We’re Good Enough, We’re Smart Enough, and Gosh Darn It, We’re the November Scientiae!

Life in Our Heads

Welcome to the 13th edition of Scientiae! Today I am happy to share with you what is inside of everybody’s heads: BRAAAAAAINS!! Er, wait – even though I am technically writing this on Halloween, it won’t appear until November 1. So I don’t want to invoke zombies, I want to invoke psychologists. The theme is thoughts, inner lives, self-talk, that sort of thing.

Well, maybe zombie psychologists.

When I asked you all for posts about your internal monologues, I had just finished a knock-down drag-out fight with myself. I can’t even remember what it was about; I suspect I had been bullying myself into doing some work, or possibly into getting out of bed. And I realized that the scolding tone I take with myself is a relatively new approach; I’m not sure what to make of it. Even though I’ve read all the feminist theory (or at least some of the feminist theory) about how focusing on what’s wrong inside our heads functions primarily as a way to divert attention from all the real social problems outside our heads… well, I would still like to be better company for myself than I have been lately. Routine self-chivvying gets things done, but it’s also quite tiring.

It could be worse, though. Skookumchick‘s head is trying to kill her:

How’s those publications on your dissertation going? Oh good, you spent a couple of hours on it this weekend, that’s good. How many words? Over 9,000?? Wow, where are you going to get the money for the page charges for that, at $100 a page? Your start-up? Don’t you have to make that last over the next two years, and don’t you have to buy a new computer and computers for your grad students? You don’t have any grad students? Well, what the hell have you been doing?

Justapie worries that her thoughts aren’t focused enough to do great science. Zuska, on the other hand, wishes that she could stop focusing on gender.

Fortunately, there’s hope. Lots of people have good working relationships with their monologues. Am I a Woman Scientist? notes that when she lets her inner voice chatter on, it rewards her with ideas. Addy N. might overplan and jump the gun from time to time, but that strategy seems to be working for her – congratulations, Addy!

Meanwhile, Veo Claramente‘s inner voice is usually frenetic, but she has occasional blessed periods of calm. Hypoglycemiagirl‘s inner voice sounds less like a helpful colleague and more like a great friend:

My inner voice readily adapts to the environment. Together we are generally verbally abusive towards anyone in our way, including ourselves, and we have a great time being total bitches.

By contrast, Pat at FairerScience hasn’t made friends with her inner voice. Instead, she’s made friends by using her “outer” voice in the bad girl row:

When you sit in the bad girl row, there are rules. For example, talking to yourself is considered bad form. You are supposed to share whatever snarky or irreverent comment you’re thinking with the person next to you.

Then there are the philosopher’s zombies, who by definition have no inner monologues at all. They didn’t submit any posts to the carnival.

Impostor Syndrome

Of course, many of us find that our internal monologues suffer from imposter syndrome. What’s impostor syndrome? Well, if you need an introduction, Mrs. Whatsit has two parts of what she promises will be a three-part series, where she explains her persistent and unjustified feelings of inadequacy to her relentlessly self-confident labmate:

So, I said to R, “From now on, I am not going to always assume that the reason something is not working is because I’m a bad scientist, with bad hands. Time and again, I’ve shown that’s not the case and I’m not going to let myself think those things anymore.” And R said, “But, that’s what you’ve been saying all along.” To which I replied, “Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying to you, but what I’ve been saying to myself is that I’m not good enough to be in lab and that I’m not smart enough to be here.”

That’s from Part One; Part Two goes into more detail on the vexing question of how and why we remain faithful to our imagined impostorhood, no matter how much evidence we have to the contrary.

Mother of All Scientists also has a touch of the old imposter syndrome. And while Amanda doesn’t say so in so many words, her inner life sure fits the theme:

I tend to infer things behind what other people say. For instance, when someone says “Nice presentation.” I read that as, “Glad that it’s over.” Or “I hadn’t caught that. I’ll put that into the review.” really means, “Well, that was really unimportant. Stop getting hung up on the details.” In my more rational, or sane, moments I know that these harsh criticisms are only coming from within and that these people probably mean what they say. However, I can never entirely push away the feeling that secretly everyone else thinks, but is too nice to say, that I’m incompetent at best and hopeless at worst.

Do zombies ever doubt that they deserve all that flesh of the living, even as they rip it off the bones of their screaming victims with their preternaturally strong undead jaws?


Apparently men don’t actually walk around all day pondering how best to oppress their female colleagues. Who knew? In fact, Abel Pharmboy is simply bewildered that we have to have this discussion….again.

Chris Rowan might be able to respond. He admits that gender is a newcomer to his internal landscape, and then tells us not only how it got there, but why its presence is important:

[I]t is one thing to imagine that you are unprejudiced, but it is quite another to actually be unprejudiced when faced with the choice. We all harbour subconscious biases, which can only truly be overcome if you force yourself to acknowledge them, and watch out for their influence.

Bill Hooker asks (and answers!) why should I, a straight white male, actively try to undermine my many privileges?. And in another post, he tells us what he does when faced with an Angry Female Scientist:

Angry Female Scientist: my fucking profession is riddled with sexist assholes! Jesus fuck! I hate you bastards!

