Haul, boys, Haul!
The words “February blahs” have temporarily saved my willpower – you see, whenever I start feeling underacheivish, I immediately chastize myself for my lack of singleminded devotion to my own cause, wonder what other causes I could singlemindedly devote myself to, wonder if I’m even capable of the devotion I demand of myself and if this will lead to some loss of self-respect down the road, and then I get even more depressed and underacheivish. It’s a very productive mode of thought. Luckily, sometimes all it takes is a well-timed bitch session and one person to remind me that everyone feels this way during winter term. I’ll go to Mongolia later, I guess.
On a slight tangent, I’ve also been wondering what role gender is playing in my existential angst. The registrar’s office put out some figures a couple years ago showing that the women’s mean grade point average at Tech was a tenth of a point (out of 4) lower than the men’s – and that this was a statistically significant difference. It’s the kind of thing you can never, ever find a solid empirically supported explanation for, but there are endless convincing hypotheses. So ever since, I’ve been trying them all on in my head. I’ve got a friend who routinely begins all her questions in lecture with “I’m sorry, but…” – is this a girly thing that makes us all seem stupid? Do any of the TAs I know give more patronizing, less helpful help to the girls? What about that one creepy grad student who keeps flirting with everybody? Women are more vulnerable than men to iron deficiency, which has been linked to poor performance on middle-school math exams – should the board program include dietary supplements?
None of us are stupid, we can all see that our professors are men, and in many fields so are the grad students. Conversely, there are women all over the geophysics faculty at the University of Copenhagen. While I was there, I could let down my guard: clearly, said my subconscious, the Danes have eliminated sexism, so you don’t have to worry. I hadn’t expected such a feeling of relief. Is feminist hyper-awareness creating a self-fulfilling prophecy from the egregious sexism of the past?
And from the other side of things – I feel a strong compulsion to have an interesting career, but for me it’s more about self-respect and self-expression than it is about making money. If I could find a meaningful and deeply involving volunteer project I’d be perfectly happy to let Mr. Big Strong Man provide the family cash flow. But breadwinning is an integral part of old-fashioned Manly Manliness, and that should theoretically make men less willing to consider low-income options like art, education or househusbandry, and more likely to work their asses off at a prestigious engineering school. Not being a man, I’m not sure how well this actually works – any thoughts?