Profanity-laden Post on Collaboration

So I might be exiting a collaboration to protect my postdoc and my own peace of mind. It’s a collaboration of about ten people across several institutions. It came together based on joint interests, but the postdoc and I will quit as soon as the current paper is accepted. I have my own funding (thank gourd). My postdoc is a capable woman and no shrinking violet, but she gets piled on whenever I don’t attend collaboration meetings, and pretty much even when I do, although to a lesser extent because I take some of the heat and can also deescalate some. Plus, the most aggressive people are probably infinitesimally less aggressive when I am there; I don’t allow them to interrupt me as she does out deference, and I talk over them if they talk over me. Still, after every meeting I am winded and exhausted, like I’ve just run a few miles.

It’s not a fun environment. Things have gotten to the point of no return upon the joining of a new junior faculty (male) who, perhaps due to his cultural background, seems particularly hostile toward my postdoc and, to a lesser extent, me.

And I am so fucking tired having to handle assholes in kid gloves.

I pulled out of a grant-review panel a few months ago when I found out I would again serve with a combative jerk with whom I had promised myself I would never serve again.

I will pull out of a collaboration because I don’t want my postdoc dreading every meeting, feeling rattled each time she attends, and I don’t need to be walking into a meeting with a machete to cut through the bullshit flying from every direction.

The thing is, most of the men in the meetings are completely silent. Do they not see what’s happening? Do they think the uppity  women deserve it? Do they not wanna say something to deescalate these clearly tense and uncomfortable exchanges? Do they not notice anything? How the hell are people so oblivious? They probably just don’t care.

And, of course, it will be “women are too difficult to work with” again. 🙄

Fuck this, seriously. Thank fuck I am not dependent on them for the funds and can just walk away.


  1. Ugh. And of course, they always keep the jerk and ignore all the amazing people who don’t want to work with the jerk.

    Sympathy for the post-doc. It doesn’t have to be like that. 😦

  2. Yuck. I’m sorry you and your postdoc had to deal with these jerks. Yes, they either don’t notice, or they’re into it. The ones who don’t notice? If you pointed it out, some of them would still not have a problem with the bad behavior. There’s really barely any incentive to speak up. And yet! Every once in a while, speaking up will make the scales fall from the eyes of one of your colleagues, or lower their resistance to speaking up next time.

    This isn’t meant to be a criticism — everyone needs to pick their battles and this sounds like one to be avoided. But it seems like the younger generation thinks we all always walk away from all conflict, or that no one is ever an ally…and that’s just not true.

  3. I am guessing that the men in your meetings do not speak up because a) they tend to confuse arrogance with brilliance (happens in all fields, often despite ample evidence to the contrary); b) they want to avoid having to deal with the wrath of arrogant assholes (arrogant assholes tend to be vindictive), or c) they literally do not care and do not want to prolong the meetings with extra drama because they are not the “difficult” ones like you. Fuck them all – the arrogant assholes and the complicit wimps alike.
    Nobody needs to deal with that shit.
    If you are stuck with it, here is a true and tried method to take over: If you sneakily and deliberately cultivate some allies ahead of a meeting and get them to agree with you on stuff in private (best if you get them to think it was their idea) and preferably also in front of each other, then they will have to back you up or risk looking like unprincipled jerks. The complicit wimps will stay away from you and your army and immediately start developing an appreciation for your brilliance. Mwahahaha!

  4. It’s disheartening and infuriating that all female faculty know exactly the situation I’m talking about because they’ve all experienced it.

  5. Ugh, indeed.

    I came across this paper recently on arXiv: “How well-intentioned white male physicists maintain ignorance of inequity and justify inaction” and it was damning to see how easily the men interviewed talked themselves out of taking action, or assumed that they were powerless to correct a situation, despite generally being at the top of the food chain.

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