Monthly Archives: February 2013

So. This guy is an asshole.

The title of this post pretty much sums up my reaction to this link, which came across my Twitter feed today. Nathan Graziano, posting at The Good Men Project, discussing his reaction to women wearing yoga pants.

Much has already been said about this post, but for the benefit of my family and friends who might not have seen it, I’ll sum up (and react): Mr. Graziano finds yoga pants sexy. He has trouble focusing on his workout because of all the women in yoga pants. In fact, Mr. Graziano apparently regards the gym as a sort of soft-porn experience, generally, but the yoga pants are putting him over the edge. He knows that women SAY they wear them because they’re comfortable, but, really, couldn’t you just wear sweats? I mean, you wouldn’t wear such tight clothes if you didn’t want people to see your bod, right? So, women, you are complicit in my inability to focus on my workout because of your deliberate sexiness.

So, a few things. First, yes, yoga pants are sexy. I’m going to grant him that. I’m not going to be one of those women who claims she had no idea that pants that show off your legs, butt, and hips are sexy (especially if you have good legs, butt, and hips). My husband has bought me at least three really nice pairs of yoga pants over the years, and NOT because he knows I like to be comfortable. It’s because I have nice hips and legs, and he has a thing for athletic women. So, fine.

They are also very comfortable. I did hours of yardwork yesterday in one of the aforementioned pairs of yoga pants. And I wasn’t trying to get the neighbors to look at my butt. It turns out that tight, stretchy fabrics are excellent for exercising in, especially when it’s still a bit too nippy outside to be wearing shorts and a tank top (and, anyway, god forbid I should show any skin, what with the men being sure I’m being all sexy while pruning roses just for them).

First, I wanted to focus, a bit, on something the commentaries I’ve read have omitted: Mr. Graziano is, for the most part, talking about how he can’t focus on his workout because of the women wearing…exercise clothing. He’s not actually complaining about women wearing yoga pants outside of the gym (more on that in a second). It seems that, in his view, even the women wearing them as they are intended are, at least in part, doing so because they want guys like him to look at their butts.

Now, on to the “wearing them other places” part of the story. It seems the only reason you’d ever wear these garments anywhere other than the gym is if you were deliberately sexualizing them and asking for men to check you out. This is the part that blows me away. The world apparently works like this: 1) Women wear clothing. 2) Men find clothing sexy on women. 3) If women continue to wear said clothing, they must be inviting sexual attention from men. 4) Said clothing is therefore sexy, and inappropriate to wear where men might see you, unless you, again, want them to hit on you.

The thing is, in a moral world, what I wear should not be dictated by whether or not some guy(s) might think my butt looks cute in it. It’s the exact same mental acrobatics that leads to questions about why a woman was wearing such a short skirt at that party. Answer #1 is: It’s none of your goddamned business WHY I chose the clothes I wore to the party. Or to Starbucks (another place I wore yoga pants yesterday). Answer #2 may be: because they’re comfortable. Or: Because I look good in them, which makes me feel good. It may even be, “Because I was hoping men would hit on me today,” or, “I’m hoping to get laid tonight.” The thing is, though, which of those answers it is is OUR business, until and unless we make it yours. Simply wearing the clothes does NOT make it your business.

I decided to write this post partly because my class was canceled today due to coinstructor’s flu, and partly because this is a topic that infuriates me. This is the justification given for making women wear burqas – because men find women’s bodies sexual, and are not responsible for their actions if said bodies are visible.  (If you are a woman CHOOSING to wear a burqa, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the ones who have no choice.) Men, don’t you see how this attitude demeans YOU? It says you have no self-control, that you are an animal at the mercy of your sexual impulses, and the only way to control your bad behavior is to control the behavior of the women around you. It’s disgusting, and it’s not the men I know. (Mostly. I hope.)

Most men are better than this. Or can be. I guess I just want to end my rant by saying – we can fix this. It starts by not raising our sons to be like this. We must also speak out against this attitude – while most men in my culture don’t think that a woman’s clothes are an invitation to rape, there is still this lower-level, pervasive attitude among men AND women: well, why would she wear that if she didn’t want to be looked at? Maybe she does want to be looked at. “Looking” and “touching” are very different things. Can’t you enjoy the view without having to pick the flowers? Maybe she just wants to look nice. For herself. Maybe she didn’t think about it at all.

Point is? It’s none of your business. Get over yourself.

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Filed under Feminism - it's not a dirty word

Blog Reboot, With Thoughts on Work-Life Balance

So, it’s been months. I did mention I’m busy and intermittent, right? At any rate, I’ve had some good fortune/payoff from hard work of late, and as a result I have a bit of free time right now. And this free time happens to dovetail with two conversations on Twitter that got me thinking about work-life balance.

