New research on women in science shows that even a single “objectifying gaze” can affect a woman’s subsequent performance on mathematical tasks.
“The results suggest that seemingly innocent overtures – checking women out or complimenting them on their appearance – have remarkably negative effects on women,” Gervais said. “Identifying the adverse consequences of the objectifying gaze is a first step toward creating interventions that can reduce its effects.”
You know, at first I scoffed at this article — and then I remembered just two of my own experiences with this over the years.
The first was a fellow graduate student who was “handsy” during E&M lectures, who distracted me so much (as I repeatedly changed seats, moving away from him as he tried to grope me throughout the class period, whenever the professor turned toward the blackboard) that I lost confidence in my ability to do E&M, even though I had no problem with the work in all my other classes.
The second instance was a colleague at NASA who was hired about the same time I was. Every morning, he’d look me up and down and compliment me on my suit or skirt. It seemed innocent enough, and I just said thank you and moved on, but it unnerved me that he noticed. It unnerved me a lot, actually, and eventually I left that job to join a different group (Yay, Planetary!) just to be able to focus on the work without dealing with a potential harasser every day. And yes, I said harasser. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this same employee went on to repeat this behavior — and worse — with two other young female employees who followed me. Both left NASA, and NASA is the worse for it.
What do you think? Has receiving an “objectifying gaze” ever made you less confident? What did you do about it, or what would you recommend young women in science do about it today?
Read the rest of the article here: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/184/1593
Later this week on Women in Planetary Science: two new feature articles of women working in planetary science and a report from a CalTech study of the careers of over 200 alumni.