Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One present down

Grandma's socks are finished! Yay! Pictures will appear one of these days. I grafted the toe at SnB without a book in front of me. First time I've ever been able to do that. Now I'm swatching for Mom's Jaywalkers.

And now for something completely different.

Today, the Yarn Harlot wrote a post that really spoke to me. She often does, but this one spoke to me on many levels. And while I may not be quite as eloquent as her (which is okay because writing is not my profession), I felt I wanted to add my two cents. Especially since she mostly avoided the issue of women not taking credit for their talents.

I am a scientist. And a woman. This makes me something of a minority, although in the biological sciences, at least at the graduate student level, we are reaching numbers comparable to men. Last year, when the president of Harvard made a not-so-complimentary remark about women in science, the U of C had a panel discussion about women in science. One of the professors had gone to grad school at Harvard and she said that even though she got very good grades and even though she knew she was doing better in her classes than her male peers, when speaking with them she always assumed they were smarter than her. Until that moment, I thought I was the only idiot who felt that way. And it is idiotic that a person who values the truth of data, who knows that to have any credibility you must base your models on what the data is telling you would hold a belief that the data does not support. And yet, I did and so did she.

I have an incredibly hard time accepting compliments. With knitting, if someone comments on a project I will tell them that it was easy regardless of the amount of time I put into making it, how many times I ripped it out, how many new techniques I learned. I imagine that even if I procured a sheep, built a pen for it on top of my apt. building, took care of it every day, mucked out the stall (boy, wouldn't passersby on the sidewalk be surprised when that came hurtling off the building?), sheared the sheep myself, washed, combed, and carded the wool, spun all of it using a drop spindle, plied it, dyed it myself, and knit an wedding ring lace shawl out of it that would fit a giantess when asked I would probably say, "Oh no, it wasn't hard at all." And when asked how long it took to make, I would likely say, "Not very long." Because, after all, I hadn't raised the sheep from infancy, right?

Or why, when upon hearing that I am a graduate student in molecular genetics and cell biology, someone says, "Wow, you must be smart," I hurriedly assure them that this is not the case? Why do I not say, "Well, I've always done well in school and I've worked pretty hard for it"? Or just say, "Thank you"? I would give seven kinds of hell to any one of my friends who did the kinds of things I do everyday. I would encourage them to shout it off the rooftops. I would tell them to be proud and hold their heads up high and for the love of God take credit for your accomplishments. But I never do so myself.

It's a mystery. I have no idea why I do it. I'm sure my former therapist could come up with some reason. But, it doesn't really matter what the reason is. I need to stop doing it. If somebody says, "Your hair looks nice today," I need to stop saying things like, "I didn't even style it this morning." When someone says, "That's a lovely bolero, did you make it?" I need to stop saying things like, "Actually, the stitches aren't as even as I would like them to be." In short, I need to take credit where credit is due. I need to learn to appreciate the things that I do and assign to them the worth they truly have instead of putting them on the Everyone Else in the World versus Me Double Standard Sliding Scale of Accomplishment.

Who's with me?


  1. I'm with you!!

  2. Yes, it is an unfortunate fact that girls are socialized to be self-effacing. I've been working on this for a long time and I imagine it will be a lifelong struggle. We need to support each other. We also need to smack each other upside the head every now and then, something like, "Damnit, you worked hard, take the freakin' compliment and be happy, sistah!"

  3. I have groomed myself to just say thank you. It works. Moves you along to the next topic. And you can vary your thank yous, a curt one for dumb compliments and a long extended yooooooou for the compliment you're happy about.

    I'm mad at the guys assumming they're smarter. Where can you find the book, Men the Smarter Sex? Science fiction section.

  4. I, too, say thank you, smile and move on. A compliment is always welcome. The men I love the most are self-effacing and ever-so-endearing.