The perception of female graduate students

Guy in bar: So, what brought you to Seattle?
Me: I just started grad school
Guy: What are you studying?
Me: Genetics
Guy: Oh, I would have thought it would be more shallow-like
Me: … *eyes bug out*

While I think the details are irrelevant, I feel compelled to add that I wasn’t wearing anything that could be even remotely perceived as “shallow-like.” Jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup. Nope, I just had boobs.


  1. azkyroth says

    I’m starting to think that if I were a woman I would carry a few small tubes of lotion, and when a guy did something like that while trying to chat me up I’d hand him one and ignore him from then on. Yeesh. >.>

  2. tepafish says

    Was this the beginning of your conversation?

    I usually love your comments, and as MUCH as that guy was a total idiot, it might not have anything to do with your gender. Maybe he judged you (wrongly) as a particular kind of person because of something else you said or did, such as liking Pokemon or comics. I like those things too, but I sure to some people that makes me seem less serious.

  3. Brian says

    I don’t understand why people say this. I mean even if you think it, why would you say it out loud? Some people must not have very good internal filters.

    That or maybe he thinks “shallow” is a compliment.

  4. Some Random Guy says

    As a man, I think this would be awesome – in fact, skip the pretense and carry small bottles of lube. (And by “awesome” I mean “those guys deserve it”)

  5. jonvoisey says

    I think for me it would go like this:
    Me: So, what brought you to Seattle?
    Girl at bar: I just started grad school
    Me: What are you studying?
    Girl: Genetics
    Me: +100 hot points! Teach me something awesome!

  6. JM says

    Back in the day(decades ago), when I was in the dating scene, I think that plain old courtesy prevented guys from saying things like that. No matter how chauvinistic they might have been, most of them still understood that being insulting wouldn’t get them laid.

    So maybe it’s useful to find out quickly that they’re just not going to work out.

  7. says

    I’m far more interested in where the conversation proceeded from here. What was his clarification afterwards? I can only assume you demanded one. Entirely curious.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Perfect expression of what so many guys are thinking but have learned not to say. They’ll say they expected a soft science, they’ll say they’re surprised that you’ll be studying genetics (without saying why or what they expected), but what they won’t say is that “Chicks are shallow, what are you doing being involved in something I consider important?”

    I would really, really love to know what percentage of men think this way – whether they phase it as “shallow” or “soft science” or what have you. It may not be more than 3% – and even that would be way too many – but I really believe that it’s more likely to be fairer to say that it’s in the “more than 30%” range than the “more than 3%” range, even though if the former is true the latter would be technically true as well….

    I pray it’s not in the 60-70% range, although I think even that is reasonably possible.


  9. Ratshag says

    Oh great googly moogly. Where’s a day old mackerel fer ta thwap a bugger in the face with when ya needs one?

  10. Lagerbaer says

    Two fails here: First, the assumption that girls study only shallow subjects such as sociology.

    Second, that some subjects (he was probably thinking of the humanities…) are perceived as shallow.

  11. says

    It’s possible he was just assuming that the doctorate was “useless” rather than basing it on your gender (I know a lot of people who are doing their Ph.Ds in philosophy or some other equally perceived useless discipline).

  12. LTFT says

    Hi Crip etc,

    Just my guess, but I imagine more guys would say something like that to be ironically cool than would say it and actually mean it. They would be failing to be cool, of course.

  13. Glodson says

    I cannot help but wonder what he thought you were going to say you were studying in grad school. I mean, what would be a shallow subject to study in grad school? I can get how one might think a subject is interesting, but I’m failing to come up with something I would call shallow.

    The other thing: where the hell was he going with that?

  14. David Hart says

    For what it’s worth, where I’ve just finished studying, I can only think of one non-boobed person I know doing genetics. That guy should come to Dundee (Scotland) and be defeated by the stats. Or alternatively, you should come to Dundee and … um, be part of the stats? Hey, I think I like the second option better.

  15. says

    Back in the day (decades ago), when I was in the dating scene, my experience was very definitely NOT that plain old courtesy prevented guys from saying things like that. If I had a dollar for every time I was told I was too pretty to be studying maths and physics, or that I didn’t look like a brainiac, or that oooh I was scary because I must be so smart… Well, I might not be independently wealthy but it would seriously help with the grocery money.

  16. Jurjen S. says

    I think this is one of those situations in which a simple “fuck off” (ideally delivered in as Cleese-y a tone as possible) is a perfectly reasonable and socially acceptable response.

  17. Jack says

    The first time I spoke to the woman who I ended up marrying it was to ask her what book she was reading. It was The Origin of Species and I thought it was totally hot. We have been married for almost 5 years.

