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men, women, the politics of baking

Linnea Ista lkista at UNM.EDU
Wed Dec 18 19:30:15 EST 1996

Hi all!

For the sake of brevity, I have not copied neither Sarah nor Alice's 
excellent remarks on this subject. 

This could not have come up at a better time for me. Let me start out by 
saying I am not a post-doc, I am the lab supervisor in an otherwise 
all-male lab. This puts me in a strange position. I am considered by the 
PI as one of the senior persons. I manage my own project and keep the lab 
running smoothly. But every new guy in the lab assumes that I am there 
for their convenience: ordering, picking up packages, and *yes* cleaning 
up after them. 

This all came to a head last week when the P.I came in and mentioned that 
the lab was messy, apart from my area and the common areas. I replied 
that the mess on people's benches was their own problem, that I would 
speak to them but that I was not under any circumstances going to pick up 
after the boys. He took this all in and said "you are right, you 
shouldn't have to do that".

One of the postdocs came in later and I related the converstation. He 
said "You are part of the creative team. You have better things to worry 
about than picking up after us. I think most people just assume that 
women are naturally neater then men and that you will therefore just pick 
up after them! This is not a good assumption!"

Re the baking. When I was a grad student I did all that stuff. The other 
thing I noticed is that it was more expensive to bring my world famous 
artichoke heart dip instead of picking up some french onion in the dairy 
section. The biggest problem I had when I decided to stop baking is the 
crap I got from the secretarial staff about not doing my fair share. I 
also vividly remember the day after a potluck when the deparmental 
secretary was cleaning up and complaining because two female lab 
techs had left without helping. The male post-doc from our lab pitched in 
and she said "I'm sure you have more important things to do, Linnea and I 
can finish". To his credit the post-doc pointed out that if he was too 
busy too help, I certainly was and wasn't it just a little sexist to 
assume I had nothing better to do. 

I agree that the whole wanting to please everyone is very hard to break 
out of. It even affected me when I was teaching! I think many people, 
particularly students expect, you to be "nicer" if you are a woman than a 
man. Anyone else notice this? I finally came to the conclusion that I 
could either be sane or try to be pleasing. I like sanity better. And 
guess what? I found most people liked me anyhow. The ones who didn't 
wouldn't no matter how much I tried.  

And here I was going to be brief!!

Take care!

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