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A peeve

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Mon Jul 29 15:46:40 EST 1996

In article <31FD0819.45EB at unity.ncsu.edu>,
Susan Jane Hogarth  <sjhogart at unity.ncsu.edu> wrote:
>S L Forsburg wrote:
>> Why is it that any gathering of men turns into a competition? 
>> The structure of science works under this  model and we either
>> have to behave like men (not an option, IMHO) or get sufficient
>> numbers into the structure to change it from within.  But with so
>> many women saying, screw this, I don't want to play, unfortunately
>> this is going way too slowly.
>So it's "us" against "them"? 

Let me start out by saying that I don't think it's "us" (women) against
"them" (men).  I think this does a grave disservice to many of the
male scientists out there who support women's careers, and to those who
understand that certain kinds of competition are more constructive
than destructive.  I'm only speaking from personal experience here, I
haven't seen any surveys, but I know men like this, and I know they

However, your comment brought up a couple of thoughts.  First, I was
recently at a conference with my boyfriend (a physicist).  He was having
lunch with me and a few other junior woman biologists (grad students and
postdocs).  After the lunch had broken up and my boyfriend and I were
walking towards the car, he said (paraphrased) "I was noticing how a 
group of women just wasn't as into one-upmanship as a group of men would
have been in that situation."  

I said, "well, we were just having lunch, and also none of us is a big 
shot.  We're all grad students and postdocs."
And he said (again paraphrased) "well, among my male colleagues,
those things wouldn't matter.  Everyone would still be trying to determine
what everyone else knew and where he fit into the pecking order."  He
made it clear that he'd enjoyed the lunch where this one-upmanship hadn't
gone on much more than he would have enjoyed a lunch where it had.

What I get from this is:  1.  there are men who notice this kind of thing
as well;  2. there are men who feel uncomfortable with it.  I wonder if
they might feel even more isolated than women do, because they're men, so
they're "supposed" to take to this hypercompetitive crap.

So I think we would be doing ourselves and some (unknown to me but
significant) number of men a disservice by assuming it's an exclusively
male thing, or that all men are into one-upmanship and competing with
everyone else.

But my second thought is, okay, so "men" aren't to blame.  That still
doesn't make the problem of hypercompetitiveness, (and by this I mean
personal competitiveness, even in social situations,
to the detriment of collegiality and civility), go away, and it's one of
my peeves, too.


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