Monday, March 17, 2008

A New Low

At the risk of being eternally negative (a.k.a. a whiner) about how I am introduced before an invited talk, I recently experienced something I hated even more than the other objectionable introductory remarks I have mentioned in previous posts. In this instance, the person who introduced me mentioned as the very first thing in his introduction that I am The Wife of Brilliant Professor X.

My spouse is in fact a Brilliant Scientist and I'm proud of him and -- in informal conversation -- I am happy to discuss him, our 2-career life, and his research.

Perhaps I wouldn't have minded the wife remark so much if it hadn't been the very first thing mentioned. Perhaps I wouldn't have minded if my wifeyness were mentioned in a "By the way, some of you might be interested in this factoid" kind of way, rather than "This is the first thing you should know about our speaker today."

With further apologies for being so negative about how I am introduced before a talk, here is my top-3 list of most loathed introductory remarks, with #1 being the one I have hated the most:

3. FSP killed her advisor.

2. FSP is The Best Woman scientist in her narrow sub-discipline of Science.

1. FSP is The Wife of Brilliant Professor X.

It's interesting that, of the 3 items listed above, the introductory remark I dislike the most is the only one of the 3 that is a true statement.

16 comments:

Mad Hatter said...

I don't suppose you'll ever get the opportunity to introduce him as "the husband of the lovely and charming...."?

stefano said...

dear FSP,
one way of dealing with repeated negative experiences might be to preempt them.
Perhaps, next time you are invited to give a talk, you could send a short note offering a suggestion as to how you would prefer to be introduced, and why.
This is similar to what people with dietary preferences (e.g. vegetarians) do to avoid being disappointed when they are invited for a meal.
in peace,
stefano

Female Science Professor said...

In fact, my introducer asked me what I would like to have said in the introduction, and I said that I preferred a brief introduction mentioning only the basic facts of my education and career path. And then he went all free-form with the intro.

stefano said...

in that case your introducer was clearly at fault for not respecting your stated preference.

Lilli said...

Did you mention to him afterwards how offensive his introduction was?

(of course, in a kind and sensitive- feminine ;) -manner)

mareserinitatis said...

This invited talk stuff sounds like a hairy business. :-P

Anonymous said...

OMG, you killed your advisor?! (whereas mine merely drank himself to death, but I do not personally take credit for driving him to drink)

Because clearly you are the wife of MSP, and therefore not the brilliant Professor X, who himself is married to (but estranged from) some bird-like alien lady. Or maybe you are; was this covered in a separate post?

joan said...

Wow, that's infuriating. Your marital status is, for the most part, irrelevant to your career.

One thing that happens to me regularly is, "This is ____, she's the only woman in the ____ department." I guess it's a novelty, but it's odd that it's the first comment out.

Susan B. Anthony said...

Did you acknowledge it? I might have been tempted to make a joke about it, along the lines of "Thank you for that very nice introduction. If I might offer one small correction: Brilliant Professor X is actually the husband of Dr. FSP." (Polite laughter all around; introducer squirms in embarrassment.) But it probably would have fallen flat and/or failed to register with its intended target. Well-meaning but nonetheless sexist complacency seems to have a tendency to render people immune to gentle irony, as I have found in trying to deal with a colleague who likes to refer to female professors as "gals."

okham said...

For as much as I do believe that all of these "faux pas" are never accidental, I have always admired those who respond with class and irony.
My suggestion: "Yes, sorry everyone, as mentioned by my introducer, I am indeed taken".

okham said...

Well, come on now, you have to feel for the poor sucker... I mean, he obviously has a huge crush on you and cannot get over the fact that you are taken :-)

Academic said...

That's pretty impressive. Wonder how he would have introduced you if you were single.

Chic Scientist said...

During one seminar visit, my marital status and who I had married (a professor older than me) was the ONLY THING in the introduction aside from the name of the place where I did my postdoc.

I nearly choked on my glass of water listening!! I could NOT believe my ears.

When the host turned the microphone over to me, I was sure to mention that I was currently a professor at a prestigious sweathouse.

Honestly, if I were male, would that be the most pertinent information to tell the audience before my presentation??

At the time I was untenured, and so I was loath to piss anyone off, including deadbeats like this host, so I didn't complain and was my usual charming and witty self at dinner.

But now that I'm tenured that better not ever happen again, or someone is going to get an earful.

Can anyone tell that I am still seething with anger about this?

Anonymous said...

I think these introductions are OUTRAGEOUS! Of course, this would never happen to male scientists. Part of the problem is that women don't complain about these problems that keep happening over and over again.
IF we are going to improve the climate for women in science we have to determine a stategy in dealing with people undermining our work. I think women need to band together. It is better to address these issues with several women together than alone. Perhaps after such an introduction, meet with female grad students at the institution and see if they can get a petition together to not only get more female colloquium speakers, but also ensure that women are treated well once they arrive.

THANKS AGAIN (and AGAIN) FSP for whining (I don't think you whine)!!!!!

Next time, you might say after such an introduction, "yeah, not many can make claim to being married to MSP> By the way, since you started on our personel life, MSP impreganted me with a female offspring who will one day hopefuly lead the field of Women in Science and how shameful introductions for women scientists are addressed/made. I could give a colloquium on that if you like...".

Ms.PhD said...

It's because he's so much more famous than you!

Wasn't his face on the side of a bus in Europe? =D

Seriously though, I have seen this done before when

a) the spouses have different last names

b) Spouse Professor gave a talk there recently too, or knows someone in the department (ideally the introducer, who isn't thinking about how bad it sounds)

c) someone in the department has been badmouthing Spouse Professor, and they are taking the chance of offending you in favor of warning everyone else to keep their mouths shut, in case they didn't know you're married (most likely if "a" is true).

All of that said, however, I have definitely heard it more often when the FSP is being introduced, and can't recall every having heard it when the MSP is the one speaking.

I do think this should go in the handbook, along with how not to write recommendation letters for women.

You're in for writing a handbook, right?

Lately I'm in the mood for some underground publishing. I like my fly-under-the-radar blogging status, but sometimes I wish I had better, more recent books to give the younger women I meet in science, rather than the (mostly outdated or irrelevant) ones I already have.

JoAnne said...

Yep, as has been the case so often when I read FSP, I've also had this happen to me. More than once. The worst was when they didn't call me Dr or Prof XX, but addressed me as Mrs YX (and I didn't take my husband's name when we married). A reply I have given is: "Thank you for that introduction - I had not realized before that my marital status was an important qualification for giving this talk." I seem to be getting bolder as I get older....