"Abuse"?

S L Forsburg nospamforsburg at salk.edu
Mon Aug 2 16:41:41 EST 1999


 Karen Allendoerfer <kallen at ontogeny.com> wrote

> I've been out of training now for about a year, have a job at a biotech
> company, and am expecting a baby in a month. 

Great news!  Congratulations!

.......(snip for space).......

> So, then, why do I still have this residual feeling that scientific
> training as it stands currently in the U.S.A. is, in fact, abusive in
> some way?
> 
> Part of it is empathy with the experiences of others, who didn't have had
> as great of a thesis advisor as I did, or as understanding a boss as I do
> currently.
> 
> Another part of it is looking back at the unquestioned cultural
> assumptions that made up graduate school and postdoc life in the sciences
> in the late 80's/early 90's. I did not find that these assumptions were
> foisted on us primarily by P.I.'s, or by men, although there were plenty
> of P.I.'s and men who shared them. Everyone bought into them to some
> degree; I certainly did. And to the extent that I did, I suffered.

.......(snip for space)......

> I'm not talking primarily about things like going to the movies, or
> "having fun." I'm talking about the concerns of real life: eating,
> sleeping, reproducing, paying your taxes. Buying Christmas presents for
> your family. Taking care of your sick mother. There isn't a lot of room
> for any of this in science. And viewed that way, I honestly think the
> cumulative effect of these assumptions could be considered abusive. Not
> that they're necessarily unique to science as a profession.
> 
> But I've also found that these assumptions are just that: assumptions.
> Over the years, as I've questioned them and stopped buying into them,
> I've found that people come out of the woodwork who don't share them
> either. Men and women. Postdocs and grad students. PI's and non-PI's.
> People who have big Thanksgiving dinners at their houses, who put up
> Christmas decorations at their bench or observe the high holy days.
> People who know about taxes. People who cook and enjoy their food. Even
> a few people who get 8 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. These
> people often aren't the scientific stars or the favorites in the lab.
> But I started to realize that who makes the favorites, anyway--I can have
> my own favorites. More often they are the quiet ones, the ones whose
> work, both scientifically and otherwise, may fall outside the mainstream.
> It can be lonely there, but more and more, I think I've come to see that
> it may be, all in all, a better place to be.

GREAT post, Karen.  I think you have put it perfectly.  And this ties 
together much of what we've discussed here over the last couple of months
about the expectations of our profession and the need to change it, not
to make it more friendly to women per se, but to make it more humane
for all of us--things like recognizing family commitments of both
men and women, and the desire to do our science free of stupid politics,
 or our reduced geographical  mobility compared to scientists of years
past. 
Part of it is also motivations--I get the feeling a lot of the older guys
are hooked on being famous, whereas I'm hooked on doing science.

 I'm not sure how  we can change things for real until the 
previous generation dies out, though empowering ourselves by rejecting 
their abusive style is one way to begin.  However, as with anything
else in life, as long as they hold more power than we do, we will still
pay a price.

-- 
-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 
http://pingu.salk.edu/~forsburg/lab.html

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