Monday, August 29, 2011

My Answers

Recently, I was a virtual "panel member" for a post organized by The Hermitage, who collected and assigned 4 questions to different bloggers. I wasn't very inspired by the questions (through no fault of H's), so I didn't post my answers, forcing H to create a special page for me. But then I felt bad about that.

For some reason, when I read the assigned questions, I mostly blanked out on anything resembling an interesting, useful answer.

This reminded me of a recent experience of my daughter's, who was in the position of being given a writing assignment with topics she either hated or at least didn't like. For part of it, she had to write about her feelings about various things. This wasn't school, so it didn't really matter what she wrote, but she had to write something.

In the course of family discussions of this situation, we wondered what each of us would do. We decided that -- no matter what the question -- my daughter would write about horses, my husband would write a short and hostile response (if anything), and I would just make something up that entertained me.

So anyway, I tried reasonably hard to be sincere with one of the questions (#1), but some others I either didn't understand (#2) or thought were pointless (#3) or not applicable to me (#4). Panel fail for us here at FSP. Sorry..


Anonymous said...

I am not saying we shouldn't all discuss strategies for dealing with routine pain etc., but I agree this is kind of a strange question. Does anyone really not know how to deal? What are the possible answers (other than ibuprofen)? Take days off? Power through the pain? (obviously not for a migraine). This doesn't seem like a burning question that needs a panel of expert women bloggers to discuss.

Anonymous said...

I really liked your answer to #3.

Honestly, how many women have such crippling pain they can't control just because they're women? That's one of those questions that I've seen written by men terrified of these mysterious menstrual cycles but not by women. The one person I knew who had crippling migraines was male (he eventually committed suicide). Should we really be spreading that kind of a stereotype? The idea that pain is normal?

Questioner, wherever you are: If you have crippling menstrual pain, you need to see a doctor. If your doctor couldn't help, you need to see a specialist. If the specialist didn't help, you need to see another specialist until they figure out what the problem is. If a GYN didn't help, try an RE. Pain that keeps you from work is NOT NORMAL.

Our set of questions didn't seem quite so odd.

Anonymous said...

These questions where obviously written by men. I am not surprised you had a hard time answering.

Arlenna said...

Actually, anonymous, I disagree--the question is worded kind of weirdly, and I didn't answer it very well myself, but I don't think it's a trivial issue at all. For one, the embarrassingness of some of that stuff (like, what if you stained your pants and leaked onto a chair in a faculty meeting and you were the only woman in the room but everyone saw?) can be incredibly powerful as a barrier to feeling comfortable in an all-or mostly-dude setting. For two, my cognitive flexibility and management skills experience some disruptions that I have to be really careful to watch for and keep from impacting my work. Overall, sure, it averages out, and I know this is a hot-button feminist issue, but I can see and feel my physiology in play sometimes and make a conscious effort to keep it from affecting things.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:32 here. I didn't mean to imply that it was trivial, just that I don't think it would be a question I'd need to discuss with a senior female professor. Do they somehow know strategies that younger women don't? For some things, sure -- they have more experience dealing with jerks and we can all share stories and strategies. But question #3? It's a good question for friends.

GMP said...

I read question #3 a bit more broadly (it says "female health issues"). For instance, I was puking for 4 months with my last pregnancy and was visibly green in the face, but did not want to reveal my pregnancy until I started showing. It's not a trivial issue to sit in a boring faculty retreat for 5 hours when you are constantly fighting the urge to vomit. And you cannot eat or drink anything and everyone is asking you why...

Also, women who pump at work may have to excuse themselves to do so and may not be comfortable about it.

With my previous kid, 4 years ago, I took a phone call from one of my colleagues while I was pumping at the office. 5 min into the conversation, he asked "What's that noise?" (the rhythmic pump noise). I just said "You don't want to know." Luckily, he didn't push it.

Anyway, I think question 3 was relatively broad -- how to deal with health/bodily function issues that you really don't want discussed.

Optixmom said...

