Thursday, May 10, 2007

Poster Child for Women in Science

I was recently at a meeting that involved a wide range of faculty and administrators from my general field of the physical sciences. During one of the organized social events, I talked with several FSP's I had never met before. We talked about our research, teaching, other aspects of our professional lives, and our families.

After talking about these kinds of things for a while, one of the FSP's said to me, "You are like a poster child for women in science."

I'm like a seriously ill child who makes people feel sorry for her so they will be sympathetic to a particular cause? I know she didn't meant that exactly; the term 'poster child' has come to be commonly used to mean 'a good example of' [something], but the FSP who made the poster child comment hastened to explain anyway. She did in fact mean it in a nice way, and her intention was to say that I am a good example of an FSP who balances all the things we have to balance in this job and yet I have a life and I enjoy my job and so on. OK, that's fine. The comment took me aback for a moment, but then I laughed. I think my only poster-related activities will involve the kind I do at conferences though.

12 comments:

jaishu said...

hey..u truly r poster child..rather some un who can atleast inspire ppl to be so...!! keep roll'n...u folks r like.. ppl who makes their own ways..set them as examples.. for othrs to follow u folks...!!!

Shaell said...

I don't know how you excel in your area in expertise compared to others, while keeping what most people would call a normal life,
but for being a poster child, I would assume you're young for a scientist in your area of expertise.
I guess what I am trying to say is this: If you think you're special you are, if other people think you're special it counts more towards feeling special, but all in all, people are not really special before achieve something unique to the situation of life they are in.

Becca said...

I'm glad to have found your blog. I'm a Ph.D. student in Wind Engineering (specialty in Atmospheric Science) and I have no idea what I'm going to do after I finish now that I have a sweet baby boy. It's interesting to read your perspective.

Orhan Kahn said...

Wow, that was the longest acceptance of a compliment, ever.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog for awhile I start to notice that you tend to take offense and seem to rarely give a benefit of the doubt (or you don't write about those cases?). It is as if you are looking for someone to mistreat you as a female scientist. This post is a great example of that... Just take a compliment without disecting and reassembling it into what it's not! I can only imagine what you'd write if this compliment came from a male!

Female Science Professor said...

It's difficult to get a sense for someone from their email or other internet communications, even someone who has written a lot, so I will be very explicit here: I did not take offense at being called a 'poster child'. I was AMUSED by it, hence the statement that I laughed. I had a very enjoyable conversation with the FSP who used this phrase. I use this blog to mull things over, muse about events that happen in my professional life (good and bad), and see what other people have to say (comments and criticism). I suppose this sounds defensive, but I don't feel defensive, I just feel like explaining myself more so that the point of this and other posts will be clearer.

Lisa said...

Anon, if someone said "hey, you're a great scientist", FSP probably wouldn't think twice about it and so wouldn't write about it, but I bet things like that happen to her all the time, and she's not pretending that they don't or that everyone is out to get her.
Also, I thought the point of this post was that she didn't take offense to the comment--she just was musing on the strangeness of it, which is what a lot of people use blogs for--to muse about things happen to them and wonder what they mean.

Personally, I regard the definition of "poster child for" as nothing but "great example of", but perhaps I am too young to "get" the original meaning of the phrase . . .

Lisa said...

Jinx! I guess we crossed comments, FSP . . .

Female Science Professor said...

It sounds like you 'get' the main point re. musing quite well, Lisa! Thanks for the comment. Alas, I have not been told that I am a great scientist for at least a day or two or so..

Dr. Shellie said...

Your story reminds me of an interview I heard on NPR with a real-life poster child-- you can find her story here:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4155/is_20070304/ai_n18725952
The really interesting part was that being a poster child made her feel like a movie star-- special and famous rather than sick or abnormal! Something to reflect on as you ponder life as a FSP. :)

Female Science Professor said...

I don't feel sick, but I do feel abnormal sometimes..

Eric( IB12 at hotmail) said...

Perhaps you are just obsessed with self-analysis and oversensitive therefrom with regards to all things related to your: 1) gender, 2) stature, 3) perceived inequality and 4) resulting victimization. If you think it odd the way others behold you, perhaps you should admit the equality of their perception.