Spring Semester, Service, and Sports

I declined to review a paper for a Glam Mag after having already accepted, because they’d been bugging me every two days to submit my report. “OMG if you don’t do it in 24 hours we will have to find someone else”!!! So go find someone else and stop annoying me. FFS. As if we are all sitting on our hands here.


I have to review 1-2 full proposals per day, every day, for the next two weeks. Don’t ask.


I am teaching a large undergraduate required class with no TA support. Again. The undergrads are adorable, but there are ~100 of them. I will die grading exams.


I was offered a pretty major professional service role. It’s one that would allow me to have a say in how large amounts of money are to be spent; one that would lead to a multiyear commitment to serve, and would be about a month of additional work per year. It’s an honor to be offered this opportunity, and part of me wants to take it, but most of me is just so exasperated at the thought of having even more work on my plate… All the time away from my kids, even less time for research… Then my husband, who is really supportive of my ever-increasing and ever-more-demanding and varied service, aptly put it, “It might be a good experience to have under your belt, but will be full of pretentious [non-expletive qualifier removed to preserve ambiguity] men… Will you enjoy this?” No. I most definitely will not. And at the end of the day, this is the main reason I won’t be taking this service role. I don’t think I can take such a high concentration of pretentious [non-expletive qualifier] men, talking down at me/ignoring me/generally making me work very hard to be taken seriously over multiple years… Not when I can just say no.


I have no wind in my feminist sails left, at least not right now. This coming summer, at least two of the conferences I am involved with have all-male speaker rosters. Sometimes I wait to see if anyone brings up the lack of women among speakers; nobody ever does, because I am the only woman on the advisory board or the program committee. What’s even worse is that, even when I do mention the lack of women speakers, nothing happens anyway.

I am one thinly spread token woman, partaking in way more service than a person should. I cannot be the sole force ensuring diversity across multiple professional communities.

I just want to be left the hell alone and not have to deal with yet another email thread or a conference room chock full of dudes whom I am supposed to gently nudge into thinking of a female colleague, any female colleague, who might be worthy of inviting.

This is a point at which I simply don’t expect anything more.

Somebody else can be the token for a while.


It is hard to convince myself that I need to write even better grant proposals when I routinely see all-male proposal rosters when I review. If I am the only woman in a proposal roster, guess how many panelists will feel that the proposal of this unnatural candidate absolutely has to be among the 1 or 2 that get funded? Exactly as many as can think of a woman invited speaker without prodding.


Apropos nothing: I love watching Middle Boy’s basketball and swim practices, and he really enjoys having me there. I love watching him and his friends play together as part of a league, and I yell and cheer like the most obnoxious of those dads who pretend to coach from the sidelines. I love watching Eldest and his teammates swim. I don’t care that my kids win, but I care that they give it their all and have fun. But mostly I love to watch them as it cheers me up; it lifts my gloom and brings me joy. Kids’ sports are awesome, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


  1. I hear you on the large class without TA. I’m doing a 72-person class plus lab (which together account for 12.75 hours of my 16 hours a week of classes) with no TA, so I have to do all the grading myself (5 design reports and weekly+ homework, but no exams). I do have 3 excellent undergraduate “group tutors” who help me run the lab sections and do a weekly discussion section.

    Next year, I expect the class to have 100 students (we has 72-student limit on the labs this year, and there was a waiting list of 10 students). I’ve asked for a co-instructor rather than a TA, though, as instructors are cheaper than TAs and I want to start training a replacement for when I retire.

  2. well, if they can’t be bothered to give you a TA, don’t be bothered to give exams that aren’t scantron….

  3. 1. You should prepare an exam that is extremely easy to mark. Do not think about the quality of the exam. It is about the quality of your night. You do a great job teaching job, the exam does not need to reach that quality. I know it is hard to give up these super intelligent questions, that would make smart students smile.The key here is marking. Stick to that…

    2. Totally agree with you about the funding issue. I’m so mad of it, myself coming through the experience. I feel like giving up today, so much efforts, then observing how the big money goes to someone who is perceived more scientifically mature.

  4. Ugh I feel your pain. The year I had to teach 220 students with half a TA was the year I switched to 85% multiple choice for exams. It sucks having to ask problem solving questions via multiple choice, but with that many students and that little support, there isn’t really another option. On the bright side, there are a lot fewer complaints about the grading… I also hear you on the service. It sucks being asked to diversify a committee who will then ignore your ideas but yet try to pile busy work on you at the same time.

    Sometimes we all need a break from the struggle. There is only so much fighting one person can do. When I get too tired of it all, I remind myself that I never had a female professor for math or science for the ENTIRE TIME I was in undergrad and grad school. And I finished in the 21st century! Representation matters–you fight the good fight just by showing up to work.

  5. “Sometimes we all need a break from the struggle. There is only so much fighting one person can do.”

    Yes. As if everyday academic sexism and research struggles weren’t enough, there’s now more coming from the [expletive] [expletive]s in D.C. It is demoralizing and distracting. I’m feeling increasingly hopeless and sad. My plan is to institute rigid blocks of time each morning where I shut out everything and do research in my favorite room. Maybe I will get more things done with a lighter heart before I remember the rest of the world.

  6. Last year, I took the following actions on an all-male-roster for a small conference in my field:

    – responded to the “send your grad students” publicity email (sent from somebody I know) that I would not be sending my graduate students, due to their all-male-roster. The result was a lukewarm but consciousness-raising exchange.

    – posted the conference to http://allmalepanels.tumblr.com/ because that made me feel good in a middle-finger way. But is like irrelevant from an effecting-change standpoint.

    – contacted each of the listed sources of funding, and asking (1) what their policy was, and (2) whether they provided any oversight to their sponsored conferences about how to achieve diverse rosters of speaker. I think this was helpful: one of the program managers definitely followed up with the organizers and I suspect were told that they needed to address. Money talks. The other was less interested in thinking about the issue, but at least it got on their radar screen.

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