PIs

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Mon Jun 16 17:41:24 EST 1997


In article <33A5510C.7744 at nospamsalk.edu>,
S L Forsburg  <forsburg at nospamsalk.edu> wrote:
>aloisia t schmid wrote:
>
>>       So this second topic that I wanted to get feedback on, is when
>> something like Anita Hill or Paula Jones or Kelly Flinn or Aberdeen or
>> Tailhook or anything like that comes up in a conversation and the
>> discussion seems to get cut off at the knees with the pronouncement that
>> "I personally have never experienced anything untoward in any way.  I
>> can't help but believe there is a personality type who invites these
>> problems.  Certainly in science there is no sexism.  In academics, I can't
>> think of a single man who treats women any differently from men.".....how
>> do you respond?

I think this is a great question, and it is one that has frustrated and
bothered me a lot.  Even worse are the people who will say that in public,
but then admit, in private, that they have experienced discrimination.  I
guess they want to keep quiet about it out of fear.

Sometimes (but not always) I've been able to get people like this to
listen to me by somehow first validating part of what they say, saying
"yes, most men in science are very good, and I've received a lot of
support from men" (which is true, in fact), and then bringing up a 
specific instance that's closer to home than Anita Hill.  It helps if
the person is either someone they know or at least connected to them by
less than 6 degrees of separation.  A lot of people know a friend of 
a friend who's experienced something pretty egregious--unfortunately.
I've also mentioned that I've never personally experienced racism
(I'm white), but that I know it exists, and that I
don't think it's a result of a "certain personality type that invites
these problems" just because I've never personally experienced it
directed at me.

I think people will also be more receptive to the idea of "societal
attitudes" being negative rather than "men oppressing women," since
"men oppressing women" is a simplistic and inaccurate way to look at it.

Still, I can yet remember when the Anita Hill hearings were on, and 
someone had brought a TV into the lab where I was rotating, and this
woman and her husband were watching the hearings, and they both said
"she's lying!  Of course she's making it up!"  These were very nice
people, and the woman was a scientist.  I had the complete opposite
reaction to Hill's testimony; the thought that she was "making it up"
seemed ludicrous to me, and I never figured out a way to broach the
subject with those people.
>
>Amanda Cross, the mystery writer, wrote a murder mystery about such
>a woman.  It's called _Death in a tenured position_ and while 
>somewhat dated, still is a wonderful biting look at academics.
>
If I remember that book correctly, that woman ended up never really
being accepted by her department, and came to a bad end.  It was 
rather chilling.

Karen




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