Marcy Brown mbrown at BILBO.BIO.PURDUE.EDU
Tue Feb 6 17:02:48 EST 1996

Dianna Bourke wrote--

>Could it be that if a woman makes herself seem moderately attractive in the
>lab she will be perceived as "only a woman" and not an androgenous
>"scientist?" Clearly certain lab tasks are not amenable to "good" clothes,
>but must we always look like men to be taken seriously? Is this what
>happened early on when women started to do science and it just became
>accepted? To be fair, though, many men in science have the same unconcerned
>attitude about clothes and I definately think there is a perception that if
>you are a real scientist, things as mundane as clothes are not to be taken
>seriously. In fact many of my women colleagues in  academia in general
>consider clothes and makeup pure frivolity.

In our group of ecologists, women encounter a double-edged sword.  Our
field work usually requires all of us, male and female, to wear an
assortment of flannel or denim shirts, hiking boots and jeans to keep warm
and/or protected in the field.  Often this style is carried over into
everyday work in the office, again by both males and females. However,
female graduate students have at times been criticized because they don't
dress up enough.  In most cases, the remark is ignored; however, on at
least one occasion all of the female graduate students responded by showing
up to the office in dresses to gently embarrass the professor that made the

On the other hand, dressing up is sometimes seen as an anomaly.  I have at
times been asked why I was dressed up, even though I had only traded the
jeans for a casual skirt, but still kept the boots and sweater!  

Although it seems like a no-win situation, I just stick to wearing what is
comfortable and ignore the remarks.  I still feel better wearing a skirt
when giving a talk or teaching, but can be ready for field situations in
the appropriate gear.  As far as popular opinion goes, my work should be
used to attest to the fact that I am a good scientist, not my clothes.

Marcy Brown                                     
Department of Biological Sciences
Purdue University                                
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1392          
mbrown at bilbo.bio.purdue.edu         

"I see you over there, just clinging to the wall. Because they told you
like ivy you were bound to crawl.  But you kept looking up, girl, and I
know why.  You knew someday you were gonna touch the sky." John Hiatt

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