Monday, June 27, 2011

There Is No We

This recently appeared in my e-mail inbox:

I have a conspiracy theory that you are not a single entity, but rather some kind of collection of female academics (perhaps some sociologists as well) sponsored by NSF (or something alike) to create this blog for research purposes. I highly applaud the effort.

Why do I think this way? First, too many exciting, but generally unrealistic stories are supposedly happening to you on a daily basis. While having one or two of them could be explained by coincidence, you have so many that (no offense, but) they simply must be made up :). Second, the writing is of really superb quality. I cannot imagine a full time professor who is not yet dead wood can have so much time to do such a polished job.

Anyway, I do not intend to blow your cover regardless of whether my conspiracy theory is right. Indeed, I really enjoy your controversial posts, even if most of them are completely made up :).


Thanks! I mean that from the bottom of my one, individual heart that belongs to this one person who is FSP, i.e., me, in the singular.

Why do you think my "stories" (many of which I would prefer to call "experiences") are unrealistic, and therefore likely fiction? Because things like these don't happen to you? Ever? As often? And therefore it makes more sense that I am a group of people (including sociologists!), sponsored by a government agency, than a real, individual female science professor?

What if my "stories" are real? And what if I am one person, exactly as I say I am? Does that change your perception of this blog, academia, and/or female science professors? And if so, how?

I am curious about that. But that's just me (<-- note repeated use of singular pronoun).

In any case, I do thank you for the nice words about my writing, but it is a bit sad that you don't think an active full professor has time to write like this. That's OK, I will take it as a compliment anyway, even if it is a bit of a cynical one. Others assume that because they couldn't keep a blog going like this, I must be a terrible scientist, teacher, advisor etc., so I much prefer the conclusion that I must be more than one person.

Of course, writing 5 times/week does take a bit of time, especially since I first write out the post with a quill and ink on paper, and then I laboriously type in the text using only my thumbs. In fact, I am an epic multi-tasker, I come up with ideas in my head and roll them around in there for a while as I am doing other things (walking from here to there, for example), and then I write (and type!) quickly.

Also, 42% of my posts are written with major help from my cats, which is why the blog might have a bit of a group vibe, but I would like to state emphatically that not a single one of my cats -- not even the orange tabby -- is, or ever has been, a sociologist.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear stupid conspiracy theorist,

You are so naive. Radicals of any religion (Christian, Muslim, Feminist, Environmentalist, Communist) write with the same force of conviction and vigor. It is not to be underestimated.

John V said...

That emailer missed the point that deadwood is dead, and cannot generate living prose, no matter how much time is on one's hands, hence you are not deadwood.

Did that "plus one" button at the bottom of the post just appear? And what does Google may use your +1's and other profile information to personalize your content and ads on non-Google websites mean? I clicked it anyway.

Anonymous said...

highlarious.

toomuchcoffeeman said...

Delurking to blow a metaphorical raspberry at whoever sent you that email. Are you able to give any indications of whether he or she is old enough that he or she should know better?

Science Professor Mum said...

Can any of your cats do grant proposals?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

And, of course, the smiley-face at the end makes it all better. Kind of like typing "LOL" automatically renders something funny.

simjockey said...

FSP, you definitely have superhuman writing abilities. I remember the anecdote where a friend and you were discussing writing a manuscript in a cafe and you said that you were planning to write 3 (three!) manuscripts in a day!

My adviser and reviewers seem to think I'm a decent writer, but it takes me about a ten days to write a 12-page manuscript. From the previous anecdote, we can conclude you are at least 30 times better than me! :-) I understand I'm might be below average, but surely this is a herculean feat!

I now have a question for you. Were you always this good or did you gradually acquire these skills? Do you have any advice for researchers looking to improve their writing skills?

Anonymous said...

You made my day. Thanks!!!

Liz in Ypsilanti said...

