Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Flaws As a Blogger and an Alleged Human

Here are some things that some readers hate about this blog and its author:

1 - I am anonymous and this indicates a weakness of character, perhaps even sneakiness and dishonesty. This confirms what some people think about academics, women, scientists etc. My anonymity raises the question of whether I am really a professor -- or even a female professor -- rather than a disgruntled clerical worker or ... worse. [remember the classic New Yorker cartoon with the dogs? 'On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.'] Maybe I am not even human.

I (and many others) have written about the anonymity issue before and I will not repeat all that here.

2 - And speaking of dogs, there is no picture of me. I could be ugly! If I am ugly, everything I have written is invalid, or something. [I've never really understood this line of reasoning -- perhaps because I am ugly! -- but there it is]

3 - I am boring, and may even be 'a drag'. [memo to those I bore: change the channel]

4 - I hate men and do not fully appreciate how difficult their lives are. [the former is clearly not true; the latter might be true]

5 - I do not fully appreciate the significance of faculty meetings and their potential for driving major positive change in academic culture. [I just made that one up]


This list is far from comprehensive of course, but sometimes, in the interests of being systematic, it's just good to make a list. In fact, I have noticed that I have developed a tendency to make lists. This might indicate my organized, scientific approach to life, or it might mean that I am turning into my mother, who has a list fetish. I know which of those possibilities terrifies me more.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yea, only hot people know anything. Einstein was smoking hot for example. In fact if you walk the halls of any major research university you will find that all the faculty are just really really dreamy. Occasionally someone ugly will come along, but they don't get tenure.

Sean F said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now, and never had any real problem with not knowing your personal information - its not really that important - but sometimes I would like to know more, to take an interest, and a look at the work you do.

But its your blog, and how you choose to repersent yourself is up to you.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you're attractive that also invalidates everything you say because "what the hell are you complaining about-you're georgeous! You have no idea how hard it is for unattractive women!"

Gretchen said...

I too do not fully appreciate the significance of faculty meetings. (sigh) Oh wait, you made that part up.

thesethingsiknow said...

I think the anonymity can be a good thing. If you wrote as say, a physics professor, then you'd maybe have that little bit less interest for someone in say chemistry or geology or other physical sciences. Or people might read about the issues you encounter as a result of being female and think "Well, that's just physics/that kind of university - that kind of attitude would never happen here!"

Being anonymous makes you stop and consider and think, hmmm - could that be my university/department/subject? And even if it isn't, it's still sobering to think that there is nothing I have seen to make me able to say that these kinds of attitudes aren't present where I study.

joanium said...

Goodness. Those are hardly fatal flaws of a blog. Nearly all the blogs I read are anonymous. Anonymity = freedom to write your thoughts = juicy content.

My pet peeve is people too lazy to write with anything like grammar... so I just don't read those!

Anonymous said...

Dude, being a woman scientist, I thought you were very diplomatic in describing some experiences!

I think the anonymity is a wise way to avoid some of the threats that so many women are facing on the blog sphere these days.

Keep on going, girl.

Hilary said...

I've just linked here from Blogger...as another female science professor (or a former professor, as of a few weeks ago) people have to realize that many of our colleagues use computers all the time, and it's too easy for us to be identified if we give any personal information. The last thing we need is 20,000 students reading up on our *real* opinions.

Anonymous said...

Fighting a straw man (or woman) is easy - I think everyone agrees with you on all those points, except an occasional troll.

But regarding #4 - it does seem as if most men in your life are absolutely terrible human beings (except maybe your husband?), while all women are just the most wonderful people. This is quite different from percentages I see in my own life, where jerks are split about 50-50 between the two sexes.

Why is that?

YAMP said...

I am a recently appointed male applied mathematician and I really enjoy your blog.

I think your opinions about men on your blog might be more skewed than in "real life". I can understand that this is a place to occasionally vent and would certainly never take what I read here to be a complete or even accurate but partial view of your "in person" personality, similarly many of your detractors are probably not complete assholes in real life.

I understand the anonymity both in the need to vent and because there will always be people in the department who can take things out of context and use them against you.

The people who you can influence from afar with your opinions and experiences -- young faculty in all areas, potential female scientists, etc -- are not affected by your anonymity.


ps -- I am amazed that you referee without anonymity. Perhaps it is because I am so junior but I could never be as honest as I am without fear of retribution.

anon said...

