Wednesday, December 04, 2013

If You Just

It seems like it has been a long time since I have done a poll in this blog. Perhaps that is because I am tired of doing surveys, including surveys on surveys, not to mention surveys for which I seem to be held personally responsible for making sure others do them even though I don't even want to do the survey myself? Perhaps, but today seems like a good day for a blog-poll anyway. The topic is the post from last week.

How would you describe your reaction (just based on what you know from my description of the incident in that post)? I have enabled the 'multiple response' feature so you can select more than one. I don't doubt that my list below is incomplete. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment if your response is not represented.

My response was.. free polls 


Mark said...

I voted for the first option, though if it were available I would have voted, "The man meant well, but he was a clueless interrupting jerk." I also considered voting for the fourth option, but the truth is that as a man, I'm not actually expected to deal with this kind of bad behavior. (Which is not to say that I shouldn't, just that people in general don't expect me to.)

Anonymous said...

I clicked on both " One of the women should have interrupted him." and "It is exhausting to be expected to deal with frequent low-level bad behavior like this."

I don't think he was clueless. I think he is an aggressive p.o.s. with an inflated sense of self. He should have sat back and listened first.

Been there, done that, around too many people who pull this crap. (It is *really* unpleasant being in a feel-good, come-together, diversity meeting of parents of grade schoolers and encountering the same mechanism at work but with the added fun of racism!)

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe that statement was a little harsh. But, the more I thought about the earlier story, the less charitable I was feeling. Hence, my slide towards combativeness away from my comment on the previous post.

Anonymous said...

I thought about voting for all 4 options, but ultimately left out "The man meant well" because I think the "clueless" part in #1 covers that, and it's not "the important thing". :)

I do think that in an ideal world, at least one person (who is not too exhausted) would call out clueless interrupting eggheads, so I voted for #3. I'm not saying that those people are to blame for clueless, but more calling out would help marginally in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Huh. I see that my previous comment on the previous post was deleted. Well, gee, I guess one of the women should never say something when a man acts just like the guy in the post. Not unless she females it up and adds all sorts of bullshit qualifying language, of course.

I assume that if my name had been "Steve" instead of "Nicoleandmaggie" what I said would have been in no way construed as a personal attack, because it wasn't.


Female Science Professor said...

I have not deleted any comments so am not sure what this comment is about.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was clueless; he was there, after all. He just lacked the introspection into his own privilege.

I don't think interrupting him, or escalation of the problem, is the answer.

The last answer, however, applies x10^23. It's unfortunate how so few people seem to be able to do the mental addition of how these incidents indeed add.

Anonymous said...

Huh, that's weird. Maybe it went into the spam filter or didn't post. Where it should have been there were a bunch of "Author deleted", so I assumed it had been deleted. Sorry!

Female Science Professor said...

I checked the spam box and everything in there is genuinely spam. "Author deleted" comments were deleted by the author of the comments, not by me. Mystery.

John Vidale said...

I'll try again, aiming to be less irritable, it is an interesting question, and life's too short to spend feuding and fuming.

I'll abstain on the question - most choices either depend on context I don't know (his intent) or a perspective that I don't have (how demoralizing is it to be constantly interrupted).

The orthogonal consideration this situation brings first to me is how to get the discussion described back to its original intent, current problems in hiring and retention. Too much time is spent in meetings and wasted in meetings, and he's wasting it with marginally relevant anecdotes, aside from the important problem of marginalizing the woman who started to speak.

So for several reasons, he should get quickly interrupted with the message that he is off-track, either from the discussion leader, other participants, or the woman interrupted. Participants should also go out of their way to later let the woman interrupted know their perception of her mistreatment, perhaps developing a strategy to mitigate further instances.

Some people never learn, however, then we can only regret the situation, and hope that retiring the older generation improves the situation, although it will not be a cure-all.

Isabel said...

His interruption was rude. He should have been stopped immediately by the speaker or moderator. It's also a weird story- it's hard to imagine why even a boor would specifically say "I'll go first" after someone has already started talking.

On the other hand, as I said in the other thread, his story was fine and should have been acknowledged. Who here would think nothing of it if they were in a meeting and people of their native country were dismissed as being incompetent in their area of interest? Why did FSP characterize this story as "stupid"?

Even if it is not as bad as what others experienced, so what? It was a rude comment, involved stereotyping and might believably affect his future with that group. It is a way for them to connect to what others have experienced, and he was asked to share such a story.

Really, another thread based on no new information?

Anonymous said...

Isabel, it's a normal part of human relations to be confronted with, "I know how you feel! blah blah missing the point." This happens in many situations, from announcing at Thanksgiving that your brother is now a quadriplegic and having someone inappropriately empathize because his sister lost a toe, to having someone compare their C-minus in real analysis to your failure to complete graduate school, to discussions of sexism and racism. I appreciate that consistently across the internet you hold up the flag for examination of class and remind us that not everything is wonderful for white men. But. Can you not see that sometimes the white guy (who is in a position of class privilege with respect to most of America, being a professor and administrator at a big university) taking the floor by interrupting someone else and focusing the spotlight on his pain at a conversation about diversity is *not* the revolutionary act you hope it is? It's pretty normal, in fact, and emotionally tone deaf.

