A peeve

R. Elena Tabachnick etabachn at wppost.depaul.edu
Tue Aug 6 18:24:12 EST 1996


pbowne at omnifest.uwm.edu (Patricia S. Bowne) wrote:
> in my experience showing off
>in meetings and competition in them are neutral in themselves.
>You can make yourself look like the big cheese on campus
>but what the other folks in the meeting will be talking
>about later is whether you wasted their time or not.
>So, if you're going to use a meeting to show how great you
>are, do it in a manner that advances the committee's work
>and it'll be no problem.

In the long run you are right.  Prowess at competative displays, alone, 
certainly won't lead to work anyone remembers.  Amongst those with jobs 
and fundable status, good work is worth more.  Certainly on a committee, 
those who do the work, keep the process on track and argue cogently are 
much more valued than those who indulge in dominance displays. 

But the question is, will you get to the point where you are on any 
committees?  I have seen perception of grad students (and therefore their 
promotion by established faculty) seemingly based entirely on ability in 
male-male hierachy dominance displays.  And while some females are *very* 
good at this, and many males bad at it, extensive use of such behavior 
does seem 1) more common among males and 2) a much simpler proposition 
for males who play than for females.  It also seems more often to impress 
(bamboozle?) men than women.

In one case I saw this at work incredibly clearly.  A male grad student 
known far and wide as one of the department's "best" gave his defense on 
the same day as a female grad student who was generally discounted.  The 
male's work was little more than a rote application of formulaic 
analysis.  Completely unexciting.  I could not believe this boring work 
was the often lauded product of this supposedly so hot student (I was in 
a different department).  The female, on the other hand, presented a 
unique, creative approach to a very interesting problem.  Their main 
difference?  The male was superb at dominance displays, the female was 
shy and self-effacing and so rarely noticed.  The result?  The female has 
long since dropped out of biology.  The male has tenure.  (Though now he 
is sometimes gossiped about as "having failed to fulfill his potential." 
 Humph.)

Elena T.




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