Yes, I also wonder abou that last point that yamp mentioned. Did you always sign your name under reviews, or was there too much fear at the beginning as an assistant professor?

Female Science Professor said...

It's true that I don't tend to write about nice male colleagues as much, but clearly they are there in my posts. Whenever I write about discussing a topic with a colleague, or about one of my afternoons at my 'remote office' (a cafe near campus), the Other Colleague is one of my nice male colleagues. Deep within my blog archive there are other examples: e.g., mention of my closest colleague (a very nice man and the source of a recent post about a search at his university) and my teaching mentor/friend (Dr. DeMentor). So, they are there, although it's true that I write about the jerks a lot more.

Female Science Professor said...

Re. reviewing: when I was an Assistant Professor, I identified myself in reviews often but not always. There were some cases in which it would have been academic suicide to put my name on a review that contained any criticism at all. As a Professor, I identify myself in reviews > 90% of the time.

Hadyn said...

But if you address the issue by not writing about the jerks then the "boring" problem gets worse!

I'm a new reader of your blog and I like it. Anon or not, it doesn't matter if you're not stating something as a fact. As you say, "context".

Annitya said...

I just found your blog last week, and haven't read much of it, but I do believe that you're a professor.

Anonymity may enable you to write more frankly and honestly. This is one of the reason that I've started to like blogs, and the other reason is unlike other peer-reviewed or edited texts, it's just written once, and mine even with full of typos and perhaps bad grammar as well. But I like to put it that way, rather than correcting it tens of times, and the end the original meaning may have lost.

will come back to read more.

Kristin said...

It's much more interesting to read about the jerks than the nice professors, since any good story requires conflict at some level. Really, how many of us would keep tuning in if all of FSP's blogs were about how nice, mature, and understanding everyone was?

In our everyday lives, we all do our best to behave civilly to one another, and often that means pretending that we don't see petty slights or thoughtlessness or sexist comments when they happen. But let's face it, we know what we hear, and it tells us something about the person who says these things.

I see FSP's blog as a place for her to show that, high-minded as the ivory tower is supposed to be, the same sorts of political monkey business goes on there as anywhere else. And there are special issues that come in because of her being female in a male-dominated field. (I've been a woman in physics, so I know some of how it feels.)

I think these small conflicts are very instructive for readers who are or might become women in science, and it might be reassuring (or depressing, depending on how you see it) that FSP isn't the only one who deals with these kinds of annoyances.

lost clown said...

I appreciate your blog as a student in mathematics and physics. It's good to hear about the bad things and the female scientist blogosphere makes me feel more comfortable and confident in my studies.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

As for the anonymity, people have gotten in trouble for things they have written on their blogs. I think anyone in a professional field blogging is simply protecting themselves from that happening. I mean where else are we supposed to vent to people who understand?

Mr. B. said...

Hmm...

There are some pretty good academic blogs that are not anonymous, the one I know about and like best is Margaret Soltan's University Diaries.

Although it is possible - fairly simple in fact - to figure out who writes my blog, I don't actually emphasize my professional position or expertise because I want people to just take it at face value, or disagree, on the basis of what is there and not based on who I am.

Sadly, in a neutral or slightly negative environment, I wouldn't advise a female science professor to "let it all hang out" because there are a lot of creeps in the world who would probably take it out on you. Some of the comments on this blog make that clear.

Besides, you probably could not be so frank in describing what happens to you if you weren't anonymous.

Keep up the good work.

Bonzo

dropout said...

I am a female grad school dropout in the sciences. I don't blog about it, but if I did it would have to be anonymous. Too much self-censorship otherwise. Politically correct is boring. Plus there is all the bridge burning...

It is interesting to read your mostly uncensored thoughts. Your blog would be infinitely less interesting if you were forced to censor yourself by revealing your identity.

skookumchick said...

Good lord, is this post prompted by comments as a result of being a Blog of Note? I love your writing, totally get the anonymity, and the choice of photo. Just wish you had an (anonymous) email address that your fan club could contact you directly at! ;-)

Female Science Professor said...

Yep, being a Blog of Note has its pros and cons.
Note the email at the top of the blog: FemaleScienceProfessor@gmail.com, although I do not check it regularly (sometimes only once every couple of weeks).

