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A peeve

S L Forsburg forsburg at SALK.EDU
Tue Jul 30 13:46:26 EST 1996

Karen Allendoerfer wrote:
> 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.

I guess the question is, do they "play the game" when they are in
a group that acts this way?

> 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.

I didnt mean to suggest it WAS, although I think it is predominantly men
*of a certain type* who behave this way, they often have a lot of
power and influence,  and women tend not to (behave, or have 
power...:-). If people who behave that way have the power then 
they tend to  favor those who behave in the same way to
rise through the ranks.  I call them "The Boys".  They frankly don't
seem to understand that you can behave in OTHER ways, and behaving
in OTHER ways does not make one less of a scientist, unintelligent,
or even non-competitive.   I do believe that younger men are less 
likely to behave this way although these
days I seem to be surrounded by The Boys of all ages....
> 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.

Thanks for seconding my opinion!  You stated it rather more elegantly 
and precisely than I.  I find this excessive hierarchical behavior 
tiresome and tiring;  the higher I go the worse it gets, and comments
and strategies to deal with it are welcome.  

For those readers on the younger side (students and postdocs), I do think
it's improving all the time, and you may not have to deal with it
so much, but it's still fairly isolating to be a woman faculty member.  


Susan L Forsburg PhD
MBVL, The Salk Institute
forsburg at salk.edu


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