Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Keeping up with all the angry women

Letter to FSP:

You are an anomaly. Why be so bitchy about that? Give it up. Men AREN'T trying to "hold you down." You are a woman in a male-dominated field.

What is up with all these angry women? Men have it rough too. You think we all are bright enough and have the financing to get a PhD. I am a man and have found life to be very very very very very hard.

Give the hatred a rest.



Dear Anonymous:

I have good news for you! Women don't think men are all bright enough. That's part of the problem. Men who are no smarter than we are somehow are respected more, paid more, and given more resources and opportunities in general. When we do attain something (e.g., a job, a grant, an award, a position of responsibility), a common assumption is that we don't really deserve it. That kind of makes some of us angry. So, that's what's up with that.

I am sincerely sorry that your life is so difficult for you. However, although I of course have absolutely no insight into your life, I will point out your tendency to leap to quick and inaccurate judgment about people ("hatred"?), your self-pity, and your complacency about the lack of women in science. These are not good things.

Thank you, though, for providing me with another entry for FSP's Guide to Academic Etiquette:

When corresponding with (or talking to/about) a woman, try not to describe her as "bitchy". It is not a very creative term, and might undermine the point you are trying to make.



P.S. - One of my colleagues, who is a bright enough man, thinks your letter is a joke. I hope he is right, but I fear he is not.


millihelen said...

Best entry ever. I want that on a shirt.

Two Sisters' Creations said...

I am continually amazed by men with this attitude. Women are called "bitchy" when they assert their opinion, but men are regarded as strong and assertive.

I suppose I would rather be a bitch than a spineless person with no opinions or thought of my own!

Anonymous said...

That letter definitely did NOT read as a joke. Clueless more than agressive, maybe, but not a joke. Although, some of the men I know think very strange things are jokes

Jamy said...

Angry? Really? Your attitude is rational and circumspect. I can't believe how well you handle all the subtle and blatantly obvious sexism you encounter as a FSP. Your humor is fantastic, too. I wonder why anon is so angry?

Anonymous said...

Idea for an appendix to the next book: Q&A with FSP! I'd love to know more about the letters you get, and read your responses.

Angry Professor said...

Urghh. I've been getting a lot of these lately. "But men are shitty to each other, too! You're just like one of the boys!" There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Anonymous said...

So frustrating, this What-About-The-Menz and You're-Too-Angry bullshit.

The writer could stand to read some of Shakesville's Feminism101 entries, like this, this, and maybe this one while he's at it. But he won't, of course.

Anonymous said...

"I am a man and have found life to be very very very very very hard."

I am a woman and I don't find life to be very hard.
It was hard when I was caring for my 90-years-old grandma after stroke while my mother was at cancer center and my self-employed father did not get much income from his hard work. I had to study full-time (actually much more than that) in engineering school at the same time.
Now it's not that hard.

People who are whining like this did not encounter actual hardships.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I like about FSP is that she doesn't come across as angry as opposed to many other fem-blogs out there. The letter writer missed the mark by a mile by accusing you of being "bitchy".

Women scientists have plenty of reasons to be angry, but when it comes time to presenting your case, a calm, composed yet forceful demeanor is a clear asset.

johannarts said...

You've got to wonder why with an attitude like that he's spending his time reading your blog....

ScientistMother said...

FSP, always witty, classy and intelligent. You have shown once again why so many of us worship at your alter.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the points that FSP raised in her response, and I don't think she is angry (not nearly as angry as some other fem bloggers). But I am shocked at angry comments ("idiot", "ass is too big", "clown", "bullshit", "clueless", "blind").

This is not very constructive and creates an impression that women have "us vs. them" attitude focused against all men.

The point raised by the original letter is a valid one. Science is hard work, no matter whether you are male, female, asian, russian or german. There are many biases, and many jerks who treat other people badly - some of them male many of them female. Some are american and some are foreign. To claim that all males are jerks and all females are angels (as some blogs tend to claim) is just another form of strong bias.

So if someone says something mean to you - how do you know the comment is sexist, rather than simply obnoxious? When a male graduate student gets yelled at by male PI, this is just business as usual. When it's female graduate student getting yelled at its sexism. If the graduate student is black or asian, it's racism, right?