Oh, get real. Of course, the cats are writing the purr-fectly spelled posts. They're also counseling your students, writing your lesson plans, getting your kids on the school bus, working up the budget for your grant requests, etc. I work with science professors (I'm an admin asst), and I see that they can't possibly get everything done that they do without little helpers. My guess is "elves," but if you want to say "cats," that's your prerogative.

Anonymous said...

I believe you to be a single entity, but do sometimes wonder where you get the time to write these blog posts. I used to blog fairly regularly before entering academia. Now I try, but simply can't do it. I am a good writer and so can write decent posts rather quickly. But I think maybe I just don't have the right motivation yet. You mentioned that you started blogging to vent frustration and anger; that can be a real motivator. Maybe now it's just part of your routine, so it doesn't take extra special effort? I have a toddler in daycare, so I tend to work fixed 40-hour weeks so I can keep his routine consistent. I can't fit blogging into that time. I'm willing to bet you work more than 40 hours a week (with no judgment intended), and perhaps then it's not so hard to imagine fitting in time for blogging... Do you write at a fixed time each day? Morning warm-up perhaps? Or a nice thing to look forward to at the end of a day?

Angela said...

I guess sooner or later conspiracy theories had to spread to blogs.

Anonymous said...

I believe all of FSPs post are semi-true. I think FSP embellishes a lot, but the root is true.

Female Post-doc said...

What a great compliment to the wonderful blog one single FemaleScienceProfessor is able to write. Will you reveal your identity to prove all conspiracy theorists wrong when you are old and decrepit just like Deep Throat? :-)

Alex said...

Of course, if you really are a collective of bloggers putting on a unified front for research purposes, it's only natural that you'd deny it.

I am pretty sure that we'll need Vizzini to get to the bottom of this.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

I agree your writing is excellent. I wish I could write so well. I also wish that I lived in the fantasy world of the e-mailer - the world in which it is impossible for one woman in academia to experience as many s--tty things as you face and write about.

John V said...

It would be funny if FSP turned out to be neither senior, female, nor a prof. Much like quite a number of anonymous bloggers have turned out to be fiction writers.

From writing a much more turgid blog for a while, I'm fairly confident it takes more than an hour, more likely two hours, to write a daily blog and manage the comments. So the blog is a big time commitment, even if it not written by a nefarious committee.

Anonymous said...

I am a former student of FSP. It is not hard to believe she runs the blog by herself. She always has her nose in the computer. I found it particularly rude when she was checking emails during group meetings (for all I know she could have been blogging). That being said, FSP was a great adviser!!!

Female Science Professor said...

My cats definitely do grant proposals.

I have never written 3 manuscripts in a day (but we joke about it in my group).

I work > 40 hours for week (typically 60ish), but have no set time for blogging. It sort of fills the gaps, but does not take anywhere near 2 hours/day.

Perhaps I multi-task too much some times..

Anonymous said...

I agree that the writing is consistently excellent. I have no problem believing the anecdotes all derive from one individual's experiences. I know that I could not find time to maintain such a blog, but we all have different talents and priorities (and I truly envy those like FSP who can obviously compose rapidly and well).

What I have wanted to know for some time, and am now even more curious about ... just how many cats do you have?

Anonymous said...

I also think your stories are not all real .....I am sorry but I am speaking from my experience with my supervisor...he is well known in his field, is in science for almost 20 years, has many high level pubs including a few pioneering works, also travels a lot, does reviewing, editing and stuff, works 12 hours a day six days a week at least, has a few collaborations, and he has already told me same stories multiple times...from what I have gathered from reading your blogs, you are in the same situation as my supervisor but you seem to have order of magnitude more stories than my supervisor....so I find it hard to believe....or maybe that's the difference between the US and other countries, people there have more life experiences....

Anonymous said...

I guess that proves it right there: if it doesn't happen to a male professor, it doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too am wondering which parts can't be real if not experienced by a male professor (in any country). Could it be the experiences of sexism?

Anonymous said...

Can a doubter give a specific example of something they did not believe?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do agree, NSF should give a grant to you. This PhD student in computer eng. enjoys reading your blog and learns a ton from it.

