Friday, May 28, 2010

HBHM (5 of 5): I wish I had Zuska's balls

I have learned a lot from the community of bloggers whom I interact with, but what has been the most important education for me, bar none, has come from the feminist posts of women bloggers reminding me how privlidged I have it. I should say that I have always considered myself supportive of diversity in science and have gone out of my way to find ways to foster it whenever I have had the opportunity. But in my effort to do what I thought was important for helping underrepresented groups in science, I was missing something right in front of me.

Being a white guy is pretty easy, especially in science. Pretty much everything is geared for our success, since the people making the rules for so long were other white dudes. When I have mentioned this to people IRL, about 50% of the time the person responds with something like, "but what about all the special programs for women and minorities? Where are the special programs for white doods?" Almost everyone will be familiar with this response, as it is one of several Standard Stock Responses to Diversity Issues and it is easy to get tired of saying "you mean the rest of science?".

In my mind, supporting diversity programs and recruiting initiatives was one of the more effective ways to bring others into the fold. But what was staring me in the face, even though I was looking straight through it, was that my inability to put myself in the shoes of the people I was trying to recruit made success far more difficult than I appreciated. Assuming that others have similar motivations, constraints and goals as I did as a trainee is a lazy and ill-conceived way to approach recruiting anyone, but particularly people from backgrounds very different from my own. It seems very simple when I write it out, but success in broadening diversity in science is far more dependent on changing the way we do things than on changing others to fit the way things are done. It took me a while to get that, but this change in mindset has had a major impact on how I see and think about my field of science, where I would like to see it head in the next 5, 10, 20 years and what I can do to push things in that direction.

So, where does Zuska come into all this? Because her blog has been a really important resource in my continued effort stop thinking like a white dude.

I will reluctantly admit that when I first came across Zuska's blog it didn't grab me. For a while I would go check it out now and again to see what she was ranting about but I didn't think about the posts or how they applied to me. Yes, I can admit to being an idiot, it happens. But then a series of posts (the exact topic, unfortunately, is escaping me) between a few different bloggers (including Isis and DrugMonkey) brought me back to Zuska ready to think about what she writes.

I have been reading Zuska's blog for a number of months just trying to get my appreciation of the feminist viewpoint up to speed and I am amazed by Zuska's strength. Blogging for me has almost always been a fun experience with positive interactions and I'm not sure if I would continue with it if I had to put up with the trolls and asshats she deals with constantly. The comments alone on a post like this epic thread make me not only weep for my gender, but might just make me walk away from blogging in frustration. But despite all of it Zuska carries on, and like my ironically tongue-in-cheek title suggests, I think that takes a lot of courage.

I for one am thankful she does and would like to take this opportunity to say so. Thanks for bringing numerous important issues up and providing insightful posts about them; for being the person who lets others know it is not just them; for delivering your message in the face attacking stupidity and ignorance; and for allowing someone like me to learn in the wings and make important realizations while thinking about your writing.

Stay angry Zuska and thanks for having a huge set of ovaries.

11 comments:

  1. You're awesome!

    This: "success in broadening diversity in science is far more dependent on changing the way we do things than on changing others to fit the way things are done." makes me so happy. Yay Zuska (and myriad other women-in-science bloogers) and Yay you!

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  2. was that my inability to put myself in the shoes of the people I was trying to recruit made success far more difficult than I appreciated. Assuming that others have similar motivations, constraints and goals as I did as a trainee is a lazy and ill-conceived way to approach recruiting anyone, but particularly people from backgrounds very different from my own.

    Tru dat.

    I think women too (myself for sure) don't necessarily know how to reach out to other women or underrepresented groups. Coincidentally, this last night's post is exactly about the difficulty of understanding what matters to other scientists even of your own gender and background (there are some wonderfully illuminating comments).

    Thanks, PLS, for crossing over to the dark, oops, I mean feminst side, and thanks Darth Zuska! :)

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  3. Agreed, the blogging helps to understand different viewpoints a tiny bit better. That is a good thing and very valuable even if hard to quantify. Zuska and Janet and many other blogs outside of my normal professional domains are my continuing Liberal Arts education...and for free! How cool.

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  4. PLS you were are awesome. I remember in particular one issue you had with an undergrad from an non-traditional background. I remember how you actually listened to what I said, thought about it and tried to improve. I hope science becomes more filled with people like you.

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  5. I hope you have your bucket o' puke handy for the "Where are the special programs for white doods" inquiring minds.

    Thanks for being open Prof-like. And I heart Zuska for ranting straight to the core of the issue far better than I ever could. Her honing skillz are second to none.
    jc

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  6. yet again a great post I can relate to. I like Drugmonkey's "free LA education" comment. It really is!

    I hope I am able to do non-white-d00d things when issues arrive. It's not till you read and read and read and finally *think* you realise how deeply ingrained certain 'knee-jerk' reactions are from our demographic.

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  7. But what was staring me in the face, even though I was looking straight through it, was that my inability to put myself in the shoes of the people I was trying to recruit made success far more difficult than I appreciated.

    Understanding how the experiences of others might be different and more difficult than your own, regardless of gender or race, is a huge step in correcting a lot of the imbalance in STEM. Thanks PLS!!

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  8. What a motherfucking sweetheart! Was it when we were arguing about boobies that you found her? For a good time, ask our favorite foul-mouthed blogger how many bad words I yelled about Zuska the time we fought about boobies.

    But, that's the thing about Zuska. She has an uncanny ability to make you think and re-examine yourself. She is frequently my feminist barometer and never ceases to amaze me with her ability to call me on my bullshit.

    I adore her so.

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  9. Plus also, Isis, she is knockdown hilarious in person.

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  10. PLS> It's been a great thing to be able to read all you TT people's thoughts and questions, as well as the post docs and other academia's blogs.

    It might not always be fun to feel annoyed but it's good to get upset at times and sort out why and how it came to be. And to read blogs from a whole other perspective can be mind boggling for sure.

    I really like your posts here and hope your grants get funded so you can continuing being an awesome TT person as an inspiration for others.

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