Jim Watson

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at ln.nimh.nih.gov
Wed Oct 1 07:36:51 EST 1997

aloisia schmid (a-schmi at uiuc.edu) wrote:
: In article <624875679B at guesswork.oncology.wisc.edu>,
: mertz at ONCOLOGY.WISC.EDU ("Janet Mertz") wrote:

: > University's biochemistry department in 8 years! However, Watson not 
: > only accepted women into his lab as graduate students at a time when 
: > most others did not, he also helped them to do outstanding work, 
: > obtain top fellowships and jobs,  and become leaders in their field 
: > (e.g., Joan Steitz).
: >         Janet Mertz
: >         Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Alice writes:

: However, while I am
: ready to acknowledge that he apparently treated you well in helping you
: get established, the question I have to ask is, why is that such a great
: thing?  I mean, I assume you were pretty hot shit, even before getting
: your degree or you would not have been the first student Stanford's
: biochem dept. admitted in 8 years.  I think he did what he was supposed to
: do, and that's all he did.  

The reason that it was a great thing is because so many others
didn't do what they were supposed to do. It's always a difficult
thing to have to give credit to people for not behaving _badly_.
But when they do, when others around them _are_ behaving badly,
it is something worth giving credit for.

I thought Janet Mertz's story was very illustrative, because it
does show how far we've come since 1970, even when we feel
frustrated at how far we have to go. If Watson was willing
to give women a chance to science, he gave them an opportunity
that many others were denying. This is true even if the
opportunity came at the price of being called pretty faces
in his lab -- and mind you, as someone who has joined
science in a less sexist time, I consider this to be a
steep price.

Another woman scientist, who also first obtained a tenure
track position in the 70's told me that when she interviewed
for tenure-track positions while noticeably pregnant. A
Nobel Laureate, head of the department she was interviewing
with, took her aside, and asked her if she was _really_
_really_ sure that she wanted to do this, because being
an academic scientist was really hard. Of course, this
was extremely patronizing and sexist, but the motivation
was not exclusion, but concern. 

The patronizing attitude has the effect of exclusion, and
has to be stopped, but when it is motivated by true
concern, maybe the attitudes can be changed through
cooperation, rather than confrontation.

Now, the harm that a someone does when he implies to a group
of adolescent girls (i.e. Girl Scouts) that they are of
value only for their sexual appeal is immeasurable, and the
behavior is completely un-endearing. 

Bharathi Jagadeesh/bjag at ln.nimh.nih.gov
Lab of Neuropsychology, NIMH
Building 49, Room 1b80
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
(312) 496-5625 x270

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