Teenage Angst

My 17 year old daughter is studying Archaelogy, Environmental science, Geology and history at A level and will apply soon to University. She is beautiful but very humble. She is also clearly spoken and minds her punctuation largely because of me nagging over the years. She is repeatedly beeped at by young male students driving past her as she walks to college. They think its a compliment its made her so embarrassed she gets very nervous each morning and if I can or her dad we will drive her there. She knows she will have to just grin and bear it but is that right? Today someone said she was posh and probably snobby as she had never had a boyfriend she must think she is better than everyone else! Luckily she is just about self confident enough to get on with life but she is nervous about university as she has heard the news lately about how sexist they are. When I posted something on facebook about people beeping their horns was making my daughter nervous. They said she should be happy when she is older she wont get the attention anymore. Do they not get it? She hasn’t asked for it and she doesn’t want it. She was lucky enough to born with looks that other people admire but she is just trying to study hard and make her way.

Story signed by : tezgwood1

The story happened to a friend of mine in the year 2014 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Mothers Are Apparently Not Scholars

After serving for two years on an important national committee, the Chair of the committee forgot my contributions at the committee’s annual meeting. Why? Well, as he told me privately after the meeting, he had become accustomed to thinking of me as a mother and not as an academic despite the facts that my work on the committee was exemplary and that I am an established scholar.

Story signed by : CHCF

The story happened to me as a Dr. Prof. in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Not 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

Maternity is not an option, even in gender studies

I work in gender studies, a highly feminised domain that question sexism most of the time and even there, pregnancy during Phd is not an option (no matter your age and how long last your research contract). I hesitated a long time to point it out here because I didn’t want to criticize a domain that already challenge university in so many ways about sexism. But now that many stories have shown that the refusal of maternity is rooted in the university, I can say that a lot of teachers and researchers in gender studies I work with transmit it.

Maternity and research are opposed. And you can see it the most clearly in the reactions of many professors and researchers about the rare women who go over it and are pregnant during the Phd. Many time, I assisted at conversation that said ” What a bad idea, what was she thinking?” as if having a baby was not a conscious decision but the result of a moment of madness (does it remind you the way medicine conceived the woman as irresponsible and overwhelmed by her body in the nineteenth? Me, yes.)

A baby is only considered as a danger for the Phd, diverting the researcher from its goal and life: science. When gender studies investigate every other professions or history, the incompatibility between work and maternity is denounced. But research is not the same. It is an apart world. Making science is a much bigger job. But can I say that the highly flattering and positive image of the researcher giving his/her life to research etc transcended by her/his job is not neutral? It is a gendered and dated representation of the researcher from the time when university, science and researchers was only male and the question of private life and, more, the question of pregnancy, was simply absent. Unfortunately, this image is active for a lot of people, even for researchers working on women’s rights everyday.

This climate is aggravated by the sexism in the university. I remember a meeting when my research group had to choose the theme of the next colloquium. By strategy (and I agreed with), we deliberately didn’t choose subject like maternity and things that could be considered as “woman stuff” to avoid being “ghettoized”. As feminist researchers facing all this years of glorification of maternity in history, maternity is a subject of “bons mots” that show our distance with essentialism (above all, be sure not to be taken as a maternalist), not a subject of colloquium (or only in a roundabout way). I’m not saying that feminist are against maternity. It is a cliché. I’m saying that all this things put together reduce to silence the question of maternity at work even if this question is not closed, especially at university.

Because of this illegitimate “not now” climate, I spent many years convincing me that I didn’t want to have kids, that I will see later. And it took me so long (with a lot of personal pain) to go over this climate when I realized that in fact, I want kids now. Now that I’m facing the eventuality of a foreign post-doc and its practical issues, I regret not having done it before (besides, the “not now” discourse has been extended). Because of this and for other reasons, I want to take a time to ask myself what I want: continue research or not. And how to do it.

But, even if I stop, it will not be the end of the story. At the coffee break during the colloquium (this one not about “woman stuff”), a female professor in gender studies talked about a woman who decided to not continue in the university after her Phd and at the same time had her first kid. “What a pity”, she said “she abandonned”, clearly disappointed about her lack of feminist tenacity in a men’s world and talking about her as she has made the choice to be a stay-at-home mum (while she began a job in her domain. Just not at university). At the time a rapport was published about woman in research, these persons are the first to ask authorities about what they are doing to keep women in university, and I sincerely think it is wonderful. But I want to ask :

What are YOU doing to keep women in university ? Perhaps considering pregnancy as an eventuality (university has dispositions for that, I checked, finally) in place of a dangerous incongruity of a woman usually quite intellectual who has temporarily lost her mind could be a logical way to interact with all those women around thirty (and over) and a good way to start.

Story signed by : S.D.

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Brussels

Miss Jekyll & Dr Hide

J’ai récemment reçu un courrier en rapport avec la publication de ma thèse. Un simple accusé de réception, par courrier électronique, écrit par la secrétaire de l’éditeur. La seule chose que ma correspondante sait de moi, c’est que je suis une femme et que je viens de terminer ma thèse.
Du coup, son courrier commence par… “Chère Mademoiselle”.