I did have an "Oh Crap" moment not too long ago. If you are invited to be an Adjunct at another university make sure you read the contract over, and then over again. Then have a friend/spouse/relative read it over too. Specifically look for the word "unpaid" in any academic contract. I had to teach a course simultaneously at two major universities (as an Adjunct to both) and was only getting paid (less than a Grad student) by one. The word was only mentioned once, and it was in an innocuous part of the contract that apparently I overlooked (twice).

Anonymous said...

"This reminded me of a recent experience of my daughter's, who was in the position of being given a writing assignment with topics she either hated or at least didn't like. For part of it, she had to write about her feelings about various things."

In this instance (especially because it's not for school), what's wrong with trashing the question, writing about how boring and cliché and overwrought the topic is, etc.? Or is the aversion to writing about feelings themselves?

I would similarly have used the wimminz questions as a starting point for a short statement about why you don't care much for them. That's still useful information for a lot of people who might care about them. Thanks for answering, though.

Female Science Professor said...

GMP has a good point. I should have thought out of the question-box more. I was sick sick sick when I was pregnant, but attended two international conferences, one domestic conference, and taught a big intro science class. It was stressful. But still.. I don't have any awesome advice. Sit in the back of sessions and carry lots of plastic bags and breath mints? Clearly I am not a good source of information on these topics.

PQA said...

Actually question #3 really resonating with me. I have crippling cramps every month, often I miss a days work. I have been to the doctors multiple times through out my life there is nothing biologically wrong with me. I have been on a plethora of birth control pills which help the cramps but cause a myriad of other complications in me. I have been given more serious pain killers which also work but make me stupid in the head and are not very helpful for working while cramping. I am saving up to have a hormanal IUD inserted as my doctors think that might help but since it isn't covered by my insurance it will cost $1000. In the meantime, often I am not feeling well but powering through my pain at work. Co-workers will often ask "If I am okay" to which I respond "I am not feeling well, I have cramps".

I didn't always used to be so honest, often I felt it was my duty to protect men from feeling uncomfortable by not admitting that I was menstruating. But frankly I don't give a fuck anymore. If you ask me why I am not feeling well, then I am going to tell you. If this skeeves you out, then you need to grow up.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think that pregnancy was included in "child-free."

PQA-- if you haven't seen a reproductive endocrinologist yet, I would try that (and if you have and it didn't help, try another). They know a world of things that GYN only throw birth control pills at.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Female" pain

I get debilitating migraines--complete with nausea, loss of vision, noise sensitivity, and a general inability to THINK--every month with my menstrual period. I do take medication which manages to suppress most of the headache pain and some of the nausea, but it does NOTHING to keep my brain functioning normally. For example, I can do quantum mechanics all day long when I don't have a migraine; when I have a migraine, I can't tell you 2+2 or even drive a car.

In addition, my periods are extremely regular. I can tell you exactly what day I will get a period (which means I can tell you more or less what days I can expect migraines and/or the associated symptoms...and, yes, I take my medicine then, too).


Now, seriously, there is no way in h3ll that I can go to my department and ask them to reschedule the most grueling exam in the history of physics "because of my period."

I really don't know what I'm going to do. Even when my migraine medication works, I'm not fully symptom-free. But there's no way I can pass my Quals if I'm in a migraine-induced brain fog.

-Physics PhD Student

Anonymous said...

PQA: My IUD cost $660, out of pocket (insurance would pay for birth control pills, but not an IUD).

If you're low-income, you can go to your county health department or Planned Parenthood. You can get free or low-cost (e.g., with a sliding scale fee structure) birth control including IUDs. If you're a student, your student health center might even provide affordable services.

Anonymous said...

The questions were genuinely not very good - even as a male, they seemed to me to be mostly in the form of "Here's my assumption. Please comment on ways in which I'm correct." I'd have a strong impulse to reject them, even if the assumptions were OK.

Arlenna said...

"even as a male..."

Sorry dude, you just disqualified yourself from having a useful opinion on the questions which were about being A WOMAN IN SCIENCE.