The real problem as I see it is that we all like to feel like victim, in one way or another, while being absolutely blind to other injustices. For example, how many blog posts comment on sexist behavior by female professors or postdocs or students or administrators? How many blog posts here are related to discrimination of foreign students, or asian students who made to do all the work while american student gets all the credit?

I am a male and I see a lot of injustices - towards women, towards minorities, towards foreigners, and yes - sometimes towards men too. To deny this simple fact and claim that it is only women who face any kind of hardships shows a huge bias and undermines credibility.

Blogs (not so much FSP's, but other fem blogs) that blame ALL men for all the problems in the world, giving example after example of sexist male behavior, while ignoring or downplaying any examples of bad behavior by female PIs or discrimination of other groups is not going to help solve any issues in the long run.

Just like claiming that ALL white people are racists is not very productive.

Some people need to take a deep breath and realize that anger (and even worse - biased anger) is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Well said, FSP!

Candid Engineer said...

HA! This is awesome. Excellent midday laugh. You have to wonder how these people make it through life.

Anonymous said...

What's with the really long-winded concern troll? I mean really, this is an academic blog; it's not like we're not going to see straight through concern troll tactics.

I'm not sure what was funnier -- the email or the colleague who thought it was a "joke". "Jokes" in that vein are never actual jokes; they're either ways of testing the waters to see if others will put up with the joker's irrationality, or they're meant seriously and claiming whatever was said was meant as a joke is simply a lie.

Anonymous said...

ROFL. I just read instead of skimming the whole concern troll spiel, and good heavens is it funny. Anonymous11:52:00, the source from whence triple troll bingos come!

My troll bingo cards come from Shakesville links -- I can post the links here if anyone else wants to play.

Anonymous said...

Helen: yes please!

Unknown said...

If it helps ease anyone's frustrations, when I read stuff of this nature it sometimes makes me feel embarrassed about being a man.

Seriously, I could see that rant being directed at certain female bloggers who tend to be way over-the-top and take an 'I don't like it, it's wrong, and THAT'S FINAL' stance (though it would still be a terribly worded critique) but it doesn't apply here. One of the things I like FSP's posts is that she's generally calm, logical, and reasonable - and she has a sense of humor when she gets pissed off. In short, that critique is way off base.

Ginger said...

I've a fairly new reader of this blog, but what I've seen so far has never given off an 'angry' or 'bitchy' vibe - it seems to me an interesting, balanced, well written blog.

Must just say I support the 'anonymous' poster half a dozen posts above this one. It's not something I've observed here but laying the blame on an entire group achieves nothing and only serves to reinforce the divides that people complain about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks FSP for the great post! I too want this post on a tee shirt. Maybe tee shirts will be available when buying a book?

Keep up the good work and effort to promote women in science.

I work in one of the largest science departments in the US and there are shamefully very, very few women.

But I am lucky that I don't work with anon 11:52. We don't yell at each other in our civilized, professional department even if it is mostly men (except for me sitting in a corner of a lab).

Anonymous said...

In that case, here are 3 concern troll bingo cards by the lovely and talented Esme from Shakesville:

and a couple more bingo cards that have bits that tend to show up in the trollage here:

Unknown said...

I have to admit that most of those were pretty funny, though I found the 'Libertarian troll' one to be pretty off-base since at least five of those don't describe a libertarian position whatsoever (in particular the 'atheist but anti-choice one), and some of them are valid arguments, if they stay around to support them. I'm going to assume that's aimed at the fly-by posters. The only problem I have with the 'bingo' stuff is it tends to foster an atmosphere where disagreeing and NOT being an asshole about it makes you into a 'concern troll' by default. But, on the whole, they are pretty funny (I got a good, hard laugh out of 'I don't rape women! Give me a cookie?'). :)

Anonymous said...

The only problem I have with the 'bingo' stuff is it tends to foster an atmosphere where disagreeing and NOT being an asshole about it makes you into a 'concern troll' by default.

Huh, you must read different blogs than I do; I've never seen that happen, since there's nothing about disagreeing that automatically makes anyone a concern troll. The bingo cards are more a helpful shortcut that helps regulars keep from getting distracted by concern troll posts.

