When people assume that I’m nothing but/just/always an airhead, I secretly enjoy their confusion when I tell them that actually, I’m a rather brainy graduate student. Sometimes, I wish I could step it up--truthfully--and tell them I have arcane scientific knowledge--that I’m a string theorist, say--and that’s about the only time I fancy being a scientist. In high school, confronted by the embarrassing bounty of my grades--even in subjects I had no love for, taught by teachers I had zero crushes on-- my guidance counsellor dutifully suggested med school. My mom and I started to giggle when we heard that--apart from the science thing, my tolerance for blood has always been somewhat ridiculously low.
So, unlike the boys in this house--Li’l A, who goes around labeling all his typical seven-year-old's projects “experiments” and Big A, whose favorite line these days is, “trust me, I’m a scientist”--I’ve never aspired to science. But I know bunches of women who do. And bunches more who’re forced to give up because being a woman and a scientist--even in this century--is a considerable battle. It is on their account that I bridle when someone pulls a Larry Summers. And it’s on their account that I’m thoroughly fascinated by the testimony of Ben Barres. Because Ben--he knows exactly how it feels to be a woman in the sciences.
He used to be one. Pre-transgendering, Ben Barres was Barbara Barres and you can read more about how he’s better regarded and more respected now that he’s a male scientist--here.
(Thanks to Susan Chacko for links.)