  18. Amanda M. says

    My boyfriend’s response to this:

    The bartender says “We don’t serve faster-than-light particles in here.” A neutrino walks into a bar.

  19. jasonlang says

    I often say to my wife. “You know what I find sexiest about you?” (cup hands upward) “Your big, gorgeous, amazing…. brains.”

  20. jasonlang says

    Actually, cinema is quite a complex topic that touches on psychology, sociology, gender roles, politics, artistic sense, huge amounts of task management, and lots of constantly changing technology.

    …of course I’m shallow, and am poisoned by a Y chromosome too…

  21. jasonlang says

    Come to think of it, who uses ‘shallow’ in common useage anyway? As a pejorative, sure. To describe a puddle of water, okay. “I expected something more shallow”? …were you on a bar on the moon, Jen?

  22. aspidoscelis says

    I think it depends on the study organism. Mainstream model organisms (lab mice, zebrafish, fruit flies, Caenorhabditis elegans, Escherischia coli, etc.) are not hot. “Real” organisms – yay!

    Studying genetics is only as cool as the organisms you’re studying…

  23. says

    Are you kidding me? I spent my genetics experiments learning about developmental knock outs in maggots that turned them giant and seeing the same gene in caterpillars and producing the same effect by cutting out the hormonal centres of their brains to produce giant insects (think turning an inch caterpillar into something 4 inches long)

    C. Elegans is interesting particularly since we actually have bred rolling worms that don’t travel in a wormy fashion but roll around.

    Drosophilla Melanogaster is cheap, and easy and we have bred all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures out of them including the infamous wingless wonders. They are perfect for teaching inheritance patterns.

    Zebra Fish can regenerate heart tissue. Enough said.

    And mice are pretty smart. I actually like lab mice.

    Genetics labs are pretty sexy. I mean, it is the scientific study of the horizontal monster mash’s consequences.

  24. says

    In my experience (I actually think the reason why women aren’t so heavily represented in atheism is because Physics and Chemistry are still heavily male dominated) biology and medicine are doing wonders for breaking down the gender barriers. At the moment there are genuine fears that men may require gender bias to balance the numbers (There are a lot more female medical students out there than men) and biology tends to be the science with the best gender equality of “right down the middle”. But I figure it may have gone the way of medicine in the past few years with more women than men joining up.

    I think it’s daft, women get into medicine because they are good enough. Equality must not come at the price of quality. I don’t want to see equal demographies in medicine, I want to see people who are equally good.

    My class has more women than men and it’s India, a place where male chauvinism is expected (I am considered weird for cooking and cleaning). I know there were a lot of complaints about the rise of women in medicine by MRAs a while back that made me smile a lot.

  25. says

    Man that’s worse than my “All my dates end at the morgue, one may as well start there. Do you want to come see an anatomy dissection then grab lunch?”

  26. azkyroth says

    You can understand his disappointment, of course. I mean, if you’re not into shallow subjects, he’s outta luck. ;/

  27. Sam says

    Looks like he attempted a bit of “negging”. It’s a pick-up-artist (PUA) technique that involves using thinly-vieled minor insults in an off-hand way to put a woman on the defensive and make her, subconciously, want to prove herself to be better. The eventual aim is to sleep with the target woman.

    Seriously, do a quick search for “negging” and “PUA”, you’ll find a whole WORLD of sexism to angry up the blood.

    Just for the record, I’m not a pick up artist but I do procrastinate a lot, and the internet has fantastic avenues in which to browse subjects you had never even heard of.

  28. says

    I’m having a hard time thinking of ANY graduate studies which aren’t impressive and challenging. Yes, even things like Fashion Marketing (especially that) are highly competitive and require a lot of work and stress.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is “jerk-face!”

  29. Flah the Heretic Methodist says

    Jen, I had no idea you were a master of speed dating. Think of how much time you saved by finding out this one’s not worth wasting any more time on. Hey, glass half full.

  30. Carlie says

    I’ve heard of that before – I still don’t understand how it could ever work on anyone. Do you think it actually does, or is it an urban myth that just makes certain guys feel better about being jerks?

  31. Carlie says

    tepafish, why was your immediate reaction to try and figure out a way that it must have been that Jen didn’t know what she was talking about and that the guy was a-ok? Is it that she must not properly understand conventional interactions because she’s female? I find it interesting that every single time a woman relates a story of some guy acting sexist towards her, some people’s first and strongest reaction is to try to prove that she is wrong in favor of the nameless faceless guy of the story.

  32. cang says

    Did you just reveal that you perceive female grad students wearing makeup as the type to study “shallow-like” topics?

  33. Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie says

    And, as I’ve seen pointed out, it’s funny that once women get to a certain saturation point in a discipline, that discipline is suddenly considered shallow.