Male Option 1: I’m not like that/don’t generalize, you’ll alienate your allies/don’t be so emotional/etc
(This translates “shut up and keep your place”, not just immediately in the AFS’s mind but in a larger sense, in which an angry woman is immediately confronted, dismissed, argued with and ultimately ignored. Think about what happens when a man gets angry and makes overly general statements; he generally gets cut some slack, or at least left to vent.)

Male Option 2: Dude, what happened? Did I do something?
(This translates “I accept that there’s a problem, that you have a right and a reason to be angry; I’m on your side, go ahead and vent, maybe tell me how I can help”.)

He has an algorithm, even.


Here I will abandon all pretense of coherent narrative structure. You know how it goes.

  • Miss Prism is determined to get her Oo back:

    So here’s my five-point plan to Fall Back In Love With Science. As you may notice, it’s based loosely on one of those women’s mag articles that tell women who are fed up with doing all the work in their relationship how to rekindle the flame by doing more work in their relationship.

  • Flicka Mawa is still seeking the perfect local women in science club:

    I just don’t know how to go about finding a community of people with whom I can talk about my concerns and we can help each other through the decisions and the work involved. I mean, aside from the lovely blog community, which is great. But it would be nice to know some real-life women at the university too, the kind that I could see in person and smile at and even get a hug from on a tough day. How do I find these people?

  • Humuhumu at Junkyard Clubhouse writes about Mastermind, and the female computer scientist who appears on the cover of the classic edition of the game. And also cat pee.
  • Chuck the Lab Lemming objects to radical feminism in the alkali earths, but gives it more consideration in the noble gases.
  • Dr. Shellie has been thinking about how to make an impact:

    I like it when I feel like I’ve had an impact on other people’s lives. As an aside, I do wonder sometimes whether that is gendered– why am I not as happy and proud about my paper citations as I am about helping others?

  • Field Notes from an Evolutionary Psychologist has some study tips.
  • Last but not least, Mad Hatter has a three-part series on alternative careers for PhDs in academia. Part one: the rundown of non-tenure-track job categories. Part two: their advantages. Part three: their disadvantages.
  • Oh, wait, even laster! A late entry from A Natural Scientist:

    Sometimes the inner snark creeps into the outside voice in full-on Southern. ‘Don’t you ever talk to me like that.’ ‘I beg your pardon but I do believe you are mistaken.’ And sometimes, when I’m really losing it, ‘Listen to the WORDS coming out of my MOUTH!!!’

Okay! That’s it! Thanks to everyone who sent in a post! The next edition of Scientiae will be compiled by Kate, of A K8, A Cat, A Mission fame. You can follow this and other exciting developments about future carnivals at the Scientiae blog.

If you need more to read, I suggest trying the latest editions of the Carnival of Feminists and the Tangled Bank.


Trackbacks & Pings

  1. The Futile Cycle » Blog Archive » Those Who Don’t Know History… on 03 Nov 2007 at 8:31 pm

    […] Though I didn’t know about it before, there apparently is a blog carnival on women in science. The posts collected in it are quite good, and some blog posts that have linked […]

  2. Carnival roundup « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog on 29 Nov 2007 at 12:15 pm

    […] 13th Edition: the November carnival is up at Green Gabbro. […]


  1. Veo Claramente wrote:

    Fantastic! Love the style :) Thank you!

  2. skookumchick wrote:

    This is a great carnival, Yami!! Thanks so much for compiling such great reading fodder….. :-)

  3. Flicka Mawa wrote:

    I concur with Veo. It’s so much fun to read! I can’t wait to check out all the wonderful posts.

  4. ScienceWoman wrote:

    OOOOHHH looks like a great carnival you’ve put together Yami. Sorry I missed the fun. My inner voice kept reminding me to submit something, but my to-do list kept forcing me not to.

  5. Twice wrote:

    Excellent! Love the quotes! Thank you.

  6. Jenny F. Scientist wrote:

    Yami, thanks! The organizers are always so kind to my utter lack of doing-stuff-on-time.

    It looks lovely and I’m going to go read now. Thanks so much for organizing!! Fun to write and to read.

  7. Amanda wrote:

    Thanks for the great carnival! It’s been so much fun to read.

  8. Abel Pharmboy wrote:

    Great job, Yami, and thanks for including us boys (thanks also to Zuska for pointing us this way). I like to think that a few of us Y chromosomes are fighting on the same side as y’all.

  9. Wayfarer Scientista wrote:

    Great job Yami! Love your style. I’m only sorry I was away most of the month and didn’t contribute (my inner voice saying – “You’re on vacation, screw reality, it can wait”).

  10. Paula Schramm wrote:

    I was on vacation too, but at least I can read all the wonderful posts now.

  11. yami wrote:

    Thanks, everyone :)

  12. Theo Bromine wrote:

    Lots of food for thought, but oh the irony of the Google ad in the sidebar:

    Attract “MR. Right”
    10 Secrets To Get A Man Positively Addicted To You For Life

  13. yami wrote:

    Wait, you mean I didn’t go to Caltech to get my Mrs. degree?

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