Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn

Wow–Someguy really gets around.  Check out this post at Female Science Professor–it’s like the live-action version of the folie-a-deux e-mail exchange with the male student who thought he was entitled to treat me like teh Google (h/t Erica):

I was sitting at my desk, and my office door was open, as it almost always is when I am in my office. A young man walked into my office and started talking to me, without any introduction. My first thought was that perhaps I am losing my mind faster than I think I might be — perhaps I have met this person and just don’t remember? Perhaps I am supposed to know this person? But no, it became apparent during the conversation that we have not met before.

Random Young Man (RYM): An International Scientist [names person I have never heard of] will be visiting in July for a few days and would like to start a collaboration with Scientists here. Are you interested in working with him?

FSP: That’s hard to say without more information. What is his specific field of research?

RYM: I’m not exactly sure (ed. note:  you’re not sure?  And yet you’re serving as his emissary?), but he has done some work on X [names research field that is not even remotely related to my research].

FSP: In that case, no, but there is another department at the university that does research in that field.  (ed. note:  Duh!  Were you just trolling for open doors, dude?)  Perhaps you can find someone there who would be interested in meeting this scientist.

RYM: So you’re not interested in working with International Scientist? He is coming a long way and he really wants to collaborate with scientists here.  (ed. note:  Well then, he should have done a little advance work, shouldn’t he?  Let me guess:  he’s the kind who relies on secretaries and grad students to do this for him, isn’t he?  Does he work in a cave, or does he have e-mail access and Google?  Even non-specialists could use these primitive tools to ensure that he has people here ready to greet him.  How is this FSP’s problem, or even your problem?)

FSP: No, I am not interested in working with him. From your description, there is no overlap whatsoever in our research interests.

RYM: So you never work on anything outside your narrow field of research?  (Ed. note:  yeah, pal:  ever heard of tenure?  Do you think they give that to people who teach only “Intro to Earth Science?”)

FSP: No, never.

What a tool.  As for me, I’m highly doubtful that a really big-shot International Scientist would have to rely on Chuckles here to drum up an audience and group of “collaborators” for his super-fabulous and extremely important visit to your campus.  (And I’ve been contacted by a highly placed former official in the Nigerian government who told me he’s got millions of dollars he wants to share with you, if only you can lend him a sum of money to hold in escrow while he waits for the money to be deposited into his account.) 

As Female Science Prof. says, “Apparently [all I] do [is] sit at my desk just waiting for random people to stop by and ask me to do random things, and then insult me when I refuse. ”  Well, yeah–who do you think you are, baby?  You oughta smile more too–what a shame you don’t, with such a pretty face.  Don’t you broads have any sense of humor?

0 thoughts on “Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn

  1. I had a strikingly similar thing happen to me 2 years ago. Instead of dragging it out, I simply took the flier from the male student and said “I’ll announce [important scholar] is coming at our next faculty meeting. I’m sure someone will get back to you.” He left happy and I found out from another colleague that he was an anti-feminist creationist who gave talks on campuses about how women’s empowerment was dooming the world under titles that sounded feminist to draw in the controversy. When the student came back a week or so later and asked if I was interested again, I said “I’ve announced the information and if someone is interested they will get back to you. Next time, go to the main office with your questions as they are more able to point you in the right direction than ‘random prof with door open.'” He was so shocked that he hadn’t gotten a rise out of me, he simply thanked me and went away.

    It’s galling behavior, but at least at Pov U, it is also sadly typical.


  2. How about male faculty members who (a) know nothing about feminist scholarship, and (b) are working on something that would profit from feminist scholarship? I’ve been asked tp provide, free of charge, a crash course in the feminist work that said male faculty members deems relevant – feminist work that took me years to read and assimilate. Too many male faculty members still think that women faculty are there to make their lives easier.


  3. Pingback: Cautionary Tale for Women in Academia - Random Stranger Edition | The Global Sociology Blog

  4. Prof bw–well, I suppose he’s right that feminists are dooming the world of antifeminist creationists…

    It sounds like we just need to shut our office doors and stop answering e-mail. Since male students don’t seem inclined to respect the boundaries we set–in FSP’s case, the boundaries of her research, and in my case, the boundaries around e-mail correspondence. We should take advantage of the physical boundaries at our disposal and shut our doors! (My deparmental colleagues, male and female alike, tend to leave their doors open when they’re in their offices, so there will be lots of other open doors for Chuckles and Someguy to stumble into.) And, yeah, Erica: I’m highly doubtful that International Scientist can find his ass with two hands and a roadmap if all he has is Chuckles doing his advance work.


