Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ms Degree

Something happened this week that hasn't happened to me in a long time:

I was asked if I am a Masters student.

The person who asked is about 10 years older than I am (rough guess), is not an academic, and asked this question in response to my having shown some knowledge of Science.

Was he visually impaired or was it pitch black at the time and he couldn't see that I am Old? No, it was daylight, but I was wearing sunglasses, so perhaps he couldn't see the wrinkles by my eyes, or maybe he thought I was a non-traditional student.

I thought it was strange that his imagination could only take him as far as envisioning me as a Masters student. Couldn't I at least be a PhD student, if not a professional scientist of some sort?

But, in fact, I wasn't annoyed; I saw it as an opportunity to introduce myself as a Science Professor. I like to think that now he will not make the equation woman + science = student, and instead there will be some part of his brain that remembers woman + science = professional.

According to this hypothesis, whatever equation this man might make for a scientifically inclined man, he will now make for women as well. His imagination will not be as limited as it was before he had met a real live FSP.

That is my hope, anyway. This is one (slow) way that stereotypes get busted -- one person at a time -- but there can be some personal satisfaction in it if the interaction ends up being a positive one.

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