We’ve started placing non-monetary bets on the likelihood that I’m asked about my personal life during publicity interviews.
So far I’ve been correct 100% of the time.
I can’t completely understand the fascination with my dating life; maybe I just really do a stellar job of keeping it ambiguous and therefore compellingly mysterious, such that it warrants questioning during professional interviews. But more often there’s this awe-like oscillation between “It must be really hard for you to date because your job is so unique and you do gross things sometime” and “You must get dates all of the time.”
Like today. I mention how I find standing in the dermestid colony room is comforting; it’s an area I wander to when I need to clear my head. It’s quiet, save for the gentle crackling of the busy beetles, hungrily going about their lives while they eat and breed and die among eviscerated fauna. Pretty soothing. Believe me, there is no quieter place in the Museum. But the minute I being this up the response is “oh giiiirrrrlll we’ve got to get you a date.”
I get that I’m this quirky paradox of a woman: how is it possible I’m pretty, articulate, and also smart? and kinda weird? Gosh the solution to those problems must mean I only got this way because I didn’t have a man in my life to keep me boring and level-headed. Ignore the fact they assume I am also straight.
It comes up again: “do you work with any hot, Indiana Jones scientists?” Hey here’s one for you: are you going to ask my male colleagues these same questions? Going to imply they need to get a date instead of publish so many compelling papers about their research? And I’ll have you know that I’m infinitely more attracted to someone’s wit and candor, and the quality of the work they publish in reputable scientific journals and the eagerness they have to explore our world than whatever physical form they ended up taking. I would marry a gorilla if it were so sophisticated.
Sometimes I feel the most sexism occurring in these fields comes in the form of awkward publicity. I’ve also been asked by reporters if I would pose for Playboy if approached - and what I would charge to accept. If you want to ask me about natural history, or museums, or social media, or science literacy - be my guest. But don’t expect a straightforward answer if you derail the conversation to pry into my personal life.
We need more voices in science
to step up in defiance for those characters
that get erased from our stories; accolades and glories granted to counterparts
as though we didn’t have the smarts to achieve
the impossible, believe in the improbable
and create the unthinkable.
It’s unthinkable to me that our hindsight is so blinded.
Turning the cheek too many times makes me think you’re shaking your head:
no, no, no.
"Hey - you look good in that dress today."
Pay no mind to the mess that comment made
of my self-confidence. It seems pretty obvious
the words they think are innocuous are noxious,
breeding doubt and insecurity, feeding bouts of fury in me
as I hear the same phrases repeated to the women in my classes,
our lab mates and the masses of budding genius minds
that yearn to focus on their hypotheses and methods
but instead they’re distracted by those words left unretracted:
"you look good in that dress today."
If you tell her that she’s pretty before you tell her that she’s smart,
don’t be startled when she starts to parcel out and pull apart
her individuality. Trading physics books for glossy magazines.
Instead of figuring fifty ways to solve differentials she’s counting up
fifty ways to potentially please her partner,
wondering - is this what is appealing? this feeling of cheapening my intelligence
because we’re terrified to be marginalized for tying to have it all,
all the while face burning, yearning tears not to drip drop while your stomach flip flops
at being called out for a love of learning.
Just between us, from one woman to another
it’ll take a while to recover while we wonder without ignorance
why there are so many instances of being told to be a mother
before we’re told to be discoverers.
And I hope in twenty years or maybe less
we’ll be blessed with plenty of reassurances that our work
is recognized for its significance, and the difference is
we’ll be standing up for our accomplishments - not alone but with accomplices within our fields.
And it won’t be such a novelty to be so proudly standing up for our beliefs
and our discoveries.
We need more voices in science, and not those that just say, hey-
You look good in that dress today.
breaknbake said: One of my friends is getting her BFA in drawing this year and she's having a small breakdown about whether she made the right choice etc etc. She has this real fondness for beetles/bugs/larvae and is sort of lamenting that she didn't go into entomology. I described the path your career has taken (as I understand it) and her response was, "It just sounds like she got really lucky." Is that a sentiment you agree with, or do you have recommendations to pass on to her?
Saying I got to be where I am because I was lucky makes me feel kinda bad - I worked hard. It wasn’t like I was putting in the time hoping a famous YouTuber was going to “find” me - I was looking for any opportunity to publicize the Museum, to talk about the work we were doing. I was putting in 40+ hours a week at a museum while still working a job 35 hours. I cared.
Instead of regretting or lamenting doing something you felt was right for you at the time, use your knowledge as a beneficial tool to get ahead. Seize opportunity. Put in the time to the thing your passionate about, don’t cut corners, don’t slack off, don’t wait for accolades to be your encouragement. Do it for you.