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View Diary: Women-only Space: who belongs? (182 comments)

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  •  Let me try to give you an example. (3+ / 0-)
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    Spit, plf515, jessical

    I'll tie it to my own experience that I mentioned, but in fact it isn't too hard to generalize to other cases.  Just as white people are very often unaware of 'white privilege', so guys are often unaware of how assumptions of power tend in many contexts to favor them.  So when they act on these assumptions what is done impacts me in a way they probably can't see.  But the impact is negative; maybe similarly, for people of color the impact of white unconscious assumptions of power is negative.

    But here's my understanding of the experience I recounted.  Just to give you a vivid picture, I'll paint with a broad brush in crude colors:  The sciences, and especially the physical sciences and engineering, are very male dominated, particularly in positions of power.  This also goes for some social sciences.  The national average for full professorship of women in the physical sciences is 4%.  This means that a culture is created of which its participants are largely unaware; they are also totally unaware, by and large, that the culture is optional.  Along with the culture is the sense, derived from all their experience, that it's damn odd to have a woman lead a meeting, and in any case, they fundamentally doubt that women are up to it.  After all, they see women around them fail time and again; what's hard to get here?  It can't be that they create an environment so hostile, women can't succeed in it.  And fundamentally they find men more interesting on any intellectually demanding discussions.  How could they not?  (Virginia Valian has a great book - Why So Slow - that discusses how our experience sets us expectations.  She's at Hunter.)

    So what happens to poor ol' me in such a group?  Well, for starters, nothing I say has any initial plausibility, and they'd dearly love to have one of them running things.  So I'm going to walk right into a power struggle.  It might be overt or it might be more subtle.  E.g., they might try to set some traps so I can overtly discredit myself.  Believe me, they are sure I can be trapped, and when that turns out other than expected, some of them will not be happy.

    What are my expectations if one of them who discovers that women are equal after all, looks at some issues of MS, and decides to go to a meeting to help the feminisits out?  O dear!  It might be that he'd be happy to sit and listen and learn.  But I wouldn't count on it.  

    More to the point:  what would be my expectations if someone brings such a person to a meeting?  Trouble ahead.  

    Now in fact my husband is a scientist (one of the physical sciences) and my closest and dearest colleagues are male scientists and engineers, so I'm certainly not saying everyone is like this.  This is broad and crudely done.  But I hope it is vivid!

    "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

    by JPete on Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 09:34:58 AM PDT

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    •  Just wanted to repeat this (4+ / 0-)
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      JPete, rserven, plf515, jessical

      This means that a culture is created of which its participants are largely unaware; they are also totally unaware, by and large, that the culture is optional.

      because it's a really great, simple way to explain a lot of social dynamics, IMO.

      My experience in the sciences is very similar, though I'm still just a student. The system is set up to be hostile for women (and queers, and trannies, and and and) by a set of people who often don't recognize that that's what they're doing. Then, when women bail on the whole thing, that's taken as evidence of women's failings, something that supports the hostility.

      It's a really hard cycle to break.

    •  Well, it *can* go the other way (3+ / 0-)
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      JPete, rserven, jessical

      as I found out when I worked in a preschool.

      And as I find out (even on the ultra-liberal upper west side) when I take my kid to the playground.  Around here, on a weekday afternoon, it's about 45% nannies, 45% mommies, and 10% daddies.  The nannies mix with no one, but, from my observation, the daddies are more eager to mix with the mommies than vice versa - some of this may be due to single-status and seeking (or avoiding) relationships that are more than social, but not all of it.

      This gives me an interesting perspective (even if only a shadow of one) on what it must be like, vice versa.

      OTOH, there are always exceptions.  My dad is a lawyer, he's the senior partner at a big firm.  His firm was the first of the big ones to make a woman a partner.  He was interviewed about this, and said:

      "What the hell do I care if she's a woman? She's a great lawyer!"

      I mean DUH! but he was asked.

      Now up: Republican motto Friday: WAYR? History, politics

      by plf515 on Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 01:57:08 PM PDT

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      •  The mommies and daddies thing is really (3+ / 0-)
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        rserven, plf515, jessical

        interesting.  Why don't the mommies want to mix with daddies, do you think?  Strange daddies are boring?  If it were during the week, I'd wonder if the mommies socially outranked the daddies, and so I'd wonder if it was a reverse power thing.

        And there are great guys who actually work to get women hired.  I wish there were more.  My husband has gotten two women hired by the science college (that's a big proportion), but everyone assumes that's because I've pressured him.  Ha, ha.  Hiring women is a joke, after all.

        Have you asked your father how it worked out?  Sometimes the first woman has a really, really big burden, not the least of which is that she has no women buddies among the lawyers.  

        At one university I was at, after a seminar the guys all went off to the bathroom together.  They'd stand around and chat and so the one or two women were really completely closed off from the discussion.  Then either you waited in the hall for them - which was uncomfortable - or they went off to get food, coffee, beer whatever afterwards to continue their conversation.  At another (very tony) place I was at, after dinner, the women went off for coffee and the guys stayed and talked over port and cigars.  (Truly; it was a tradition in a very traditional place.)  So here again the occasional woman prof was cut off from the friendly intimacy the guys had then.

        Of course, one could object, but it can be VERY foolish for the first woman to question any of the traditions.

        "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

        by JPete on Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 03:15:39 PM PDT

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        •  IIRC, the first woman hired (2+ / 0-)
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          JPete, rserven

          is now one of the stars of the firm.  

          When I was getting my MA in early elementary/special ed., I was one of very few men.  But I am so clueless on these things that the women could have been meeting all over the place, and I'd have no knowledge of it at all.  

          Now up: Republican motto Friday: WAYR? History, politics

          by plf515 on Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 06:17:40 PM PDT

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          •  When I was in grad school... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JPete, plf515

            ...in mathematics, my professors stressed that the students needed to work together, that nobody learns in a vacuum.

            I was a loner.  I rarely worked with anyone else.  I guess I was in that vacuum.  There were few women grad students and they complained of having nobody to work with.  I guess it was my choice in the matter.  They had no choice.

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