To reply to some other comments on this thread (aggregated) one thing I'd like to bring up is that intent is essentially irrelevant. If you'd like to take into account someone's intent when deciding in your heart how to forgive or empathize, that's fine. On a structural and economic level, though, intent is worthless. Actions count. Money counts. It was not anyone's intent, per se, to make sure black and white users of cocaine were unequally penalized when sentencing laws were written. Similarly, many of the religious gender essentialists I know really have the best intentions possible. And the people who designed the battle ropes at the gym did not mean to discriminate against people with small hands! It does not matter. Effects in real life matter.

John Vidale said...

@anon Intent is worthless. Actions count.

Exactly. Allowing people to justify their intent, rather than own up to the results of their actions, usually leads to smoke and mirrors, and often hinders preventing recurrence of the problem.

In this case, whatever his intent, he should perform differently next time the situation arises. In an ideal (not this) world, he would also apologize for the result of his action.

Anonymous said...

I agree with it being exhausting to deal with low-level bad behavior. I am newly a science "professor" at a European university and as such my door has a label saying "Prof. Dr. XXX." This title does give me pride, I have to admit. But when I go around the university taking care of various paperwork issues, the administrative assistants I deal with routinely completely fail to register that I am a faculty member, even if they are reading my contract with the word "Professor" on the top of it. I became resigned to this and many other examples where my appearance (extremely young looking woman) clearly meant that people simply could not put my appearance together with my job. But recently I've started to wonder if just accepting without comment all this low-level biased behavior makes me part of the problem...

Anonymous said...

I've run a discussion group for women in a specific STEM field for a few months. A couple of times male postdocs have joined our meeting; each time the man was the first to respond to the topic of discussion (which I presented at the beginning) and each time the discussion effectively the centered around the man and his comments. I've read about a study in social psychology that says that the solo effect can actually increase the performance of a "solo" in a contrasting group, if that "solo" is regarded as being of higher rank in the ambient environment. So it's possible that putting a man in a group of mainly women in a science environment will actually accentuate his confident behavior, rather than the other way--contrasting with the case of a solo woman in a group of men, in a science environment. (In the other direction, my husband once told me that when he was taking our child to a reading group at a library, his hands started shaking when he was trying to put a hairclip in our baby's hair...he was the low status "solo" in the group of mothers. He realized he was worried all the women would think he was bad at doing our baby's hair because he was a man. He has a PhD in science incidentally, and this incident led to some good conversations about the science community.)

Amanda Stent said...

Also either the interruptee should have said something like "I am still speaking" and stopped him, or someone else in the group should have said "I think (interruptee) wasn't finished" or in some way reclaimed the turn for interruptee. I have seen this done with civility but firmness. Floor management is a great skill.

Isabel said...

"I appreciate that consistently across the internet you hold up the flag for examination of class and remind us that not everything is wonderful for white men. "

Nice that you completely mis-characterize me from your totally anonymous vantage point. Anyway I doubt this was a class issue, the white people who interrupt and take over meetings are usually middle/upper middle class.

"But. Can you not see that ... taking the floor by interrupting someone else and focusing the "

If I "can't see that", why did I just say he was rude and should not have been allowed to go on with his story?

"spotlight on his pain at a conversation about diversity is *not* the revolutionary act you hope it is? "

I have no idea what the heck you are talking about. Revolutionary act?

Absolutely all we know is that he was placed in a small group where the participants "were told to share" stories THEY had experience where they felt stereotyped while in a group. His experience sounds like it fit the bill. The others were much worse, and he should have known to let them speak first, but it doesn't make his "stupid".

Isabel said...

"Also either the interruptee should have said something like "I am still speaking" and stopped him, or someone else in the group should have said "I think (interruptee) wasn't finished" or in some way reclaimed the turn for interruptee."

Yes, this is the most inexplicable part of the story. I think FSP needs to explain why she laughed instead of doing just that.

Anonymous said...

Most people seem to be upset about the dude that interrupted the lady. No big deal in my opinion. It is not a new thing for people to interrupt others. Men interrupt men, men interrupt women, women interrupt men and women interrupt women.

The dude said something stupid, who cares.

But what if the dude said something relevant? What if he would have said he felt gender discrimination against him in his department? What if he said that he is noticing disproportionately more awards/grants/promotions/office space, etc. going to females? What would that conversation look like? Something to think about....

Anonymous said...

"Men interrupt men, men interrupt women, women interrupt men and women interrupt women."

Yes, but men interrupt more frequently than women do. Especially if you only look at "intrusive" interruptions, and especially in groups of three or more.

"What if he said that he is noticing disproportionately more awards/grants/promotions/office space, etc. going to females?"

Um ... "disproportionately more" relative to what? Relative to how many went to women in the past?

