current PostDoc advisor and from another member of my PhD commitee. One of the positions asks for only two letters, can I still ask all three people for one? I HAVE to ask my PhD advisor, but the other two would be better....

This may be different in academia than in industry, but in my experience (as an American who spent 5 years as an ex-pat at a Swiss/German biotech company), the European culture around recommendation letters is very different than that of the US.

When you ask for a letter of recommendation, they typically hear "letter of reference," which most often contains 1-2 sentences along the lines of "Yes I can confirm that I worked with so-and-so from this date to this date, and that they performed as their job description required." and they are typically shared with the referred individual.

Obviously I don't know the particulars of your situation/advisor, so this may be entirely off-base, but if you have reason to believe that they're not entirely clear on the relative importance of recommendation letters, it might make sense to simply explain to him/her why the letter you received will probably hurt you, particularly if you were expecting a good letter.

Anonymous said...

Lisa said...

Dr. Brazen is allowed to be patronizing towards those who would patronize her.

Patronize has a male etymology; Dr Brazen would presumably matronize instead.

Anonymous said...

I think the diminutive would be Starlet. Starette is meant to be "feminine". Either way, it's pretty ridiculous and is revealing of the unconscious way the speaker thinks about the world. I would let it go if it was their first offence and just blog about it, but if it was their umpteenth offence... some sort of gentle or not so gentle reminder is definitely appropriate. Even in German, where you can differentiate on female and male nouns, this would still sound patently patronizing and sorta sexist.

-ungrateful grad student

P.S. sorry for the long-winded message on the thread about student/employee debate last week gov. I'm a lightweight when it comes to beer and I was celebrating some good lab results that Friday evening, so...

admin1 said...

MsPhD said...
"admin1, what planet are you from where the male/female difference disappears as you go up the earning scale??? are there any space shuttles going there soon? it sounds like a great place."

Where I am working women and men treat each other professionally and there is no gender issues and the pay scale is not gender biased. The issue simply does not exist. I am starting to wonder if the academia is stuck in the 1950s?

Anonymous said...

@Lisa: that was not my intention. If my first language was English I might have phrased it differently. Unfortunately, the every day informal English I learned over the past years isn't really appropriate to address such matters. Come on, stone me for not beeing born in an English-speaking country.

If we are to make every comment polite, not as much will be said.
I would like to see her walk over to me and talk like this. Even though the internet grants anonymity to a certain extend, that does not mean we have to behave like pigs.

Anonymous said...

A staret is a Russian religious teacher or a wise person. The term has no "ette" and is not a reference to gender.

French-glish said...

Dear admin1,

I always think that academia is stuck in the 1950s! Discrimination, old-boy networks, sexual harassement...

Thank you for echoing my thoughts.