Alex said...

We'll know FSP is borrowing her stories when a post begins "This one time, at band camp..."

Female Computer Scientist said...

That's hilarious!

I can probably write a script to prove all of your posts are written by the same person. Open source, of course, lest anyone thinks that's a seekri NSF project too.

John V said...

I work >... does not take anywhere near 2 hours/day.

Of course, you must mull over (rejecting most) possible topics, check for emails about new comments, write your comments on comments, leave space in your schedule to post each evening, as well as writing the 400 words. Perhaps trade a few emails about the blogs with those who know who you are. Respond personally to some emails like the topic of this blog.

Plus some overhead for mechanics of the blogger site, classifying and sorting blog entries, self-publishing that excellent book.

A great service, and one that must use considerable energy, no matter your multi-tasking efficiency.

Namnezia said...

Hahahaha! I only wish I could write blog posts as polished and prolific as yours.

Anonymous said...

I am the "conspiracy theorist" sending the email. So let me start with a few remarks.
1) the excerpt was not the main subject of my email, and I never meant to start the public discussion. Indeed, if my theory was true, I did not want to "blow the FSP cover". As I said, my (private) remark was very complimentary and I really enjoy the blog.
2) I am a male mid-career Prof. at a top-20 school. Post anonymously ONLY because I want to avoid unwarranted personal attacks.
3) I agree with FSP that women are frequently treated unfairly in various situations, and it is a noble and worthy effort to work towards the change.

To come back to my conspiracy theory, I have quite a few female professor friends, and I talked to them extensively about their experiences. In particular, I pointed them to FSP blog and asked to assess how realistic it is. While every individual story could be reasonable, 100% of my female friends (sample of roughly 6-8) agreed that there is no way this could happen to a single person with such frequency. We roughly compared the blog to "ER": too many "textbook" cases which are extremely unlikely in real life.

So please don't interpret my opinion as me not supporting the FSP's cause, I just do not think all stories happened to FSP. I.e., either (a) they happened to many different people and FSP collected the stories (perhaps, embellishing them slightly); or (b) FSP made most of them up for an exciting discussion; or (c) my conspiracy theory is true.

If I am wrong, even better :).

Christie Rowe said...

People who notice, reflect, and think clearly can write clearly with very little additional effort. People who do these things also become aggregaters of the social experiences of others. FSP is very clear when she is recounting a first-person experience or a story that has been shared with her. As an early career FSP I have experienced many similar stories. I see no reason to suspect any collusion.

Anonymous said...

Even if FSP didn't write these 'stories', many of us FSPs can tell the same tales. If we are talking about the 'stories' about sexism, these are real to many of us. I also prefer to call them experiences. It's nice that the letter-writer has some female colleagues who don't have these experiences, but many of us do, and that doesn't make them fiction.

Doctor Pion said...

Conspiracy theorist must (a) type slowly and (b) have never met a literate scientist, one that can compose sentences that make sense without copying it from somewhere or hiring an editor.

I have no trouble believing this is real because there are bloggers out there who can write circles around most of us, FSP included, while also grading mass quantities of undergrad English papers.

And stories? The un-bloggable stuff I could write about would blow your mind. I can think of two that I would not believe if I hadn't see it myself. I consider most of the FSP incidents to be run-of-the-mill daily events in academia.

Anonymous said...

"While every individual story could be reasonable, 100% of my female friends (sample of roughly 6-8) agreed that there is no way this could happen to a single person with such frequency."

I don't know what field you're in.. but I am a female junior engineering faculty member and MORE stuff happens to me in a week than FSP writes about. Actually, I was thinking that the same stuff must happen to her every week but she carefully selects the most important issue to her of that day.

I do admire that she has the time to write and can generalize things in such a way as to engage the community in an intelligent discussion. I tried to write a to-be blog this past month, and it just came out as incessant "why me?" ranting (which I doubt anyone would be interested in and would just bait multitudes of hatemail). I give up and that blog won't see the light of day.. hail to FSP, the Queen!

