strong opinions

Karen Lona Allendoerfer ka143 at
Thu Jul 16 11:31:33 EST 1998

Susan Forsburg wrote:

>Karen Allendoerfer wrote:

> I think caring passionately about what you are doing
>(="strong opinions")

Like a lot of debates on usenet, this one seems to boil down to
definitions.  *If* "strong opinions" means "caring passionately about what
you are doing," then I agree with Susan very much.

>> While there's clearly no all-or-none man/woman split, I think that
>> in the larger population, the viewpoint that we actually need to be
>> concerned that science (or life in general) is getting too tame, is less
>> common among women than men. I think this could be one big explanation for
>> why women drop out of "the pipeline." There are more women than there are
>> men (although these exist in both genders) who simply don't enjoy a life
>> filled with what they perceive as conflict and "strong opinions" at that
>> level.

>But strong opinions do not necessarily mean conflict. Disagreement does
>not necessarily mean a knock down drag out fight.

No, they don't.  But nonetheless I am reporting what I have observed and
experienced:  non-enjoyment of "strong opinions" and "disagreement,"
however it is that these are playing themselves out, currently, in the
modern scientific arena, on the part of a substantial number of women and a
smaller, but non-zero, number of men.  Debates over what these words mean
suggest to me a need for some clearer definitions.  I think that the poster
who suggested "cynicism" vs. "criticism" had some good ideas.

 From all you've written it doesn't sound to me as if you have any reason at
all to take any of this group's comments about annoying or abusive PI's
personally.  Again, from what you've written, you come across as
scrupulously fair and unusually creatively involved with your students and
postdocs. If not everyone on this group has been lucky enough to have a
P.I. like that, then it points to a problem, but maybe it's someone else's
problem, not yours, to solve.

> It is possible to
>have legitimate differences of interpretation or opinion;  until we
>have further evidence we cannot know which is correct.  Perhaps debate,
>rather than argument, is the term to use.


>Yes, I agree.  However,  you still have to  be able to get into
>the system and have them pay attention to you in order to effect change.
>That means walking a terribly fine line between improving things
>(and probably getting labelled as a troublemaker, or, gasp, a feminist!)

No kidding.  I wonder how many of us feel like we are always the magnet for
criticism, the troublemaker.  For what it's worth, I choose to wear the
label "feminist" proudly.  It sure beats the alternative.

>You people may think that I am loud, opinionated, and "one of them".

No, at least I don't.  But, in trying to stay away from "us vs. them"
thinking, it sure doesn't help to be called "you people."  As I wrote, not
very well, in a previous post, what pushed my button in a few of your
postings were the references to "patting on the head," "hand holding,"
"rubber stamping," telling "there there all's well," and being in
elementary school.  That sounded to me like at least as extreme of a
misinterpretation of the points that others were trying to make, as the
"hazing" that was allegedly attributed to you.

>Trust me, by "their" standards , I am not.  And the academic ivory tower
>at any institution gets pretty lonely when there are almost no
>women in it, and so few  willing even to try.

What I torture myself with at night, at times, is, would it be any less
lonely if the ivory tower were full of women, but they all behaved and
communicated indistinguishably from those people who are already there now?
I personally wouldn't be able to celebrate that "victory."


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