Thus Spake Zuska

An Explanatory Note

I have put in (literally) decades of work acting on the assumption that folks are reasonable and well-intentioned, and trying to be effective and get messages across. Part of that time I was even paid to do so.

IRL, for the most part, I try to interact with people like that.

However, I’m sick to puking of seeing so much shit go down for so long and seeing so little change and seeing progress for women in engineering shudder and stall and hearing over and over and over and over again “we just have to wait for the old guard to die off and for spots to open up and for women to work their way up through the ranks and the younger guys will not behave in these stupid ways the older d00ds do and things are getting better and you can’t make women go into engineering if they don’t want to and men and women just prefer different career choices and it’s a fact of life that women have babies and there’s nothing you can do about it and we’d love to have on campus daycare for everyone but in these tight fiscal times we have to make tough choices and I know that Professors X and Y are not so good with students from underrepresented groups but nobody else really wants to do the student counseling job or the recruiting job and besides if they went back to their departments they wouldn’t really be able to teach or do research and we think this research on how to make departments more welcoming to women is very interesting but we don’t feel that we want to make any changes to what we are doing in our department at this time because our two women professors haven’t told us that anything is wrong and things will get better as time goes on and if there were great women scientists they would have been nominated for the National Academy but the fact that they weren’t proves there aren’t that many and I would be more interested in hearing what you have to say if you weren’t so angry and I can’t help it if I’m staring at your boobs because evolution makes me do it and if you are going to wear that sexy shirt to the lab you have to expect to be treated like a sex object and if you are going to dress in a sack it just proves that all engineering women are ugly dykes and you really cannot expect to gain any allies for your cause when you are so angry and you are hurting the feminist cause and anyway why are you all worked up about privileged women academics who really have it pretty good when women in Some Other Country are being tortured and raped and anyway racism is the real issue* and things are getting better with each generation and my best friend is a woman scientist and she’s never experienced discrimination and this is all just a bunch of political correctness liberal blather and I believe things are getting better and why are you so angry…”

My blog is not primarily about assuming that people are reasonable and well-intentioned and trying to get messages across to them. I’m not exactly sure what it’s all about, but one thing it is about is a place for me to give voice to the decades of accumulated frustration and anger, to not have to talk reasonably and peaceably and calmly to douchenozzles that are driving me fucking crazy. Very few people who work for a living can ever afford to give voice to those feelings and thoughts in public, to analyze the douchebaggery for what it is. I couldn’t when I was working. Now I can.

What can I say? I am a hairy-legged feminazi.

*anyway, racism is indeed the real issue AS WELL, you disingenuous douchebag.

Comments

  1. #1 mb
    June 4, 2010

    Zuska, if you were a superhero, I would watch the cartoon and I would buy the lunchbox.

  2. #2 ambivalent academic
    June 4, 2010

    Seconded. I think we should design you a new header with a Zuska action figure in a mask and a cape and hairly legs and wielding a Table leg of Justice.

  3. #3 Chris Whitman
    June 4, 2010

    Your nemesis could be “The Mansplainer.”

  4. #4 Delphyne
    June 4, 2010

    That 3rd paragraph is one of the best sentences ever!

    And yes! Mansplainer as arch enemy #1.

  5. #5 skeptifem
    June 4, 2010

    I got the “scholarships are really reverse racism, indians could have it just as easy as we do if they behaved the same way” talk from a trainer at work yesterday. My heart pounded, I was so angry. I have gotten a lot better at calling people out but when I am that mad it is impossible. The dude has specifically voiced his commitment to willful ignorance anyway, so it isn’t like it would make a difference.

    That said, this was somewhat inspiring and I feel the need to repost it here:

    http://kateharding.net/2010/01/13/rantys-machine/

    Maybe this blog can become the place to deal with practical strategies for dealing with this kind of shit.

  6. #6 skeptifem
    June 4, 2010

    SHIT. wrong link! this is what I meant to post:

    http://kateharding.net/2010/05/05/cha-cha-cha-chaka-chubby

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2010

    Very few people who work for a living can ever afford to give voice to those feelings and thoughts in public, to analyze the douchebaggery for what it is. I couldn’t when I was working. Now I can.

    Thank you.

  8. #8 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2010

    The dude has specifically voiced his commitment to willful ignorance anyway, so it isn’t like it would make a difference.

    And you believe men who profess lifelong commitment?

  9. #9 pavlov's cat
    June 4, 2010

    To my shame I’ve never commented here before. Probably because I don’t have much to add when you’ve said it all for me. But thanks for saying it more eloquently and with more wit than I ever could.