John V said...

I'm surprised at the debate whether FSP makes up stuff. The issue is perceptions of situations - I hope no one thinks she creates stories out of nothing or says she did stuff someone else really did.

I've seen many situations in which fact-based people interpret the same actions completely differently, and with some justification.

To pick an example, FSP said today that several faculty on an interview schedule told her that the job she was interviewing would be given to someone else, an insider. There are a spectrum of ways that information could be intuited. While commenters are right that it is unlikely multiple people would state, unprompted, that the job search is a sham, a perceptive interviewee could sometimes guess the likely outcome.

To over-generalize, the more FSP offers a personal interpretation of subtle and ambiguous notable situations, the more people who focus on other aspects of conversations or are just insensitive will become convinced the incidents are fiction.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous who doubted FSP...some other anonymous asked for a specific example and I am commenting again...off the top of my head, the post about how a grad student who had never published an article told her on meeting for the first time that he had never heard of her and she must not publish much and later the same person applies for the post doc at her lab and gets rejected by her...this is very very hard to believe for me....speaking from my personal experience of living in many western countries during my studies my general impression of west (both europe and america) so far is that people in general are very polite and nice, I have visited US for a month (this is not long I know) and I only came in contact with non-academic people and still they were very nice and polite....for someone in academic setting for instance in grad school and more importantly in physical sciences where one is supposed to have decent level of intelligence to say something so blatantly rude and on the face while meeting for the very first time is just unbelievable...and most likely not true

Female Science Professor said...

Alas, that one was entirely true in all respects, although I don't remember writing that he had no publications; I think he had one. I don't mean to imply that US grad students can't be jerks, but this particular student happened to be from a rather conservative country. I suspected at the time that he didn't really know how to deal with me on a professional level, and the result was offensive to me. Nevertheless, he was willing to overcome his initial suspicion of me when it became clear that I might be useful to him, as I had funding for a postdoc in his area of expertise. I did not, in fact, hire him, and I am still collaborating with the person I did hire. I don't know where the other guy is now; he seems to have left academe or moved into another field entirely.

I just found the original
post.

FrauTech said...

If a tree falls in a forest and there's no man there to hear it...does it make a sound?

A superior at work told me he believed women actually have an advantage in engineering (I suspect largely because I "stick out", which he thinks is an advantage in that it will get me "noticed"). I didn't argue the case. Not less than five minutes later he was recounting the sexual exploits of a female coworker (which he knows from friends outside of work) as if it was relevant to anything and did not see the conflict that the disrespectful way he recounted it to a group at a work social event was at all inappropriate or demeaning or what role her gender played in him bringing it up at all.

The former was fare typical. The latter still has me so pissed I don't know how to channel my anger over the event. I, like anonymous, figure the blog is only "highlights" of the torrential frustrations. I'm sure many of us could write a book on it. That I have to lie through my teeth and say hedging things like "well personally I don't know" when male colleagues ask me point blank questions about sexism or women in the workplace because if I said what I think I'd be ostracized and crowded out. I can be a bitch in pretty much all ways around here, just not a feminist bitch. That's not tolerated.

Becca said...

Bah! Secret Sociologist Felines are legion.

Anonymous said...

"off the top of my head, the post about how a grad student who had never published an article told her on meeting for the first time that he had never heard of her and she must not publish much and later the same person applies for the post doc at her lab and gets rejected by her...this is very very hard to believe for me".

OMG, a similar thing happened to me... only perhaps worse. An MS student who knew nothing about research started lecturing me on how I should ask NSF for money to support a generic lab in my area. He was clueless. And really frustrated when I wouldn't take his advice. Then, a former PhD student of mine (currently a professor elsewhere) was visiting, and he made an appointment with her and told HER that I didn't know what I was missing by not taking his advice. He applied to the PhD program at both of our universities, and got turned down from both. His arrogance and ignorance was unbelievable.