men, women, the politics of baking

Sarah Boomer sarai at
Tue Dec 17 22:46:02 EST 1996

I just wanted to say that I have really been enjoying the discussion on
the Oprah thread.  I identified so much with the whole baking for lab
meeting thing.  I work in a lab with 60% women and, for the most part, the
women all put more effort into the "little things:"  baking goodies for
lab meeting, unpacking boxes that are shipped (a constant battle of
responsibility in our lab), cleaning up those little spills or messes that
"somebody" leaves.  I am open to flames on this one but I just feel like
women, overall, are socialized to feel bad if they don't be polite by
doing these little chores, being cheerful, fulfilling what just feel like
obligations.  I work with many guys who you'd swear are blind to messes,
who openly do only their experiments and little else in the way of
helping the lab structure.

I would love to be able to say, especially after reading Beth's moving
post, that I gave it all up for family.  But I am one of those women who
don't want a family and don't have a selfless excuse for giving it up!
The closest thing I can say is that I gave up baking last year - at least
for lab and department functions.  And I LOVE to cook.  I have this huge
reputation as the one who brings the best stuff.  But last year, I just
said to hell with it.  Why should I SLAVE over the stove on average three
hours before lab meeting when the guys (on average) whiz by the Safeway
and pick up 5 bucks in cheap donuts.  So I started whizzing by the Safeway
and buying cheap donuts.  I have been much happier now that I only cook
goodies for myself! 

Nevertheless, I was touched by Beth and others who seem so content with
their decisions.  I am still in the mode where I feel like I am a terrible
woman for being a leak in the pipeline.  Part of it comes from
being told this by various colleagues or past professors (that I am too
good to leave, that I am too good for the teaching positions I aspire to).
I think as a woman I take all this more personally, too... again, because
there is this element of being socialized to be nice.  I would like to
have the strength to let it all slide off my back but it annoys me often
that I am not PLEASING someone!  Isn't that ridiculous!

Beth's post also reminded me of another issue that spurs me a lot -
assuming a "traditional role."  For the record, I am pursuing a year of
more education training/masters in education because I have been unable to
get a job after earning my PhD.  During this time, I am going to be
supported by my partner, another PhD who is pursuing post-doctoral
studies.  I cannot tell you the firestorm that this "fact" and "choice" 
has raised in my life.  My mother, who has always worked and had a family
(public school teacher) is about to disown me because she is SO upset that
I would lower myself to be supported by a man.  It's not just her, though. 
I have always considered myself capable and employable but here I am
finding that I can't support myself doing what I love.  I want to say that
it is nothing to do with gender - but, at some level, I cannot ignore the
"traditional" role I feel I am assuming.  Today really hit because I am
signing up for my first night class and John offered to pay for it (even
though I am still on salary in the lab). It just hurt somewhere in my gut
to realize that this was the shape of things to come. It's not him - it's
something in my raising, in the expectations that I have been (and choose) 
to uphold.

Thankfully, I have many friends who calm me down when I get rained on or
find myself down.  It would be nice if the academic journals had a
different ideal of what success is, a different way of measuring it...
why should the pipeline have to, by definition, terminate at a tenure
spot.  Isn't that definition only more detrimental to women?  Of course,
they say that women are better at doing non-traditional things and accept
it more easily if they have to step off the track.  I haven't reached that
kind of scientific nirvana yet, though.  Suggestions are welcome!


Sarah Boomer				email:  sarai at		
Dept. of Microbiology			work phone:  543-3376
Box 357242				work FAX:  543-3376
University of Washington		
Seattle, WA  98195	

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