WOMEN ARE NOT MEN.
Men are not women and women are not men. Yet when a woman achieves a certain level of command, she is practically expected to act, be and look manlier than any man. This happens due to several factors. First and foremost is probably history: it is only in the previous century that women began to go to work en masse, and only in the recent decades women became more ubiquitous in the work force, including science and research. In a mid-twentieth century novel, a woman talks about her and her brother. They both wanted to be doctors, she tells matter-of- factly. Her parents paid for his education and encouraged him; she was lucky to become a nurse. In 1992, Columbia College of Columbia University in New York celebrated the tenth anniversary of women being accepted to college. It used to be customary even for an educated woman to stay at home when she had children. Now it is customary for a woman to work until her due date and return to work a couple of days after the delivery. As a society we are still in the transition phase. There are also whole countries where a woman is not seen as a human being, but rather as an appendage to man.
“We are going on a bus excursion and then straight to our conference dinner which is to be held at an abandoned mine”, the organizing committee president announced. While I was trying to process the news, focused more on that ominous phrase “abandoned mine”, the only other woman present exclaimed in distress: “But what about the women?!” The reaction was, “What about the women?” She clarified: “We need to change!” And here comes the totally male reaction: “Change what?” So we went on an excursion as we were, same as men. Later on, when we arrived to the mine and it turned out people had to go down, like really deep down to get their plates of food, I settled near the entrance so that I could see the sky outside. A waitress brought me a glass of wine and whispered with a smirk, “Fifteen minutes tops, and they will all be up here!” True. Now I am facing exactly the same arrangement: bus excursion and straight on to dinner. It tells me among other things that the organizers are mostly men, and that none of them bring their wives to the event.
“Why is everybody staring at you?” my husband asked at a conference dinner. I told him I was the only woman present. He pointed at a few young female participants. They were mostly American, all wearing sleeveless T’s a la Bruce Willis in “Die Hard”, camouflage pants and doc Martins. I was wearing an evening dress, nice shoes, some accessories and my hair was nicely curled. The only woman present. My husband stayed glued to my side and informed everybody that it was HIS wife.
I love Emma Thompson. When we first watched the movie “Junior”, we laughed till tears came. She was an epitome of a female scientist with her outfit and lack of attention to her whole appearance. We have lots of such women in any country at any lab. Once a woman is the head of a lab or department, she starts wearing suits and often has padded shoulders in her jacket. Fortunately this is changing now. There are more women at every scientific conference; not many, where there used to be at most one there now may be ten. But it’s a shift. Young women wear whatever they like, pay attention to their hair and their face. They may even attend the conference dinner in a nice dress if there is no bus excursion right before that.
My point is, let us remain women.