Selon le dictionnaire, “Mademoiselle” est l’appellation employée pour désigner “une jeune fille ou une femme (présumée) non-mariée”. Donc, dans l’esprit de ma correspondante, une femme qui a fait une thèse est forcément jeune ou, à l’inverse, une vieille fille dans ses bouquins.Je ne suis ni l’une, ni l’autre. J’ai 38 ans, un homme et des enfants, ça va bien merci.

Est-il tellement inconcevable qu’une femme mariée ou plus âgée puisse faire des études ? Le doctorat serait-il inconciliable avec la vie conjugale (et je ne vous parle pas de la maternité) ? Lui viendrait-il seulement à l’idée d’écrire “Cher jeune homme” si j’étais un homme ? Ça n’a l’air de rien, mais le mot “mademoiselle” est tout bêtement condescendant, réducteur et archaïque.

Il est doublement aberrant qu’une femme puisse encore être caractérisée par sa situation matrimoniale et que celle-ci soit considérée comme incompatible avec une thèse.

Story signed by : Ms Jekyll & Dr Hide

The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Wallonia

Why can’t a non-white male research feminist philosophy?

I am a non-white male philosophy graduate student working on feminism. I thoroughly enjoy my studies and find feminism important and existentially relevant on many levels. However, thus far I’ve found my work with feminism to be a difficult and alienating experience where male peers either dismiss my personal interests and philosophical work or neglect my personhood altogether. In this way I’m beginning to learn what it’s like for women to feel dismissed within philosophy, something that I’ve realized that I’ve been guilty of myself in the past. As a male working on feminism, I’ve become more and more aware of how philosophical discourse is utterly co-opted by male heteronormative culture.

I have women friends who hesitate to speak up in class because they don’t want to be “talked down to” by their male peers. Personally, I am still unsure of how to voice a feminist position as a male. While I feel compelled to speak up during class discussions on behalf of feminist thought, at the same time I feel uneasy about perhaps taking opportunities away from women to speak up for themselves. Especially when so many professors are prone to preface certain lectures by saying that sex has nothing to do with the content they’re about to speak on. But of course, as we know, everything is sexed.

Feeling my way through all of this has been a challenging yet beneficial experience. I just wanted to share this small snapshot of my experience of working on feminist philosophy within a dominant masculine culture.

Story signed by: queering masculinity

The story happened to me as in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Flanders

Write your own text? No no, women can’t do that, if you want, you can correct mine!

In the master thesis writing course, I was confronted by our professor’s strong preference for male students. As a group of 4 students (2M/2F) both girls have noticed that it doesn’t matter how ridiculous the proposals of the boys are, they are always applauded by the professor, while the proposals of the girls hardly get any attention. When we ask a question or express our ideas, we don’t even get a blink of interest. As well as the 2 male students as the professor try to force the ‘silly’ tasks upon us such as writing emails, maintaining the social relations with other partners, correcting their texts (we should not write texts ourselves since we are of course uncapable of doing so), and all the other ‘dirty jobs’ you can imagine … It was already in their roots, but I believe it has been encouraged by the behavious of the professor. This whole situation is extremely discouraging for the thesis, for continuing an academic education as a woman and in general for really stepping into the architectural world.

Story signed by: Fee

The story happened to me as a Master student in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Flanders

Een aberratie?

Ik heb een paar mannelijke collega’s die mij steevast Delphine’tjeh’ noemen (vettige knipoog inbegrepen) maar ook een paar vrouwelijke collega’s met kinderen die het vanzelfspreken vinden om wegens ‘de kindjes’ steevast te kunnen passen voor ‘onregelmatige’ uren (na 17u, ‘s morgens voor 9u30, zaterdagvoormiddag, etc.). Dit kan dan meestal op heel veel begrip rekenen bij de mannen, althans waar ik werk.
Ik ben die “standaard” hardgrondig beu, temeer omdat vrouwelijke kinderloze academici en mannelijke academici met kinderen (die gedeelde verantwoordelijkheid over deze kinderen willen dragen) volgens deze regeling blijkbaar een abberatie zijn.

Story signed by: Delphine’tjeh’

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Flanders

“The Invisibility Cloak in Meetings”

I went to a meeting. A question was asked to which I knew the answer and so I answered: “yes that is the case, they will start with that soon”, waiting for people to ask me for specifics.The chairman (male) of the meeting ignored my comment and said that he supposed the answer was yes, as that was to be expected as they promised to start soon.

My answer was ignored completely. I sighed, exchanged looks with the only other woman in the room, and than repeated my answer. The only reason people didn’t ignore me the second time was because she asked me a follow up question. I wish this was the first time that this happened. It wasn’t, not the second neither.

Story signed by: V.

This story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014, around an academic institution in Flanders.

“Females Invisible To Faculty”

The incident began when a very senior member of my faculty interrupted a conversation I was having with several senior members of the administration and he completely ignored me and didn’t shake my hand and then explained he was late because he was doing ‘real work’ (clearly implying that I was doing something else). Then a few minutes later, in conversation with the vice-rector for diversity, another professor (one who publicly groped a female friend of mine my first year in belgium at the x-mas party) made the comment that for a faculty with so few female professors, we were well represented at this particular presentation on gender at the university. I thought yes that’s true there are three of us here. What he said was “we should be proud that two of us are here'”, clearly forgetting I was in the faculty. I have never felt more invisible and less at home in the faculty.

Story signed by: Frustrated By Being Excluded

This story happened to me as a Post Doc in the year 2014, around an academic institution in Flanders