Crabby McSlacker said...

What? Anonymity on a blog? How dare you!

People reading a time-consuming blog for which you do not get paid deserve accountability! We spend our hard earned money in order to... oh wait, no we don't. Well anyway...

I believe we readers are entitled to know all about your personal life. Especially whether you happen to live near us so that we might talk to you at length in person or perhaps drive by your house and see what you're up to. Doesn't that seem reasonable?

(So declareth Crabby McSlacker, who of course uses her full legal name concerning all blogging-related matters).

Female Science Professor said...

Yes yes, now I see! OK, here's what you need to know: I live in the blue house. Stop by any time to chat, or to mow my lawn.

JoAnne said...

There is no question. All of us women are becoming more and more like our Mothers as we grow older. Even as we try our best otherwise, it must in the genes and clearly can't be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Since you're a science professor, I'm assuming you're interested in the environment as well. I've set up an environmental campaign to convince 1000 companies to act friendlier when it comes to our environment. It's 1000greenlogos.com. I'd love to hear your feedback. Thanks

Susan B. Anthony said...

From a fellow-FSP-to-be: Don't change a thing.

P990i said...

Good < thanks articel

anon said...

"Since you're a science professor, I'm assuming you're interested in the environment as well."

Not unless she's doing 'Green Chemistry'. That is the biggest scam of all time. Using huge amounts of energy via ginormous stoichiometric reagents and other solvents to wash out the product just to say that you used water in one step. Jesus. Even a high turnover Cadmium catalyst in HMPA (well, probably not HMPA) on an industrial scale would be more environmentally friendly than many of the approaches outlined by the so called "Green Chemists".

Anonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with writing about jerks or expressing frustration with an indivudial's behavior. It's entertaining AND makes a point. Being a jerk is a function of one's personality and not of their sex. Its a mere coinsidence that the jerks you interact with happen to be more male than female. Perhaps its the environment or perhaps the statistics show more males in acedemic sciences.

I work in an industry where the jerks are mostly female (retail fashion merchandising/development), simply beucase that's how the industry skews. More males as a percent to total population of the department could mean more jerks as a percent to the total. Like I said, its a function of the individual and not one's sex.

Truth be told, I look forward to the day when I can be a jerk becuase it's who I am and not because I am a woman. Men get that freedom already.
Cheers!

Veo Claramente said...

So. You get crap if you're anonymous, possible unattractive and supposedly man-hating. A real incentive to declare yourself. Oh look, you have a big nose and teach my science class!
Keep writing, I love your blog.

Dawn said...

hi i've only just started blogging, is that the right word, but i think you're blog is really interesting. I want to be a scientist too when i'm older but i prefer biochemistry. As for not having a picture i'm the same, i just don't photograph well and i'm sure other people have more intresting things to look at.

Lane13 said...

I can certainly respect your desire for anonymity. I am a college student and I know that many of my peers are not shining examples of civility. Disgruntled students will do quite a lot to tarnish a profs. reputation over the most trivial and self-inflicted circumstances.

Rebel Fan 1973 said...

Yeah, I know a lot of people who made up the same faculty meeting comment.

bsci said...

This is as good a post as any to point out that you are pseudo-anonymous.
You've given enough detail that someone with too much time on their hands would probably be able to identify you and if anyone in your department found this blog the author would be obvious. (One of the challenges of writing as an anonymous member of a very underrepresented population).

Just to be clear, I have no idea who you are and have no interest in spending my time trying to find out.

Still, it's always a good reminder that your anonymity probably won't last and you should look at old posts for things that would inappropriately hurt people if names are attached to context or potential breaches of confidentiality.

As for the rest of your "flaws"
2.&5. I don't care how you look. My mental image of a 10ft tall women in a business suit carrying a broad sword to faculty meetings is just fine. (I just made that up, but I'm afraid that image is going to stick in my head now)

3 & 4. This blog is very interesting and definitely not boring, but a blog with dozens of posts talking about all the wonderful men in your life would be boring.

Female Science Professor said...

In fact, a fair number of people know who I am, provide me with input on my posts from the point of view of knowing who I am, and this is great. I'd rather not be 'too' widely known, but so far it's OK. I have no illusions about long-term anonymity.

The Rock Doctor said...