One of these two conversations was about exactly this topic – the fact that work-life balance is hard to accomplish and maintain in academia, at least partly because academics are actively discouraged from having a “life” – discouraged from seeking that balance. The other conversation I haven’t participated in directly – suffice it to say that there’s a lot of chatter about whether women can succeed in field research if they also want to, say, have children. The tone of the conversation is sometimes discouraging, because of the voices insisting that women with children who are also academics are: selfish, inherently less ambitious, less interesting, and generally less worthy of the time and resources spent to train them than, say, “serious” scientists. I guess those would be men, or women who know better than to try and have a career AND a family at the same time.

So, I have thoughts on women in academia having families, as well as EVERYONE, men and women, parents and child-free, having balance in their lives. And so I’m going to start telling you what I think.

For a start, what I think is this: of COURSE you can be a woman in academic science and have a family. Of COURSE you can succeed. My evidence for this is mostly observational – I consider myself a moderately successful academic scientist. I have a tenure-track job complete with research lab. I have a grant from the NIH (okay, I will soon, because I assume my PO wouldn’t tell me my grant was funded only to say, “Psych!” a few weeks later). I have a student who is about to enter a Ph.D. program, probably at UCSF. I have two semi-publications from the aforementioned research lab, one to be submitted in the next few months. I teach my courses and I get good student evals. I participate in departmental and university service activities.

I also have two children. The younger one was born during my first year on the tenure-track. Career suicide, right? How serious a scientist can I be? And yet.

Furthermore…I hardly ever come to lab on the weekend. I rarely work in the evenings. I get in at a “normal” hour, and I leave at a “normal” hour. I have dinner with my family every night.

And I get through my to-do list at work most days, too.

I’m not the only one – I’m just the example I’m most familiar with. My postdoctoral advisor also had two kids, the first born in her first year on the tenure track. She’s now at a Howard Hughes facility and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. So having those kids really slowed her down. I’ve been fortunate to be mentored by (mostly) scientists who also have lives outside of science. People with interests, and families, and, well, lives.

So, how do you do it? You JUST DO IT. Yes, I’m a walking Nike ad. Seriously, though, in my case, I found that I worked better (that is, smarter and harder) if I wasn’t in lab 7 days a week. I found that I did better work if I let my brain and body have a break. And I found the self-respect to say, “No, look. I am going to have a career and enjoy my life. Both. At the same time.” I started (in my post-doc) by deciding to plan experiments around never working on the weekend. It can be done. You just have to plan ahead. And you have to be willing to resist the pressure, from all sides, to act as if nothing exists but the work.

That first decision morphed into deciding to work an ordinary work day. Each day, before I leave work, I make a list of work that should take about 8 hours (including all classes and meetings I have to attend that day). When I get to work, I start at the top and work my way down. I take a lunch break most days, though sometimes I work and eat my lunch at my desk. When 5:00 rolls around, I finish the current task, and then I push the things that didn’t get done to the top of the next day’s list. If I finish the list before 5:00, I check out the next day’s list for stuff I can do today. (I also don’t hesitate to take off early on the rare occasion that I’m actually AHEAD of schedule.)

There are exceptions. There are times when I have to work after my kids go to bed – looming grant deadlines, prepping lectures for new courses. I was in on Sunday for an hour this past weekend. But these are exceptions. I do this when I have to, NOT just because the culture says I should work a 60-hour week.

And when I’m at work, I work. I spend little time (though not none) surfing the internet. I have one coffee break for an hour a week to catch up with colleagues who are also tenure-track moms. Otherwise, I’m in lab interacting with my students, teaching classes, in meetings, or in my office writing.

The thing is, I believe this makes me a better scientist. My mind is more focused on the work at hand when I let it have a break. I enjoy my job a lot more than I would if it was all I ever did. And I make a lot more progress than I did back when I worked 7 days a week.

On another front, I’m modeling healthy behavior for my children. I want them to see that you can have a successful career and also spend time with your loved ones. I want them to see that I work, and to be proud of me…and I want them to see that when I’m not at work, I’m not at work. It’s about self-respect.

I also try to instill the same attitudes in my students. I teach my lablings how to set up their crosses to avoid having to come in on weekends (while still emphasizing that, sometimes, you just can’t control biology that way, and you really will have to finish the experiment on Saturday). I try to make sure they have as much to do as they can handle, but not so much that it makes the rest of their lives untenable. I don’t ever impose MY deadlines on them – if I have a grant deadline coming up, yeah, I ask them to collect a certain set of data as fast as they can…but not if they have to come in every weekend and all night to get it done.

So, yeah, I have thoughts on work-life balance. I think I’m pretty good at it. Some of it is forced – I chose to have children, and children need parents. But I started down this road long before either of my kids was born – I rebelled against the culture of “all day, all night, and all week” in lab. And I think I’m doing okay.

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Filed under Work-Life Balance