I am SO annoyed and angry today – and for once it is nothing to do with anything in the lab!
I did have a completely different blog to publish today, but my journey home made me realise I had to write about this as it has irritated me so much – so apologies for the lack of structure and fun with this post and you will see the previously planned blog post next week probably, but when I explain what happened to me on my 2-minute walk home (literally!) you might understand why I needed to change my blog post – or perhaps you might have guessed from the title 😛
I work in a university building that is on the same site as the general hospital in Southampton and very conveniently I live literally over the road from the entrance to both the hospital and work! Now I’m quite a shy person and generally keep myself to myself, but on my very short walk home today I happened to bump into one of my neighbours who lives in one of the nearby flats. She started to chat to me about how cold it was today and the fog that we have had, then moved on to asking what I do as she had spotted that I had walked across from the hospital direction. My obviously very proud response was ‘I’m a scientist! I’m studying for my PhD over the road!’.
This was followed by a response that I really did not expect and those haunting words – ‘You don’t look like a scientist!’
I didn’t think too much of it to begin with as I am aware of the stereotypical image that the general public associates with a scientist – and quite clearly I am not an old man with glasses and white wispy hair (I promise! :P)!
But then she actually looked down her nose at me and PHYSICALLY looked me up and down! And then walked off without saying another word with a scowl on her face!
Now – I was angry at the sheer rudeness of this woman and now I’m feeling very anxious and self-conscious! Did she think I was lying? Or was it something about my appearance that doesn’t make me a believable scientist?
I checked whether there was anything on my face or that my dress was tucked in to my leggings which might have sparked the look that she gave me. But no – nothing! I was dressed as I would normally for any given day at work.
The longer I sit here writing and telling you all about this, the more I’m asking myself questions about why I got that reaction:
Did I not look old enough?
Was it because I wasn’t wearing a lab coat?
Was it because I was in a dress and boots?
Was it because I didn’t look smart enough?
Was it because she didn’t agree with the work I do?
Or was it because I am a woman?
These questions keep flying around my head and I’m wondering why the shock, am I not good enough to be a scientist just by my appearance? I realise it is not your typical answer but I didn’t expect such a negative reaction! I’m angry and quite upset!
One of my goals for this blog is to ‘humanise’ scientists and make sure the public – both young and old – actually realise that scientists come in all shapes and sizes, from a host of different backgrounds, they can be any sex and some like to be uber stylish in the lab whilst others like me – like to keep it quite casual – and we all have so may different interests and hobbies like EVERYBODY ELSE!
It’s made me realise that I need to do something more to break down this stereotype and not just write a blog and feature the incredible scientists that I do in my Scientist in the Spotlight feature. What at the moment I really don’t know but something! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
I have never felt so judged like I have been today by this neighbour! And I want to inspire younger kids especially girls to get into science, but I don’t want them to be judged for it because of the way they look or sound or anything! So I feel very strongly about doing something to tackle the stereotype now! Even more so that I did before today!
Has anyone else out there experienced something like this? I would love it if you could share – either in the comments below or get in contact with me because I am feeling quite hurt and confused, and want to know how you tackled it and there might be others out there with a similar, or maybe even a more serious, situation and it might be helping them too!
Okay – maybe I might have taken it too much to heart but its a reaction I haven’t heard before so it got me thinking about what I can do! Most people at least ask what I do as a scientist just out of interest and curiosity even if they have no interest in science! I have never just got a look and that be the end of the conversation!
Apologies for the really depressing post but I do feel like it was an issue that needed talking about, even if it was just me ranting! Normal blog posts will resume shortly I promise 😛 I just want my readers to realise that the stereotype is VERY real and it does affect a lot of people! It is an issue that needs tackling!
Thanks for listening and please share any similar stories you have to try and demonstrate that it is a problem!