Thanks so much for the tag, CAE and nunatak! I'll make my nominations soon. But now for something completely different...
I once reviewed a self-help book about how to be taken seriously as an intellectual woman. Along with some advice along the lines of “read books” and “think about stuff”, its author suggested avoiding feminine topics of conversation like pets and recipes, giving up make-up, cutting long hair, and dropping the tone of your voice by half an octave.
Later, I met a laryngologist who said that many of her patients are successful women in male-dominated professions who’ve damaged their vocal folds by forcing a Thatcher growl out of a naturally soprano throat. The laryngologist suggested that women with high-pitched voices who want to sound authoritative should instead practise for fifteen minutes a day until
I was reminded of these things when I read a post by Zuska
about the advantages of double-blind peer review. Just like, when auditioning for an orchestra, a woman violinist will be perceived as playing more competently if she’s behind a curtain
, journals which conceal the identity of authors as well as reviewers tend to publish more papers by women
. Hence some advice which I’ve heard from a few different places: don’t use your first name if it identifies you as female. Use something unisex like Pat or Sam if you can, but otherwise stick to initials.
Now, I don’t for a second blame an individual scientist for being Chris rather than Christina on her manuscript, because she’s got her ambitions and should pursue them as she sees best. And look at me, blogging about pets and recipes under a pseudonym, but sitting quietly through conversations about football at conferences*. Still, I’m uneasy with all of this kind of advice, because it’s the kind that helps an individual at the expense of the group.
If a few of us go by our initials, we benefit from sexism rather than doing anything to stop it. If all of us do it, it stops benefiting anyone. Initials will soon be interpreted as female names, and if we all sound or dress less girlie we narrow the range of what’s acceptable, and before we know it we’re wearing false moustaches and the world’s no fairer. Something other than us needs to change here, as of course Zuska knows well and explains frequently.
*Actually, we had a coffee-room chat about cooking the other day, because a male postdoc brought some homemade cakes in. See, that’s the kind of thing that makes the world fairer. Men! Bake for equality! Or just for cakes, they’re good too.
Labels: Blaming, Boffinry, Cakes And Ale, Self-Absorption, Things I Like