becky norum bnorum at chaos.dac.neu.edu
Sun Jul 17 12:04:18 EST 1994

Angeline Kantola (kantola at u.washington.edu) wrote:
: In article <306t44$27u at chaos.dac.neu.edu>,
: becky norum <bnorum at chaos.dac.neu.edu> wrote:
: >
: >Any thoughts?   Does anyone here ever feel that in becoming a scientists
: >she has had to sacrifice part of her femininity since we do not
: >generally believe that 'feminine' characteristics are also scientific
: >ones?

: Becky--

: I'm fighting very hard to avoid posting flame-quality sarcasm after reading 
: the above paragraph...

	I was afraid that people would misinterpret what I was trying to
	ask and so they have...

: How's this for a reply: I work in a lab peopled mostly by women; our PI is
: a woman as well. I observe a tremendous variation of personality traits
: among both the women *and* the men in the group. Some of both sexes are
: soft-spoken and rarely assertive, some of both sexes are louder and more
: assertive. No one group has a corner on what might be deemed traditionally
: 'feminine characteristics'--friendliness, caring, collaborativeness (vs. 
: competetiveness). Yes, some of the women (and rarely the men) talk about 
: shopping, some of the men (and rarely the women) talk about sports. We all 
: talk about politics, and of course science. 

: I don't feel that choosing to study science has made me any less
: 'womanly'. I haven't felt compelled to stop or to hide any of my
: 'traditionally feminine' hobbies--cooking, knitting, sewing, gardening. I
: haven't stopped being flirtatious or caring and concerned with others'
: welfare. I *have* found that the trust I have developed in my own
: abilities, my own observations, which is *crucial* to being a scientist,
: has had a marked effect on nonacademic areas of my life: having the
: confidence to hold my own in an argument, recognizing that I surely have
: the intellectual ability to tackle projects in realms unfamiliar to me
: (maintaining my bicycle, fixing household appliances, building furniture,
: and on and on). To state it more succinctly, the self-confidence I needed
: for science empowered me in many respects. [Hey, I lived in California for
: five years, I'm licensed to use the word 'empowered' :)] I know many, many
: women, including young women in science, who don't exhibit this
: self-confidence. Is it 'feminine'? I imagine most readers of this group
: would agree it is, but I'm not as sure about the population at large. 

: Becky, that'd have to be a 'no'. 

: --Angie


	I am not in any way trying to say that certain characteristics
belong exclusively to one gender or the other; my argument is based upon the
hypothesis that traditionally, science represented a male ideal, i.e.
aggressiveness, competitiveness, self-confidence that women were
systematically excluded from because the stereotypes that women were
supposed to represent were the opposite of these: docility, etc.  You
can fill those in.  
	I believe that although these gender ideals are less evident
today than they were 40 years ago, in many ways they persist and have an
effect upon how ppl define themselves.  (Check out the commercials any
Saturday morning for children's toys and see how many dolls are
advertised with little boys and how many race cars are advertised by
little girls.)  
	Women today have the opportunity to be whatever and whoever they
choose to be.  I ask why more women do not enter the field of science. 
Arguments in our history are that women are inherently less logical than
men and therefore incapable of becoming scientists.  They pointed to
women that did make it as 'exceptions to the rule'.  Today 15% of all
scientists are women.  That is obviously no longer 'exceptions'.  But
why arent there more?!?!  Why hasnt the extraordinary growth seen from
the 1950's through the 1970's continued?!

	I think that it's great that you havent felt your 'femininity'
at all compromised by becoming a scientist.  That seems to be what I am
hearing...  but do note the following excerpt:

:On a somewhat related note, I have noticed and interesting trend when I
:post questions to any scientific group on the net.  If I sign a
:"feminine" version of my name (e.g.Chrissy, Christine), the responses I
:get are primarily short, rude, and condescending.  If I sign "Chris,"
:leaving my gender open to question, I get much more detailed and helpful
:responses.  That's just been *my* experience, though.  Anyone else?  
:Chrissy McAllister

My posting wasn't meant to be flame-bait.  I asked a honest question
and got an honest response.  I did a coop in a lab that had two male
supervisors and then a female technician who we coops were anserable to.
Before I worked there there were apparently two female coops who were
sexually harrassed by this male postdoc.  The female tech wasnt around
at the time and the two coops didnt feel comforatable approaching the
two male supervisors; finally they told a female post-doc there and the
man was immediately booted when she went to the supervisors.  

Another coop I did was working at GE-Lynn in the hazardous waste
department.  I stayed there 12 weeks and hated it for its
female-unfriendly atmosphere.  My responisbility consisted primarily of
walking around the plant and checking out various hazardous waste
disposal sites.  I felt like some kind of alien.  The looks I got as a
woman walking through a plant that had 1 female floor supervisor out of
about 40+ were harrassing in themselves.  It was very discouraging. 
There was no overt discrimination or harrassment; just a continual sense
that something wasnt right.  

The same sort of thing happens in preschools and elementary schools when
one of either sex tries to mingle or play with a group of the other sex.
Shunned by the group of the opposite sex ad by their own sex for 'being

Gender discrimation in science is there; however covertly.  And most of
the times it acts in ways that cannot be prosecuted; but are there.  How
many of us want to constantly fight to be accepted as what we are.  If
you don't have to, Angie, that's great.  If you never have had to,
better yet.  I believe that the biological sciences have the most gender

Sorry this was so long.  I would like to hear what other ppl have to
say about any of this or anything else...


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