  34. Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie says

    For what it’s worth, I’d be intrigued by the morgue invitation, but I’d have told the guy in Jen’s post to go fuck himself because then he can be assured of a partner more his speed.

  35. azkyroth says

    …or possibly that she’s aware that stereotype exists and if she had looked the part his reaction would at least be comprehensible, albeit not defensible?

    What the fuck ever happened to reading things charitably?

  36. Lauren says

    yup. I wonder what that dude would think of me getting my PhD in Musicology. I’m shallow? It’s a “soft” subject? That it makes sense, ‘cos I’m a chick?
    I like the lotion idea. How come misogynists think that waving their misogyny flag will be attractive to women?

  37. tepafish says

    I don’t think that my assessment of the situation is unfair. Jen said the context was irrelevant. I disagreed. I wanted more context. I thought it might matter. Now that she has clarified, I agree with her. I don’t understand why I have to trust her if I can just ask a question.

    I think I can be a feminist and demand that people don’t jump to conclusions.

    And, as a last note, I’m something of a psychologist. I’ve read way too much about all the subtle cues people pick up from each other to judge each other. Sex is one of them. There are many others. I think it is safe to say that context is never irrelevant.

  38. GemmaM says

    Every guy who tries to pick me up in a bar or coffee shop is surprised to see that the work spread out in front of me is math. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone say they thought I’d be doing “something more shallow”, but I’ve had guys ask if those diagrams are graphic design, or if I’m “writing” — in the sense of “writing a story”. When I tell them it’s math, they’ll either say it sounds really hard or just look completely nonplussed; the scant few who have the grace to merely look impressed and then roll with it are obviously not expecting that answer.

    So, yes, Jen’s story surprises me not at all. And regarding clothes and ‘shallowness’, well, I don’t like to wear miniskirts around the department any more, just in case, but any guy who is surprised to see me dressed like that while I puzzle out a numerical method in a cafe is welcome to the cognitive dissonance.

  39. Greta Christina says

    Wow. Just… wow. I don’t know if I’m more appalled at the sentiment, or at the fact that he thought it was a good idea to say it out loud.

    Although I recently had someone call me “shallow,” and then insist at some length that it wasn’t an insult and I shouldn’t take it as one. So there’s always that possibility. Maybe he meant “shallow” in a nice way. m-/

  40. Glodson says

    That… that just makes me sad. Here’s hoping the guy was just black-out drunk and said something stupid while fumbling for his next line.

  41. F says

    Oh, I would have thought it would be more shallow-like

    Oh, I was hoping it would be something I didn’t feel threatened by while attempting to chat up a woman who understands and advances the field.

  42. Midnight Rambler says

    For what it’s worth, I’d be intrigued by the morgue invitation

    Except “dates” could refer to the event, or the person; my first thought was that it referred to the person…

  43. BinJabreel says

    I’d just like to chime in at this point and say how stunningly happy I am to read about this kind of stuff happening in genetics labs.

  44. Kim says

    OMG!!!!!! Girl!! I can’t believe he just totally said that to you. I would have been, like, WTF Dude, you need to get a life or something. I mean, where have you been???????? Girls study just about anything nowadays. Men are such Jerks!!!!

  45. says

    That is so entirely rude that it is astounding.

    I hope you kneed him in the balls–because idiots like that seriously don’t need to be breeding…

  46. elaine says

    “Oh, I was hoping it would be something I didn’t feel threatened by while attempting to chat up a woman who understands and advances the field.”

    as an ex-PhD student in semi-theoretical physics, I used to love the (white)(male) engineering undergrads who would, without fail, tell me where I was failing in my maths and then proceede to tell me how my thesis would conclude.

    Gee, thanks guys, I needed your advice as I am only female.

  47. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    She didn’t say the context was irrelevant – she said the DETAILS were irrelevant.

    She obviously believed that the context was relevant because she discussed how she dressed. What she was CLEARLY saying was that there were no details not provided that would change the assessment of the situation -therefore there were no more details relevant to the conversation.

    And she was right.

    But you just couldn’t trust that she might actually know what she was talking about.

    “OH, right!! I didn’t think about whether he might have been calling me shallow because I said that I was a menudo fan & told him that everyone who’s anyone LOVES menudo! Thank goodness that Tepafish was around to ask me what we *said in the conversation*.

    “I’m so shallow it never occurred to me to think about what was said in the conversation when judging what was said in the conversation! Thank goodness for those smart, smart men! It’s always so very, very difficult for us women to assess what happens in our lives without a good man to remind us what to think about!”

    yeah, that’s why I read BlagHag, b/c she’s just smart enough to be able to think about whatever men tell her to think about!

    Face it, Tepafish, you were assuming that she was not competent to judge the interaction and that your questions would change the analysis. That’s quite a super-power you’ve got there in your pants.