It's Internet 101 stuff really -- if you use trollish modes of discourse, people will not take you seriously. If you are serious (meaning not a troll), put forward your ideas without using trollish forms. It's not any different from refraining from applying for jobs in textspeak -- there are modes of communication that signal serious intent, and modes that signal something else entirely.

Anonymous said...

There is anger in the female blogs and that shouldn't be denied. Being female or black or having kids are viewed as shortcomings like having poor social skills or poor hygiene or being a C student or any number of other shortcomings. Race, gender, and maternal status are hard to hide. For evolutionary reasons the human brain classifies people into equivalence classes based on visible traits (otherwise known as stereotyping). Then one person in the class becomes representative of the class because the brain sees all members in the class as isomorphic (a good approach in pre-historic times). So if the first professional woman scientist you met happens to be mean and bitchy then all females are perceived like that. If the first foreigner you met rubbed you the wrong way then all are viewed with suspicion. Women do this too. Not just mothers, but fathers who participate in childcare receive their share of stereotypes. These days stereotyping is downright dangerous for our security. It is easy to manipulate people who paint whole countries and ethnicities in broad strokes

This reminds me of something. I was at a meeting of a professional women's organization and happened to comment that I usually don't get hired by a committee of predominantly white women. Without a second thought the white woman said "that's because woman don't get persuaded by looks and focus only on talent." Thanks for just calling me dumb without knowing anything about my intelligence. It never occured to this female she was stereotyping another female based on appearance.

So there is anger and justifiably so. I suppose it helps to figure out how not to let the one or two or three bad things that happened to you define you.

Unknown said...

Helen, I'm generally good at recognizing trollery and aside from not using an ID of any sort with his/her comment Anonymous' long post did NOT strike me as a concern troll post, yet it was immediately labeled one. This sort of thing also happens at Zuska's blog all the time; anyone who respectfully disagrees with her is a 'concern troll'. I've been named one myself a few times for disagreeing with a person at various blogs to a limited extent, while conceding that many points of their posts were right. Sometimes I continue trying to be reasonable, sometimes I give up and turn into an asshole since my points won't be listened to anyway. It varies, but it definitely happens.

Anonymous said...

But so many women (and some men) are bitchy just as so many men (and some women) are quite simply assholes.

For the record, I do not think that FSP is bitchy. I only argue that bitchy is a very descriptive and useful term even if it is not gender neutral (and also not quite appropriate for printed language).

Anonymous said...

Thomas, it sounds like you don't know the definition of a concern troll. If you do know what the phrase means, and if you read Anon11:52:00's post, you'll see that yeah, that post is a pretty classic example of concern trollery. I see we've got a few others showing up here.

There's plenty of discussion out there of what the term means, so it's not like it's hard to find.

Anonymous said...

For Anonymous on 8/20/2008 11:52:00 AM -- Excuse me. Most of us don't like to feel like victims. That's rather the point.

Anonymous said...

Helen, I hesitated to post anything for the past few days, but frankly I am disgusted by your responses.

I am the 11:52 anonymous, and I *do* know the definition of "troll" very well, and I resent the implication that you choose to ignore the points which I raised in my post, and dismiss the entire post by resorting to name-calling.

This is childish, and frankly not constructive.

Look, if you want to have a comment thread full of "yes" posters who all agree and pat each other on the back - fine by me. I will restrain from raising any disagreements in the future. God forbid someone (especially a man!) criticizes a post on feminist blog.

For what it's worth, my post was relatively mild, and unlike other posters (including yourself) I was civil and polite.

If this is the reaction you have to this relatively mild and polite criticism, I frankly don't see how you plan to make any kind of progress on issues that are important to you. Your strategy appears to be: "lets antagonize and label as an enemy anyone who may disagree with us - no matter how little".

Not very effective strategy if your hope is to get as many people on your side of the argument as possible - especially those who may have other opinions.

have a nice day, anonymous

Unknown said...

Wow ! There's a lot of angry women on here. I'm a woman that has done well for herself but am endlessly amused by how so many angry women there are out there. Rosie O'Donnell man-hater types. Gotta relazx girls. It's ok...breathe...You're your own worst enemies. Old feminism is eating you alive. Angry warriors all. So sad.