assertive vs. bitchy

Mr. W.Y. Chan wahchan at
Tue Oct 14 10:04:01 EST 1997

Neva Morales (nmorales at ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU) wrote:
: Hello Dr. Mertz and to everyone else,

: I really enjoy reading your message on being "assertive" or "bitchy."  I
: am having a problem now.

: I am a Masters student in the field of biophysics (it is still a man's
: place in this discipline).  I have applied to the phd program in my
: department and I am in the process of applying to more competitive places
: (also, places that are closer to home). 

: The committee has reviewed my application but they said that I need
: another recommendation.  After finding out about places like NYU and MOUNT
: SINAI in NYC and how their Molecular Biology program (although i have a
: bachelor's degree in physics, i have fallen madly in love with molecular
: biology and desire to pursue this) are incredibly strong,  I made the
: decision of leaving my department with only my Master's degree. 

: I made the mistake of telling my advisor of my intentions to leave this
: December and I did not anticipate his response.  First he made it sound
: like he didn't care if I was leaving and today, I get these weird email
: messages from him telling me that I'm being dishonest with the admission
: committee.  He also said that I am basically here because of his word and
: that the admission committee is making "hard choices" to "accomodate" me
: because of him.

: This truly bothers me because I feel (and I guess I've always felt like
: this from the first day I entered this program) that I'm not being taken
: seriously.  From my advisor's message, it sounds as if the committee
: doesn't think I am good enough to be considered a phd student.  I have a
: good gpa and I am already getting funded on the phd level.  I strongly
: feel that if some of my other peers (white men)were in the same situation
: that I'm in, they wouldn't have this problem.  I guess what bothers me and
: hurts me the most is that I feel as if my advisor, someone I respected and
: admired, is now against me because I dislike the environment and because I
: strongly believe I can thrive elsewhere.  He is supposed to write me a
: recommendation and so far he (I think), has been stalling despite the fact
: that I gave him almost two months notice.

: Sorry to vent, but I feel as if no one is giving me a chance and no one
: seems to understand how i feel.  I'm probably being seen as a "bitch"
: which I don't mind being called, if standing up for myself labels me a
: bitch.

I am not sure if I am correct on this one, but if a female friend who
had faced the same situation as you have my opinion would be that your
advisor is emotionally connected to you and as a result of learning that
you are leaving had felt particularly betrayed by your intention. I guess
it is a male thing being the provider to the female and many female
professionals often takes advantage of that, I am sure that is not in
your case. My advise is be more understanding to him and tell him that
you really appreciated his help even if you dont.


: thanks for listening,

: Neva Morales

: On 6 Oct 1997, Janet Mertz wrote:

: > 	I agree with the problem women face: whereas men are viewed 
: > positively for being "assertive", women with the same behavior are 
: > viewed negatively as "aggressive" or "bitchy". However, if women are 
: > not aggressive, they are largely overlooked by male-dominated fields 
: > (e.g., not invited to speak at meetings). I have experienced these 
: > problems first hand. As an undergraduate and graduate student, I 
: > behaved aggressively and was viewed as a female "superstar". I was 
: > accepted to the top graduate schools, gave talks in place of my 
: > future Nobel laureate advisor at highly prestigious conferences, had 
: > top-ranked unversities asking me to apply for tenure-track faculty 
: > positions, etc. However, many of my male peers were jealous of me and 
: > I didn't enjoy playing this highly aggressive game. Thus, I turned 
: > down Harvard and other places where one has to be highly aggressive 
: > to survive as a professor in favor of the University of 
: > Wisconsin-Madison where I can do equally good work in a much 
: > friendlier, less-competitive environment. I have been continuously 
: > funded by major N.I.H. grants for the past 20 years, have exciting 
: > findings that resulted in an "outstanding" rating on my recent 
: > competitive renewal, give excellent talks, serve on study sections 
: > and editorial boards, and am much happier with myself and my life. 
: > However, I am no longer an invited speaker at conferences because I 
: > am not playing the game by the same rules as are the "assertive old 
: > boys". One can succeed without being forced to play the game the way 
: > the "old boys" do. Don't give up. The only way we will be able to 
: > change the rules of the game for all is by having a higher percentage 
: > of the players being women in positions of power. Remember, 
: > however, this problem is not peculiar to science. For example, Pat 
: > Schroeder abandoned her race for U.S. President when she realized she 
: > would be disliked as bitchy if she were assertive and considered too 
: > weak to be president if not assertive.
: > 	Hang in there. We can make a difference and succeeed.
: > 	Janet Mertz
: > 	Professor
: > 

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