  48. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    You got that I was guessing at the percentage of guys who think women are less “scientific” not the percentage of men who would say, “You’re shallow” out loud, right?

    For me, it’s not about the exact words used, though the guy in question used more despicable words than most, it’s about the train of thought that backs it up.


  49. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I read it as her trying to eliminate other reasons a jerk might assume someone was shallow so that we could be absolutely certain – or at least as certain as possible in real life – that we’re barking up the right tree when we start talking about the connection between the “shallow” comment and the “genetics” reveal. We’re not talking about what Jen thinks is shallow, we’re talking about what jerkface thinks is shallow and WHY. We can’t know that without eliminating things that jerkface was NOT using to judge someone shallow.

  50. badandfierce says

    I have a feeling that I might be a little more generally irritated once I get rolling on that grad school thing… And anyway, isn’t studying kind of the inherent opposite of shallow? Even if you’re getting a degree in the history of fashion or sport photography, by definition, you’re going under the surface and building on context and theory and all those educational type things…

    Oh, wait, by “shallow” he meant “girly” and by “girly” he meant “things that don’t inherently sound hard to me.” Nevermind!

  51. stacy says

    I dunno. Seems appalling to me, but I know nothing of that scene. Maybe Pick-Up Artists sometimes get lucky for other reasons and credit their stupid pick up lines?

  52. azkyroth says

    Hand lotion is stereotypically used as a masturbatory aid by men, especially those who masturbate frequently. The implication being that he has blown any chance he might have had of hooking up with her tonight so badly that his odds of hooking up with anyone are probably pretty remote, either through the breadth and depth of his cluelessness or the spectacle.

  53. says

    It annoys me too that someone gets to decide what disciplines are “useless”, or “shallow”, etc. It’s in the same vein as getting a qualification to get a ‘job’. Yes, that’s great & all, but whatever happened to getting an education. A good solid education brings valuable skill sets to a person that *will* help them get gainful employment. Worry about getting that first, before worrying about getting a job. In any case, some of those business/commerce papers are down-right woo riddled.

  54. James Emery says

    The only way to fix this shit is a full female assault on the scientific/technology/mathematics communities. Every feminist here had better be jumping into these fields and overwhelming them :) Unfortunately, there will almost certainly be no true equality until there’s… Well, EQUALITY.

    Idiot probably made the assumption that she was just another wannabe-princess like most American women (although I doubt Jen puts off that vibe, and obviously, that doesn’t apply HERE). Seriously, if I have a daughter, the first three presents she’s getting for her birthday are:
    -An Abacus
    -A Chemistry Set
    -A Laptop (although, to be fair, the latter ones may have to wait until she’s old enough to use them safely!).

  55. LTFT says

    Hi Crip,

    Yeah, I figured you were talking about thinking and not saying. My point was more that I would guess (and hope) that most of the guys who might say something like that probably wouldn’t actually believe it. They might think playing on old stereotypes is funny or cool but they wouldn’t believe in those stereotypes (though yes, by referencing them they would continue to propagate them). At least I’d hope so. And now that I think of it, this may be more true of somewhere like Seattle than, erm, more rural America.

  56. Eric O says

    My thoughts exactly. There’s nothing shallow about social science and the humanities. Like natural science, you need brains and lots of experience to be successful in these fields.

  57. Captain Mike says

    I’m inclined to agree, and that’s the opinion of someone who has dedicated large amounts of time and energy to having sex with as wide a cross-section of the human race as possible.

    If there’s a difference between securing sex through trickery and outright rape, it isn’t one I’m able to perceive.

  58. Captain Mike says

    That’s probably part of it, but I think at least some of the reason PUAs find success can be revealed by examining their “thought” processes. From what I can discern, it runs along these lines:

    1. Women are idiots.
    2. I will craft and/or borrow “lines” designed to work on idiots.
    3. I will then apply these techniques with vigor.

    At this point, we leave the inside of their heads*, and journey to the real world. We then find this:

    4. As it turns out, some women actually are idiots.
    5. Success!

    If you spend literally all of your time trying to con idiots, you will eventually find success. It’s not like we have some sort of massive shortage.

    *I really hope everyone remembered to wear their hazmat suits.

  59. Broggly says

    Not necessarily. I’m an SRC councillor at my university, and there was discussion over whether a new graduate program being offered had true educational merit or was only intended to look good on a resume.

  60. Gnumann says

    Lotion is better – a bottle of lube I’m afraid would be seen as an invitation to (anal)sex by some sad gits.

  61. Sili says

    I’m sure it was indeed a dig at you as a woman, but just to demonstrate my obliviousness, my first assumption was that he was dissing Seattle, which I understand to be something like Home of the Hipster.

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