men, women, the politics of baking

aloisia schmid a-schmi at
Wed Dec 18 14:19:55 EST 1996

Just to amend and update

So i just posted this letter about how I am experiencing these pressures
and perceptions dfiferently.  Everybody else seems to be at the point of
thinking that it is a GOOD thing to bake and clean and wishes their male
co-workers would pull their own weight in this regard.  I have changed my
behaviour under the pressures against these traditionally female ways of
behaving.  I no longer DO cook or bake or even clean all that much
anymore, because I don't want to be seen as somehow lesser for doing
them.  But you know what?  I would like to just be able to relax enough to
do what I want to and have everybody else do that too---and not decide how
every little thing adds up to your worth and value as a scientist.  I
sometimes feel like my success or failure in science is going to be
determined by how I make the second to second determinations of how I
spend my time.   And if I fritter it away cleaning or baking, well I have
no one to blame but myself.  

I have noticed one other thing though.  Sports.  Have any of you noticed
that sports occupies the attnetion of alot of men in science?  But because
it is a means of communication between men, ESPECIALLY between men who
don't know each other, it's almost considered valuable prepartion for when
you meet a new colleague and need to compare stats and win in the initial
jockeying for position that happens in a first encounter.  I have no doubt
that there is pleasure and fun in watching sports too---just like there is
pleasure and fun for me to create something when I bake a cake---but why
is one totally o.k.,  and the other one is frittering away time?   

I have a friend whose husband hates sports.  He and I had a long
discussion about this once.  I said that it had long been my belief that
men use sports to meet each other and to jockey for position in
professional circles.  That sports knowledge is respected and gives status
in conversation.  But that it is a purely male thing and that women who
know alot about sports don't ever REALLY have the same experience of using
sports trivia in those situations that men do, because by virtue of who
they are, they just can't do it. It's a guy thing.  This friend's wife
thought that wasn't true, (she and I had been talking about this) and she
was really surprised when he agreed with me.  He thinks that no woman can
ever be taken credibly in a sports conversation, because she is a woman. 
Sports knowledge in and of itself is not important.  How much credibility
it gives you as a smart guy is what it boils down to.  

None of this is important.  (I have developed some sensitivity on the
whole Oprah complaint, so I am somewhat reluctant to mention these
observations!)  But I would be intersted in people's perceptions of these
things.  It might not seem important from a superficial point of view, but
I truly believe these interactions and the respect for the other person
that underlies these attitudes is largely at the crux of the problem of
inequality and misunderstanding in the scientific workplace.  


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