  10. #10 Teaspoon
    June 4, 2010

    I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I’ve been reading for a few months now. This post is exactly why I keep coming back.

    Thanks for speaking truth to douchebaggery. Or at least about it, since it never listens.

  11. #11 ScientistMother
    June 4, 2010

    Your are the best Zuska. You say it all so well and so witty. Enemy #2 is the conformist preacher…if you only minimize/hide your differences you’d be fine.

  12. #12 ryandake
    June 4, 2010

    hi zuska,

    i’m a 48-year-old hairy-legged feminazi. i started reading feminist lit when i was 13 (Ms. Magazine, before it started shilling makeup).

    compared to the way-back-then, zuska, things ARE better. they are a loooong way from perfect, or fair, or wage parity, or even inoffensive, but they are decidedly better. (did you need a man’s signature to get a credit card? my adult mother did, when i was young.)

    i tell you this not to say that you should lay down your arms (please don’t, i love your blog), but just to give you a bit of hope that the fight IS worthwhile and that change does come. not without a fight, but it does.

    so keep calling the bastards out. fail to shave. be unpleasant to the mansplainers. continue to eyeroll the ones who just don’t get it.

    there’s a whole bunch of us lurking here, and cheering you on, and fighting our own grubby, daily fights for all of us, as you do.

  13. #13 Kea
    June 4, 2010

    Hear, hear and thanks to Zuska. I’ve just had a worse than average mansplaining week, and this cheers me up momentarily.

  14. #14 Comrade PhysioProf
    June 4, 2010

    What can I say? I am a hairy-legged feminazi.

    You forgot shrill.

  15. #15 SoftwareEngineer
    June 4, 2010

    I work in the software industry. At all but one of the companies where I worked fewer than 5% of the engineers are women. At the one exception, I had a female colleague tell me that if we wanted women to work for the company, the sooner we hired a second female engineer the better. The longer we went without hiring women the less appealing to women engineers the company would become.

    I am back at a company where 95% of the engineers are male (not an exaggeration, it is actually slightly higher than 95%). In a certain sense it is too late for this company. Even if all of our new hires are women, the engineering staff will still be overwhelming male.

    I don’t know how to make this better, I didn’t expect that the percentage of women engineers where I work today would be the same as it was when I started 20 years ago.

  16. #16 Hairy Bitch Math Lady
    June 4, 2010

    I love your blog so much. You are awesome and hilarious and I want to be just like you when I grow up. Got to keep calling out the motherfuckers. Like another commenter said, things have gotten better, and that’s just proof that it’s fucking working.

  17. #17 Gerty-Z
    June 4, 2010

    RIGHT ON ZUSKA!!!! Thank you for giving a voice to young females in the STEM. I can only hope to be a shrill as you someday. Hopefully the day after I get tenure.

  18. #18 Miss Bossypants
    June 4, 2010

    I’m a 28-year-old (female, mother of a young child) undergrad whose advisors are trying very hard to steer me away from the engineering program. I have a 3.98 GPA. WTF.

  19. #19 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2010

    I’m a 28-year-old (female, mother of a young child) undergrad whose advisors are trying very hard to steer me away from the engineering program. I have a 3.98 GPA. WTF.

    Misguided good intentions? Conceivable, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Plenty of “been there, done that, wouldn’t want my daughter to repeat my mistake” stories in the business — but if women take that kind of advice it’ll be a long time getting better, too.

    FWIW, there are some pretty decent supportive organizations (network, network!) in industry. A couple of my juniors have gotten some real benefit from the Women in Engineering sessions at ISSCC. I suspect other fields have equivalents, so find a way to go before you’re on the job market. Sooner is better.

  20. #20 jc
    June 4, 2010

    I THOUGHT THIS WAS A SCIENCE BLOG? WTF?

    WHAT ABOUT THE MEN? The Nice Guys?

    WHERE ARE THE FUCKING COOKIES?

    Z, you are totes not fun.

  21. #21 MsEithne
    June 4, 2010

    It is exhausting to maintain the energy level necessary for shaking things up in order to trigger a change.

    In part, it is exhausting because it is such an open-ended process. Change does often seem to happen in the punctuated equilibrium model. Things stay the same for a long time, then something happens and there’s big changes in a short period, then a new equilibrium.

    This makes it very, very difficult for people to keep their commitment level up, to keep their energy flowing and to keep speaking up for change.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I wish I did. I know you’re not doing it for cookies, Zuska, but until that unpredictable tipping point comes around, cookies are all I can control. Please email me so we can arrange the details.

