math_mommy (math_mommy) wrote in feministthought,

How would you qualify this?

Let us consider the following situation. A girl starts her graduate studies in some Department,   fresh and bright.  She was one of the brightest and smartest undergraduate students at the university from which she came and it turned out there that she has brains for science. She loves it and has decided to go for a graduate school, and was admitted.  So, she takes courses, passes quals and sees a professor, who is nice and approachable.  The guy is old and quirky, just like an old scientist should be.  She takes a course from him, he is tells stories and jokes, and talks about science beautifully. “This is it!” the girl decides, “this is the guy who can help me to enter the world of research!” She even talks with his student, who, by some reason, is not very enthusiastic about research. She got married recently, and now is concentrated on finding a job in the same place with her husband.  This is kind of strange, with such brilliant adviser.  But all people different, right? So, the new girl bravely starts to work! Somehow the first problem offered by her adviser seems to be too hard. He sighs and gives her another one.  She could scratch the surface here, but not much, not enough for a good thesis.  She watches other students go to conferences and asks her adviser about it. “It is because they have some research done and they are giving talks”, he replies. She feels ashamed. All people around her are advancing rapidly and successfully, and she is not. May be working in science was a mistake? She carefully discusses how people around her are working with the advisers.  Nobody tried a few problems before finding the one they are capable to solve! She is such a failure! She confesses her thoughts to her adviser. He looks sympathetically and says that she should not be upset, the life is not limited to science, and there are a lot of different and wonderful things in it. Her boyfriend is very supportive as well, and even proposes! So it is not the end of the world. She gets married and finds a job in the same town where her husband can work as well.

What the girl does not know is that her adviser could not bring her to frontier of science because he left it years ago. His publications are almost all collaboration with his students, sometimes from REI program.  He does not attend conferences himself.   But he does like to talk to female students and tell them stories, hopefully looking at their busts.  You understand:  if he would help a girl to become a researcher, and they would have a relationship, then he will be at risk. Most relationships do not work out, especially with a married guy. What if she would turn against him? If she fails her graduate school, he can always blame her for not working well and turning tricks. So her successful career is not in his interests. There was not sympathy in his eyes but excitement and expectation because he hoped that she would look for consolation in his arms. And, since he is still a specialist then he knows what problems are verified dead ends and had been abandoned by other researchers. So he can mislead her and crush her confidence.

Do you think that such story could happen in reality? If yes, what is your opinion?
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I'd qualify it as regular sexism.

"could" happen? it is happening!