Day: November 14, 2022

Bullets of Ego

  • Remember months (years?) ago when Pete Davidson dated Ariana Grande (Why do I even know about this? Social media, that’s why), which popularized the term “big dick energy” (BDE) to denote a person who is quietly confident (because they know they’re packin’) and doesn’t have to rub their qualities (ahem) in everyone’s face. Apparently, BDE is perceived subliminally and is very attractive. Someone being all up in your face with their perceived awesomeness, trying to get you to acknowledge them, is said to have “small dick energy.”
  • I remember the movie “The Social Network,” where Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend tells him something along the lines of, “You think people don’t like you because you are a nerd. But actually people don’t like you because you’re an asshole.”
  • Anyway, these days I am thinking about how it would be really nice if there were more BDE people in academia. People who are competent and confident, but not jerks about it. They go about their business, doing their work, advising students, being colleagues, and not having to measure dicks against others at every turn. Not have to constantly show they’re the smartest person in every room. Not have to put people down with no good reason.
  • By extension, I’d like it to not be automatically assumed that, just because someone is kind and calm, they aren’t competent or confident, or just because someone is supportive and helpful, they aren’t an ambitious. I wish people stopped assuming outward self-confidence were a proxy for competence. Haven’t we learned anything from 2016 — 2020?
  • I’ve been interviewing prospective students, and there are a couple who are confident. Very confident. Very, very confident. So confident they are really obnoxious about it. I am sure they were told about having to be boastful in the US, and it’s true in the sense that self-promotion is much more overt and expected in the US than elsewhere in the world, but self-promotion is a fine skill and it’s very easy to land on the side of annoying. So annoying that it will likely disqualify them from admission into my group, because people with outsize egos are exhausting to work with. But such students are brilliant, you might say. Not brilliant enough to justify them being as exasperating they usually are.
  • In a multi-PI collaboration, a brand new male assistant professor who joins the collaboration late is automatically afforded respect. I have to battle with a male PhD student of another PI, a student who is writing his first paper, about technical details pertaining to my group’s part of the work, about the text we contributed, about everything. Every detail is a struggle. (You don’t want to even know how my female postdoc gets piled on when I don’t attend the collaboration meeting.) Being a female professor is a little like being queer, in that you have come out over and over and over again, to everyone individually, only in the case of a female professor it’s having to convince people of your competence, over and over and over again, even people twenty years your junior who should assume you know something based on seniority alone, but they never do.
  • This shit is so exhausting.