Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The boys' club

I guess that I've been relatively fortunate in my graduate school career not to have experienced any overt sexism in lab. I think that streak of relative good fortune has come to an end, as all good things must I suppose.

There is a new postdoc in the new lab in our department, whom I will call "D". For several weeks now, he's been popping into my lab looking for our new second year PhD student, whom I will call "P". At first I thought nothing of it. But as I eavesdropped on their conversation one day, I learned that D wasn't looking for any kind of specialized expertise or anything, just an odd reagent here or there.

There's nothing weird about that on the face of it. However, what did begin to strike me was the fact that if P or my boss, J, (both male) weren't around, he would just leave. He wouldn't bother to ask me whatever asinine question he had. I can assure you that, as a sixth year PhD student, I am fully qualified to answer the question of whether we have some spare taq polymerase in our -20 freezer.

So yesterday, D comes in looking for P (I really should've chosen different initials, but my second choices turned out to be just as suggestive), who had just gone to work out. D leaves. D comes back a short time later asking if J is around. Nope, he's not in. D leaves again. D comes back yet a third time. This time he finally asks little old me if we have any samples we'd like to have shipped off for microbiome sequencing because they had some extra space. Why, yes! I can dig something up by tomorrow, no problem!

WTF????? Why didn't he just fucking ask me the first time he came down??? It's not like P is the only member of our lab he knows. D and I have chatted and acknowledge each other when we pass in the hall. Even if P was the only person he knew, so what? I have never been known to bite anyone (not in public anyway) and I'm reasonably approachable - at least by science standards. I can't help but think that it's because I don't belong to the penis owner's club for manly man stuff.

I normally brush aside thoughts of discrimination against me, but this has been kind of gnawing at me for weeks. On the one hand, it's not a big deal, but on the other hand, it really IS a big deal!! Not only is sexism stupid and wrong, but I am my lab's oracle. If you want to know where something is, how something works, why didn't my experiment work, how do you make all this shit work, why is the fucking sky blue, WHATEVER - you come ask me. I am the keeper of the knowledge here. Even my boss defers questions to me because I know what I'm doing.

The only thing that makes me feel somewhat better is knowing that he wasted a bunch of time and trips up and down the hall by not consulting the oracle first.


  1. That's super-frustrating and seems like it happens everywhere. I'm glad you know that you're the oracle though, because you are!!!

    1. Awww - thanks, Mary! I'm not as oracular (Google says that is actually a word!!) as you are, but I'm working on it.