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon @ 11:24, I don't think that is what Anon @ 8:55 meant. Disproportionately compared to numbers; ie. 25% of grad students are females in the department, but receive 75% of awards.

Also, I agree with Anon @ 8:55, people interrupt people; we just need to live with that fact. If you don't want someone to interrupt you, then you need to work on "owning the room" and taking care of yourself. It is ridiculous to think someone else should stop the interruption on your behalf.

One last thing, I like what Isabel at 6:03 said: Why did FSP not stop this gentleman?

Anonymous said...

One of the most patronising sexist stereotyping I ever came up against (in the science realm) was said by a (Middle-Aged, White) Male Professor who clearly thought he was saying something progressive.

Whereas some of the most supportive male colleagues & bosses have never once commented on gender issues in the science or declared themselves to be understanding of gender-specific discrimination - but in their actions they embodied a fantastic attitude.

Therefore to me, it doesn't really matter what viewpoints a person professes to have: you can tell me you're a feminist with one breath then patronise female scientists with the next. Nodding and assuring me you understand the struggles of [minority group] does not *necessarily* mean that you do. In the worse case scenario, it just grants a person the excuse to hold on to (and vocalise) their backward/outdated views because they think they're acceptable.

In the example that FSP gave, I would like to think that I would have called the man out on his interruption. But I'm also cynical about whether anyone could make him understand the issues with what he did: he would probably just leave the discussion adamant that the stereotype about academic women being "aggressive" or "difficult" had been proven true.

AnthroBabe said...

I voted that this type of behavior is exhausting, because it is. Even in the "most leftist and progressive" discipline in the social sciences (really). It happens all the time. I am cringing a bit for our next hiring decision next week. I am practicing saying "Can we please focus on the ACADEMIC fit of the person and much less on PERSONALITY issues?" Unless this person killed a man during his/her talk or screamed profanities at students, personality issues should be down to a minimum. "Collegiality" my ass.

Phindustry said...

I'm all for people voicing their opinions, regardless of how lewd (how else do we discover who you are?), but there's always room for civility and manners. Dude was a douche.

Anonymous said...

To the folks who are complaining that FSP (or someone else) didn't interrupt the guy: I agree that, in an ideal world, someone would have stepped in. Isabel's comment at 6:03 particularly provides some nice examples of how that can be done without causing a scene. However, there are plenty of experiences I've had where, in the moment, I'm so boggled at how bizarre/inane something is that my brain just halts in its tracks, and it's not possible to respond so quickly. FSP in particular mentioned that she laughed because she thought it was a joke (and would have been a good one, too, if it was a joke), and so probably by the time she realized that it wasn't a joke, the moment to speak out had passed. Alternatively/in addition, we do learn that the man has some administrative authority - perhaps he has authority over some of these women (or at least could be perceived to have it), thus making it more difficult to speak up against him? We don't know. I have found that banking some prepared comments, like Isabel's, can make me more ready for the next time. Maybe someone could start a website of 'non-aggressive responses to various examples of jerk behavior' to prime us?

As a side note, to FSP: your comment moderation robot-test is so hard to read that I'm starting to feel like I must be a robot. I don't know if it's something you can control, though.

Anonymous said...

It seems he meant well but the main thing is he was a clueless interrupting jerk.

Anonymous said...

This seems like a really hard problem. I guess the easiest conclusion to draw would be that the man in question was simply "faking" empathy with his out of date story, but clearly lacked it because of the interruption.

At the same time it is very easy to brush off what a person has to say and throw away the information contained in what they are saying, if it is delivered in a rude way.

I really don't see any of the options listed as meaningfully representing my view point. I guess it's a complicated situation.

Perhaps this person was nervous about the discussion topic because as a white male american, you probably have very experience little to bring to the discussion. This was his way of dealing with it badly.

It seems hard to analyze.

Anonymous said...

First, I think there should be more onus on OTHERS present to interrupt the jerk and allow the original speaker to speak. If the original speaker does manage to interrupt him, then it quickly becomes a confrontational situation between the 2 of them.

Second, these situations almost always take me completely by surprise -- I'm so taken aback by the behavior that it takes me many seconds to realize what is going on, and then think about what could/should be done about it. By then it's usually too late for me to do anything about it at all. Which then leaves me fuming afterwards. So my inclination would again be for anyone who sees an opportunity to speak up immediately, regardless.

Sarah said...

A woman should have interrupted him, but he would not have gotten the hint. Passive-aggressiveness (although I have used it in the past in this very type of situation) only serves to alleviate the tension of the person being passively-aggressive. Directly addressing the interruption might have been extremely awkward, but would've perhaps gotten the point across and made the man think a little about his actions. But at least it would've been a proactive approach to addressing implicit sexism.

Also, had you left out the "clueless" in the first answer, I would've chosen it. Guys like this are not clueless, they are jerks. I'm tired of making excuses for people's hurtful behavior by explaining it as "clueless:" man or woman.