Why is anonymity important? Because I know a woman who was fired for blogging. She was a recent graduate who worked at a museum. She would sometimes blog about her work, but never in a negative sense. She loved her job. However, she liked to have a good time and the management of the museum felt that many posts on her blog reflected a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle. She also is an atheist who blogged about evolution, anti-intelligent design, etc.

She was fired from her job because the museum did not like the contents of her blog. When she was told that she was being fired, they actually showed her print blog posts. They said that her behavior reflected poorly on the museum.

You can see for yourself: Here and here.

So, that is why anonymity is important. There is no such thing as "free speech" in reality. You may pay an awful price.

Isa said...

Hi I am FemaleCorporateScientist and I think your blog is great. I also work in the Physical Sciences. I see myself in many of the situations you describe. Keep it up and continue to enjoy writting and doing science. Stumbling upon this has been very refreshing for me. I wish I had the energy to do something similar.

pathmom1 said...

Just saw your blog since you were listed in the "interesting blog" section. Totally cool! Hilarious! As a woman in a male dominated field (historically at least - this is changing) I can relate.

Jonagold said...

Would we know you any better if we knew your name? whats in name!

nonk9 said...

I am anonymous and this indicates a weakness of character, perhaps even sneakiness and dishonesty.
--
No - the main point is that if you are telling the truth, then you are a poster professor against the tenure system. If a full professor of science at an American university is afraid to reveal her identity as a blogger, then the tenure process selects for people who are pathologically risk-averse, timid, bootlickerish, etc. and the claim that the tenure process somehow promotes, protects and/or encourages academic risk-taking is hogwash.

The Rock Doctor said...

nonk9 -

Sure, the tenure process rewards conformists, but so does the corporate world.

However, the single most important factor in the tenure process is the ability to attract grant money. Plain and simple.

It is the grant money that "feeds the beast". If you are a junior faculty who brings in huge amounts of grant money and publishes frequently you will, almost without fail, get tenure, even if you are a "dragon man/lady". And in that sense, the Ivory Towers of academia are no different than the corporate world.

kosmo65 said...

i think you are pretty because you have nice hair and you dont show your picture because you want people to respect you for your mind not your looks, but what do i know im thick

Edwin McBedwin said...

Hi I've recently been reading your blog, and really enjoy it.

Personally I don't see why your choice to remain anonymous should bother anyone. It certainly makes no odds to me.

In fact, a lot of blogs I read the authors choose to do the same, and it has no impact on my enjoyment.

Keep up the good work!

bsci said...

nonk9
If a full professor of science at an American university is afraid to reveal her identity as a blogger,...

This has nothing to do with fear. fsp said that quite a few people know who she is. The difference between pseudo-anonymity and using a real name is that it converts generalized complaints to gossip and tars her colleagues good and bad. By not knowing the school we are able to form opinions and discuss various situation, but not the specific school. As a tenured professor, fsp clearly has no fear of getting fired, but that doesn't mean she desires to cause harm to others.

Of course when she eventually loses her anonymity some posts will get added scrutiny by individuals in her field/school.

metagrape said...

Anonymity is fine. Esp in light of the list you had put up about the threaths you had received. Not many have thier names up too. Just consider "Anonymous" who is openly anonymous.

I think your blogs are one of the most readable and (lol)who ever doubts that you might not be a science prof or even female is not worth bothering about. I mean ITS YOUR BLOG eventually.

At the risk of sounding sexist, there is a difference in the way men and women write, and your writing is definately a hint.(I judge this on the limited experience that I have teaching language and notice how ideas are put across.

BTW, do you get around to actually doing everything on your list?

john said...

My wife is a female professor (or was until she retired).
My daughter is becoming just like her.
So there you are.

Natalie said...

Don't change a thing. I love your *flawed* blog.

Gastronomer said...

You could have the looks of a bus chasing bulldog with the stopping ability of an oil tanker for all I care. You writing is both eloquent and entertaining. Keep it up.

Watson said...

interesting thought on the anonymity thing. i have a blog, too, and i am even more vague about my identity than you are. interestingly, i have not made my blog known to anyone i know, and i suspect you may be in the same boat. in some ways, it's more satisfying to post and receive feedback from people you don't know, perhaps because of the notion that anonymous feedback is more honest. i actually wrote about the concept of online feedback in my latest blog entry.

nonk9 said...

ok - it's a game. she seems much less smart than the average full female professor i know (my crowd(cognitive and decision scientists)= psychologists, economists, engineers, linguists, marketing, management, computer science types). I'm 99% sure she's not a biologist or physicist and 70% sure she's not a chemist. I'm betting on geologist or geographer - by far, the limpest-lobed of the allegedly hard scientists.