  5. Poe, I’ve never had the experience you relate, although I will bet you’re not the only one! 😉

    This may be related not just to the notion that women faculty are mere Adam’s Ribs, but also to the notion that feminist scholarship is facile or intellectually lazy, so it won’t take that long for them to learn it (with your generous assistance, natch!)

    Take two of Judith Butler’s titles and call me when you’ve read them, pal.


  6. Head. Desk. Ouch.

    I’m sitting here on the floor in an office so covered with clutter that the floor is the only available workspace. I’m thinking of cleaning it up…but then again it does provide a disincentive for random people to come in and sit down.

    A female colleague in my department told me of a student who came into her office, started talking about random things, and finally confessed that no, he had no reason to be there, he was just bored. ‘Cause, as we know, female professors have nothing better to do than entertain you when you’re bored. Sigh.


  7. I can attest that males male science professors get these loons as well. I’ve never encountered one this rude, but I’ve had numerous (always male) idiots come to my office, trying to find somebody interested in their (or their hero’s) pet research. And once, I had an aspiring writer (or was is actor?–I can’t remember) demand that I explain what physics a character he was writing about (or maybe portraying) ought to know.

    I personally find that I have a hard time getting rid of these people as quickly as I’d like. The biggest reason is that I hate letting people walk away from a conversation with me with a misconception still in their head–even when I know that I’m probably wasting my breath trying to disabuse them of their idiotic notions.


  8. Poe, I can’t figure out if being aksed by asshats for the crash course on your life’s work is better or worse than having no one in the universe give a flying flip at a rolling donut about your life’s work. I suppose I’m pleased to have my head to myself.

    What I do know is that I’d rather be taken for someone with a possible relation to scholarship than a source of last-minute staples, which is what I get three or four times a week (like when I’m in the middle of reading or typing) for leaving my door open around here. Rrrrrr, let me do that for you. No, you hold it….


  9. Carl–shut your door and hide your stapler! (What is it with kids these days? I guess the department secretaries are onto them, and hid their staplers long ago.)

    Buzz, I wonder if people thing science is something that requires expertise, whereas they can either read a book or fake it with the humanities? Yeah, it sounds like you need to let people find other ways of dealing with their ignorance. You’ve got your hands full with your own students, who have enrolled in classes and have implicitly agreed to sit through your lectures and read books on the subject. You don’t need to tutor Dude when he ambles on over from the theater department.

    And Deborah: I wonder if your colleague was in her 40s or older, and the student saw her as a mother figure. (Or was she younger and he was flirting with her?) I should ask you all to send me photos of your office door SHUT and do a photo essay called “Go Away Without Knocking: your professors are hard at work on things that have nothing to do with you.”


  10. I wonder…

    This wouldn’t work for FSP’s particular situation, but maybe for yours and others’: Draw up a nice, official-looking schedule of fees for working as a professional consultant. We could have separate categories for “conferencing” (sitting down and talking to the yahoos, either in person, by phone, or via e-mail) and “research” (I work on Blanche of Castile; yahoo wants to know about Eleanor of Aquitaine; I charge for the pre-talk digging I have to do). Charge 80-120 bucks an hour (or every portion thereof).

    Hey, why not? Hollywood producers pay for historical (or scientific) consultants, suggesting that our knowledge and specialized labor has value. So, if the person asking for our expertise is not our employer (university or student), why not charge?


  11. Me likee your plan, Notorious. With one caveat: Baa Ram U., my employer, is the old Aggie school, and it takes very seriously the notion of “outreach” and “extention” to the public. But, no one is entitled to endless expert consultation without having to fork over. (My guess is that the folks at the law schools and medical schools at the other R-1 in the state don’t offer limitless free advice.) So, maybe after a 15-minute free consultation or 2 free response e-mails, then the fee schedule would kick in.

    Can you say, “RETAINER!!!” (Say it like Ben Affleck did in Good Will Hunting–it’s about the only line I’ve ever seen Ben Affleck deliver that was actually funny.)


  12. Sigh. I was discussing this general topic with a male friend younger than myself just last night. He was incredulous that this kind of thing actually happens (“it never happens to me”) and that further, one has to be very politick, especially if female, in a school that takes the notion of public service as seriously as mine does.


  13. Related to this issue are those students finding you working in your office after business hours. If your door isn’t open but the light is burning (we’ve inner windows) students will take the opportunity to see whether you’ve graded their papers or ask about other faculty members. After all we’re ATM’s: Automated Teaching Machines.

    I have never heard an “excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” either when I’m interrupted or after I tell those students that the office is closed and that I am busy with meeting a deadline or undertaking work that requires focus and resources in my office.

    And I’ve experienced countless instances of students knocking interminably on a locked department door if they think a faculty member is available after 5 pm (and not teaching an evening course).

