Casual sexism at Oxbridge

I’m in my thirties with a PhD and several years’ professional experience. During a meeting with all male colleagues, I was referred to by a senior professor as “a clever girl.”
I felt too humiliated to retort, and besides I don’t think he even perceived it as insulting so I would’ve felt awkward “making a fuss.” It’s played on my mind ever since though.

Story signed by : Doc Brown

The story happened to me as a Post Doc in the year 2013

Ignoring female professors

At a beginning of the year reception, our chair was introducing all of us to the new dean. We were all standing around loosely in a circle. We have several couples in our department, and when the chair got to the first couple, he said ‘This is Professor X, who works on Y, and his wife, Z.’ He did the same thing when he got to the next couple. In other words, two female professors were introduced only as the spouses of other professors–their titles and fields were not mentioned. A third female professor was skipped over altogether.

Story signed by : Hecate

The story happened to me as a Dr. Prof. in the year 2013 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Burnt-out Feminist

As the only female in my department, I am often the only member of staff to notice certain obvious problems regarding scheduling (after-school/evenings), female doctoral students too afraid to talk to their supervisors (but comfortable sharing concerns with me), exclusion of women from lectures and other events hosted by our faculty etc. After so many years of expressing these concerns, I had hoped others might begin to notice – especially since they are not being required by external bodies (university regulations, funding bodies etc). Sadly this is not the case and I am burnt-out. I want to be able to talk about my research, my projects, etc and not about problems that we should all be combatting together? Any other burnt-out feminists experiencing a similar reality?

Signed: Burnt-out Feminist

The story happened to me at an academic institution in Belgium

Stop Asking Questions We Can’t Answer Honestly

I’ve had enough of being asked questions I either can’t answer honestly or don’t feel comfortable even being asked. Yes I realize I can answer honestly but not without it affecting the power dynamics that are already suffocating or without being defined as a ‘difficult person’.

Why do so many of my colleagues, basking in white male priviledge, think its acceptable to make sexist or racist jokes with me – as if they were so beyond reproach (which they are certainly not). After such terrible inappropriate jokes and moments they ask: “that was ok right? – you know I was just kidding”. What am I suppose to say? These jokes are often very disrespectful and make me terribly uncomfortable but since you are my superior I can’t really say anything without repercussions.

Why do you always ask me – in public which makes it harder to say no – to take notes at a meeting or to get coffee or to organize the next social events? I don’t want to do these things and yet I always do, has nobody noticed this odd pattern? Why doesn’t anyone else speak up for me. As the minority – most junior, female and foreign … I need someone else to challenge this pattern.

The worst though is when I am approached with the following “everyone else agrees with X, hopefully you don’t have a problem with it.” Why even bother ask if you frame something this way especially since you know I have children and X is not compatible with children.

Story signed by: Forced to Fib

The story happened to me in the year(s) 2012-2014 at an academic institution in Flanders

Professor in Hypocrisy and Arrogance

The professor I would like to call a master in hypocrisy and arrogance, is respected everywhere except on his own workfloor. Spit out by his colleagues, male and female, but especially by the female. His improper behavior more than once had sexual connotations, going from calling women ‘pussy cats’ to real sexual intimidation and assault. He’s getting promotion soon.

Story signed by: Anna

My language preference : English

The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2013 at an academic institution in Flanders

Verbrannte Erde…

Mehrere meiner Kolleginnen wurden von Professoren mit klaren sexuellen Absichten angesprochen; in mindestens einem Fall war der Prof verheiratet. Natürlich waren diese Kolleginnen selbst diejenigen, die am meisten darunter zu leiden hatten. Aber auch alle anderen Frauen, die davon etwas mitbekamen, brachte es in eine schwierige Situation. Es zeigte, dass diese Professoren jüngere Wissenschaftlerinnen als Freiwild betrachteten. Mit diesem Wissen im Hinterkopf mit ihnen zusammen(zu)arbeiten (zu müssen), und dazu noch zu wissen, dass mindestens einige andere Fakultätsmitglieder dies auch wissen, aber nichts tun, ist ziemlich unangenehm. Es gibt zwei Fakultäten, an denen ich mich quasi nicht bewerben kann, weil ich mit Leuten zusammenarbeiten müsste, von denen ich weiß, dass sie jüngere Frauen extrem schlecht behandelt haben. Diese Institutionen sind nicht nur für die Opfer selbst, sondern auch für deren Freundinnen und Kolleginnen, die es mitbekommen haben, verbrannte Erde…

Story signed by : feeling with the victims…

The story happened to a friend of mine as a PhD student in the year 2013

“Academic or Slut?”

In the first month of my post as a newly appointed lecturer, the Director of Research invited me to lunch to discuss new projects, then, half way through, he lent over, touched my leg and asked me if I was a slut.

Story signed by : Frances

This story happened to me as a Prof. Dr. in the year 2013, around an academic institution [Not in Belgium]

“How Are Your Children?”

At the new year’s reception of the faculty, I am telling two female colleagues about repeated personal attacks in public and through the grapevine by a male colleague. All of a sudden one of them asks, out of the blue: “And how are your children?”. Upon which I say: “Fine”.

What to think? Let’s not talk about aggressive behavior by men, too disturbing. Or worse, that behavior is ‘normal’, you’re stressed out because you have care responsibilities…

Story signed by : Bittersweet

This story happened to me as a Prof. Dr. in the year 2013, around an academic institution in Flanders

“Academic Life and Family”

I work in a research group of seven people as the only woman. The leader of the group, my boss, frequently starts our meetings by expressing his surprise that I, a mother, manage to be present and by asking who is taking care of my children while I am away. None of the male colleagues who have families gets similar attention. Their family life is not a topic of our research meetings. This well known professor has set a terrible example for his junior colleagues, because when he is away someone else from the group will pose me “the family question” thinking it is a friendly way to acknowledge my presence.

Story signed by: Anna K.

This story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2013, around an academic institution in Flanders.