    It’s not as good as real change. I know that. But cookies are cookies and sometimes it does not hurt to reap a little pleasure along the way. Might give you more energy to keep poking at the systems!

  22. #22 jc
    June 5, 2010

    Miss Bossypants,
    Get new advisors. ASAP. The asshats are not good enough for you. Fire them so they can’t take credit later for “mentoring you” along your path to success. Thank them for their “help” with some shoe puke.

  23. #23 Ace
    June 5, 2010

    I’m with you! Especially on the hairy legs part.

  24. #24 Asphericity
    June 5, 2010

    I second Hairy Bitch Math Lady: “You are awesome and hilarious and I want to be just like you when I grow up.” You are a fabulous role model. Thank you for the dose of frustration and hilarity.

  25. #25 PeggyL
    June 5, 2010

    We all need a place to vent sometimes, and to gather energy to continue the fight…

  26. #26 Cara
    June 5, 2010

    I’m not exactly sure what it’s all about, but one thing it is about is a place for me to give voice to the decades of accumulated frustration and anger, to not have to talk reasonably and peaceably and calmly to douchenozzles that are driving me fucking crazy.

    Exactly, and thank you.

  27. #27 Eriastrum
    June 5, 2010

    I’m another long time lurker who adores your blog and the biff-baff-bang of the comments. I have to say that you are a master at the long run-on sentence that captures so brilliantly what so many of us are up against. I nominate your third paragraph/sentence above for the blog award of the year! I should mention that I am a 67-year-old woman who works at a job she loves and is lucky to face almost no sexism on the job where the supervisors are largely women. But I know what most women face all the time. I love you and all your feminist commenters! (I don’t have hairy legs at the moment, but I usually do).

  28. #28 Comrade Svilova
    June 5, 2010

    YES! Everywhere else it’s all too necessary to watch the language I use and make sure that I’m always talking about the most obvious, egregious examples of sexism, racism, etc., always with a cookie for the White D00ds to chew on so they’ll at least let me talk without jumping down my throat.

    We need the feminist blogs. Thanks, Zuska!

  29. #29 Kea
    June 5, 2010

    Heh, Zuska, your blog is pretty popular now. Maybe you could start a few real life Women in STEM worldwide strikes sometime soon.

  30. #30 DerelictHat
    June 6, 2010

    Like many others, I’ve been lurking. Thanks for writing what you do. I’ve been working in computer support and repair, and and hopefully moving on to software development soon. My coworkers usually restrict the sexism to polite mansplainin’ but the customers are the real bastards about being sexist. I’ve actually had people laugh in my face and ask to work with someone else to fix their computer. And I gritted my teeth and fixed all their shit myself anyway.

  31. #31 Yvonne
    June 7, 2010

    Zuska, your blog is great. Your voice is authentic and honest and very welcome. Thank you so much for creating this space and know that you have the right to define it as you need. (I know you know that, but wanted you to read it from someone else.)

  32. #32 FrauTech
    June 7, 2010

    Thanks Zuska. Yes all too often women in engineering can not even talk to each other about it. I am youngish and most of the women here are also young and don’t believe there’s any gender discrimination. I can’t really blame them. I mean, I’ve realized ignorance IS bliss at this point. It’s certainly easier to believe something didn’t happen for you because you need to work on X skill or become more Y rather than grow a dick. I can’t even joke about it in front of so many people (male and female) that it really takes the fun out of life.

    MsEithne really hits the nail on the head when she talks about how exhausting it is. Maybe because a lot of times it’s pretending to be someone you’re not; smiling and keeping your cool and not calling out the bull. And unfortunately some of the most sexist things I hear come from guys my age. It’s like they were all for equality in college, but once they get in the workplace they get “trained” by their male superiors. Or maybe all the PC they felt was so hard to hang on to in college now they can finally “let loose” with their prejudices. There are a lot of great guys too who see the injustice and sympathize with me in private, or make the extra effort (I can tell) without saying anything to me, making sure I don’t experience the discrimination while they are there at least. But the “good” ones from the “bad” don’t seem to have any connecting characteristics. Minorities, white, rich, poor, young, old- which just makes me tired. Thanks Zuska.

  33. #33 Tyler
    June 9, 2010

    Here, here!

    Zuska, thanks for putting this out there. Your blog has been a great help in understanding a lot of this stuff. I do think its a shame that more men aren’t talking about this.

  34. #34 TG
    August 3, 2010

    Teenage girls who want to be a model outnumber those who want to be an engineer 8 to 1.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/oct/03/science.choosingadegree

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