    One evening a student strolled into our departmental office (open due to evening courses and office hours) and used the telephone to make a long-distance call. When I told him to cease, he at first ignored me, then called me names, and then finally left. Then he walked into another open department office on the same floor and continued his call. (I put him in the same class of students who use the campus emergency phones to arrange meetings and catch up with friends between classes.)


  14. your story about the email exchange was painful/frustrating. I like the fee idea. I definitely had the “next time you pay a fee” sound in my voice with the male student in my story.

    I wonder if the female professor (ATM – love that) + public service focus = ratcheted up male privilege

    Poe – I agree with Historiann, put the stapler in a drawer and shut your door! It took putting my phone in a corner of the office out of sight of the hall to stop students from coming into my office, and while picking up my phone, ask “Can I use your phone? There’s no reception in here.” It happened randomly for 2.5 years & was always male students. (the only poc in the hall were female and admin so they assumed the title on the door was a mistake. gender + race + conservative public service focused institution . . .)


  15. Oh, and on the ongoing saga of Professor and Scholarly Society VP + female = your secretary…the deadline for proposals was Friday, and I’ve already received four e-mails asking why they didn’t get a response and when they’re going to hear from me. Most of them addressed to Ms. Judge. One of them even e-mailed a man who is on the regional board (and less senior than me) to complain that I hadn’t responded to his proposal. And these dudes don’t even have the excuse of being undergrads.


  16. Deborah–perhaps as a parting gesture when your term as VP is nearing its end, you can send out a tart e-mail to the membership of this society documenting these incidents and asking people to think twice before assuming that someone with a woman’s name is merely secretarial. You know, just for fun, see if she’s got a faculty appointment and a terminal degree before writing?

    I have to say, having recently served as the co-Chair of the Program Committee for a major conference, our membership and other interested people were almost to a woman unfailingly polite and appreciative of our work. Then again, it was a women’s history conference, so most of our correspondents were women (but not all)!


  17. I’m scheduled to be society president next year, and I’m wondering if that will make things worse or better. But it’s not as if they’d have to look very far to find out if I have a faculty appointment or degree, it’s right there in the call! Sigh.

    Oh, this morning I sent out a form letter to everyone who submitted letting them know when they’ll hear back from the reviewers, and got a response (already) from some guy that my form letter was rude. Sigh. Yes, I really should keep a file on this. But, gah, these older male faculty are *way* worse than my undergrads in making sexist assumptions about who I am and how I spend my time.


  18. What kind of tool lectures someone doing VOLUNTEER WORK about the tone of her correspondence? If he’s got so much discretionary time and energy to worry and complain about that, ask him to work as your secretary next year and make him for all of the correspondence!

    Deborah, I’m sorry that you’re the incoming President of the Academic Shovelheads of America!


  19. I wish it was the students (although I did have a male student recently slam my door open, walk all the way into my very long office and start yammering at me) but yesterday I had a special experience. My office is next to our departmental office and one of the adjuncts locked himself out of his office after hours. I was in my office and he came in and asked me to a) find a master key b) find the phone number for security when the master key couldn’t be found (because apparently he couldn’t figure this out!) and c) wait around with him until security came so that he wouldn’t be locked out of the main office. Then he told me that I was “a real doll”. I wanted to reply “thanks babe!” He is in his 60s and I’m in my late 30s.

    I was so angry still this morning that I loudly complained about it all to our secretary in front of the other older male prof in my department that refuses to acknowledge my presence. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. One of my younger male colleagues was witness to this incident was horrified.


  20. This story is years old now but, since it’s been rattling around in my head since your “rude e-mailer” post, Historiann, I’m going to tell it.

    When I was teaching my first year in a law school, at end of term, a male student wandered into my office holding the paper he had written for my course in Family Law. I’d given him a B+. “Please, he said, could you give me an A? I need it to get into Grad School.”

    “Yes well, my sympathies young man, but I don’t grade papers based on what marks a student wants, but rather on the grade that students earn.”

    “But I won’t get into Grad School if I don’t get an A.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Would you read it again and try to find me more marks?”

    There were only ten papers written in this course. I remember them all quite well, including yours. I marked them very carefully. If you have some specific problem with how I’ve marked your paper, other than the simple fact that you got a B+, I’ll consider a re-read.”

    “Oh no, I just need an A.”

    “I’m sorry, then. As well, Grad School might not be ready for a student who wants a grade just “because” and not because he earned it.”

    “Well, it’s just Women’s Studies (the grad programme he had applied to). That’s the only reason the grade from you really matters. Because they know that you’re the feminist.”


    Of course, I didn’t re-read the paper. I ran into this student later in a restaurant and acknowledged him. He walked right by me. He didn’t make it into Women’s Studies.


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