You're not Risa Palm, are you?

monodeidad said...

Anonymity is derived from the Greek word ανωνυμία, meaning 'without a name' or 'name-less', and more originally meaning without law. In colloquial use, the term typically refers to a person, and often means that the personal identity, or personally identifiable information of that person is not known.

that is Hot! ;)

RandomClown said...

I do not have a problem with people being anonymous, I also keep my identity anonymous [you could probably tell by my name :D].

Keep yourself anonymous, keep us guessing.
;)

Frumious Bandersnatch said...

:-) Nice!

I am not a science professor. Neither am I a from where you are. But there seems to be a lot in common between women all around the globe! For where I am too, its not a bell curve - but more of a conical curve where finding women in the field is quite difficult. But then - thats not the only thing thats common! Grin!

The fear of turning into your own mother! Shudder!

Look forward to reading more from you

Fitness Bound said...

Men do not fully appreciate how difficult women's lives are. I am 20 years old and a recent college graduate and one thing I have noticed about the real world is that most men are sexist, even if they don't recognize it in themselves. I hate when people patronize me because I am a woman. It is quite possibly one of the most annoying things in life. I have seriously heard one of my professors say he feels men are more qualified within my field of study than women are and most of the "men" in my class are idiots -- the knowledge I have and shared with the class amazes them. I hate that people are amazed by my intelligence.

I recently started reading your blog and I think it is a fair representation of what women have to go through on a daily basis. People who dislike it are simply unwilling to recognize that these biases exist. I love your blog. Keep writing. It's wonderful! :)

Anonymous said...

I just started blogging anonymously. My SIL didn't believe it was me, until I pointed out a photo she would recognize.

There are all sorts of reasons to remain anonymous - here's another: Some use employer-owned laptops to blog on their own time...which gets into a grey area of corporate usage policies.

I found you through BoN and have enjoyed what you've written.

Hugh said...

Having read more of your blog, I think I'll move you up from A minus to A plus. It's the best blog I've seen. I support and understand your anonymity, but at the same time it sets up an entertaining speculation situation of looking at how you express yourself and guessing how to fill in the blanks. I think you are who you say you are and that you are a physicist. You think like one.

Female Science Professor said...

Hugh, are you sure you didn't raise my grade just because I whined about the A-?

Thanks for the nice comments (and I'm not just saying that because of my A+, although I could be).

Anonymous said...

Hello FSP, I finally found you! I am a rather poor user of the internet, to my shame, so it took me a while to find this amazingly popular site.

I have taken great pleasure in reading your day-to-day-life-as-a-female-professor and the many comments they spawned. I know you personally, so unlike your readers, I do not question your existence as a human being and your authenticity as a very successful academic. But of course I do not read your material the same way as I would someone's unknown to me. I agree with many of your responders that anonymity is best. It gives your discussion a more cosmic relevance. If your readers doubt your honesty, they should go and surf somewhere else. Besides, I went back and read many comments you wrote over the last few months; if you were making this up, well, you would be too good at it!
Thanks for letting me find your site by myself. I learned a lot about blogs in the process. And please, continue to inspire your readers as you do the members of your research group!

Anonymous said...

I understand why you would want to be anonymous. I am in the process of leaving the academic field where I did research in chemistry. It is a relatively small field where everyone knows everyone else. It is also a field full of vindictive personalities and people who seem to take joy in making others miserable.

nicolas said...

Well,

I have an un-anonymous blog. But I am here on the other side of the world on a sabatical. The day I leave Hawai'i, I shut down the place, I clean it from any keyword that related to me, and I go back on my job in France.
I definitively understand the anonymity in your context and it doesn't bother me at all.

and yes 5) is not far from reality, I enjoy escaping it this year.

nice blog.

Hugh said...

I probably would not have raised your grade if you had not (shamelessly! blatantly! scandalously!) whined about it, but that was not the only reason. So it was a because but not a just because. Your simpering mendicancy was but one of the forces upon the vector.