The incomparable Hermitage has compiled the responses to her She-Woman Baby-hating carnival extravaganza! There are many fine questions, with many excellent answers from the esteemed panelists. I have learned tons from reading the responses to the questions.
This question in particular caught my attention:
3. What can we do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science?
What to do indeed. Micro Dr. O recommends staying out of the way of that bitchy female greyhair, and looking for allies elsewhere. Dr. Sneetch sez women in her field are mean, meaner than the men have ever been! And crazy too. So there's two votes for fighting
misogyny fire with misogyny fire.
Remember that there are also those that deny that Doritos are good for you. There are idiots everywhere.
She recommends you go on your way and concentrate on being a role model for the next generation. Good advice!
KJHaxton reminds us to be strategic: put away the soapbox, focus on solutions not complaints, and bide your time until you've amassed power and status...then set to work on that institutional transformation.
When I read this question, I asked myself when was the last time anyone in real life (except my husband and perhaps a close personal friend or relative) actually took my concern to heart when I complained that I suspected someone had slighted me professionally because I'm a woman. The answer is -- I cannot remember.
She discusses what leads people, men and women, to dismiss individual incidents of bias, and recommends surrounding one's self with "supportive people of both genders" and moving on.
NicoleandMaggie say blame the patriarchy!
I totally agree.
While the patriarchy is indeed to blame, and denial comes from all quarters, it seems to sting more when it comes from other women in science. One expects them to express some solidarity, or at least to be somewhat cognizant of their own condition, or at the very very least not to be actively functioning as apologists for the oppressors. But if the U.S. Republican party is able to muster up enough gay members to create the Log Cabin Republicans, then it ought not to surprise any of us that some women in science will remain – even throughout their entire careers – stubbornly, actively, willfully ignorant of the real facts on the ground for all women in science.
The question for me has always been, in what way is that denial functioning for them? What purpose does it serve for them?
I can't speak for all of them, but when I was in denial about the situation for women in science, that denial helped me think of myself as really unique – one of just very few women able to do this d00dly science stuff! And since I was sooooo unique, why, you could hardly call me a woman at all – I was really more of what you’d call an AlmostD00d. Which was far preferable to being a woman. To maintain my unique and therefore AlmostD00d status, it was important that there not be too many other women doing what I was doing. This all made it nearly impossible for me to develop friendships with other women in my field, or even to see senior women scientists as competent and worthy role models. The denial also helped me keep on loving and admiring ALL the science d00ds around me, since I identified so strongly with them. (Note that a healthy relationship with other men as human beings does not involve worshiping them as d00ds, but does involve getting to know them as individuals and liking them or not as individuals.) I had my head ass-deep in the patriarchy, and was a real asshole to other women as a consequence. Men could rain shit on me 24/7 and I would still sing their praises. (See: The Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Engineers.) As Muriel Barbery writes in the The Elegance of the Hedgehog, "if there is one thing that poor people despise, it's other poor people".
So, to sum up: denying there are problems for women in science facilitates d00d-worship and belief in the self as an AlmostD00d, both of which stem from disparagement of women and loathing of the self for being a woman.
What can you do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science? Feel sorry for them. Teach the young.
And now I insert a small plea: let us put to rest the myth of vampiric senior female scientists feeding on the fresh blood of a junior woman's hopes and dreams. Let us close the book on the tall tale of the snarling wowolf who wounds us as no mere man ever would or could. You have been ill-treated by senior scientists; hurtful remarks have been flung in your direction by colleagues. When these things are done by women, and we ascribe the doing of them to their gender, we are engaging in misogyny. Yes, women deny that sexism exists; yes, women are subject to sexist bias in making hiring, evaluation, and promotion decisions. If a woman who is a scientist treats you poorly, it is either because she is having a bad day, is an asshole, or because she is in the thrall of the patriarchy that has taught her to despise women. It is not, however, because she is a woman.
Do not expect women to be your allies because they are women; do not depend on the love and support of all women to maintain your ego and belief in yourself; do not ascribe either the giving or withholding of sisterly support to the fact of womanhood rather than worldviews and belief systems. Sisterhood is powerful, but so, alas, is the patriarchy.