Nose-picking, suspender-wearing, 'token girls' and 'nerds' in Physics Depts. WHY?

  • Thread starter MissSilvy
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Rhetorical question: Why is there so much discrimination against scientists? In especially physicists?

My department is lovely and I have never gotten anything but support and respect from the faculty but everyone else is a different story. This is a very common complaint among female scientists and science students, so I won't pretend to be indignant like this is the first time that I've ever heard of *GASP* stereotyping!

People don't even see me as normal. I'm not an exceptional, Einstein-like physicist who spouts off equations and smugly sweeps aside people with 'lesser majors' but when people find out what my major is, a lot of them get defensive. Like the business majors will suddenly start talking about how brutal their classes are and one lit major started going on and on and on about how many thousands of pages she has to read a week. Qua?

Also, apparently I can't even be semi-normal. "Hey dude, we should call up Silvy and see if she wants to go out with us." "No dude, leave her alone. She's probably buried in the physics library scribbling on some chalkboard or doing experiments or something." And another physics girl complained about the same thing; that people immediately thought all physics majors were suspender-wearing dorks in beanies who have no lives, relationships, or interests except for physics. When they finally met her and saw that she was normal and fun-loving, they then stereotyped her as not being any good at physics and asking when she'd transfer out?

It's not even just the girls. A lot of guys in my department are sweet and normal, if a little shy and they're constantly depreciating themselves as lifeless nerds. On these forums as well, there's people asking if physics majors ever get married? Craziness. Chemists and biologists are conceivably normal but us physicists, with our blackboards, and big formulas, and numbers are apparently a different species.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
turbo
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At least it's getting better MissSilvy. Almost no women applied to engineering school back in the '60's and when I started out, there were 5 women in my incoming class of over 300. I had classes with a couple of them, and they were normal intelligent people.
 
  • #3
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If its any conciliation, I think most physics majors at my school are unambitious slackers (I said at my school, not in general, so get your pointer off of the "Give Topher an infraction button"). Every physics major I have ever met had a girlfriend/boyfriend with them as well and were rather socially out going. The chemistry majors seem to be more of the nerdy stereotype you describe. Maybe its just your school?

Also, my engineering class had maybe 3 girls in it. I think about 1% of the engineering population. We engineers just don't know how to deal with your kind.
 
  • #4
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hmm, maybe i got it all wrong, but i thought the nerdy girls were the hidden freaks :devil:.
 
  • #5
lisab
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MissSilvy, I had - and still have, after graduating so long ago - a lot of those same experiences. I dread it when people ask what I majored in...it often stops the conversation cold.

One thing I noticed when I was in school - most of the people I met who I became friends weren't college students. They didn't have that attitude.

For example, my closest friend at that time was a manicurist. Of course I couldn't talk about Hilbert space with her but she was a blast. Except she was always trying to "do my nails." What does that even mean...?
 
  • #6
turbo
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MissSilvy, I had - and still have, after graduating so long ago - a lot of those same experiences. I dread it when people ask what I majored in...it often stops the conversation cold.

One thing I noticed when I was in school - most of the people I met who I became friends weren't college students. They didn't have that attitude.

For example, my closest friend at that time was a manicurist. Of course I couldn't talk about Hilbert space with her but she was a blast. Except she was always trying to "do my nails." What does that even mean...?
I had an apartment across the street from a couple of lovely co-eds, and I would cook for them and serve them with hot blues on the stereo. Neither of them knew how to cook, and when I would invite them over for spaghetti with hot sausages and pepperoni in the sauce and garlic bread, or a meal of New England baked beans, cornbread or biscuits and hot-dogs, they were there with bells on. They would bring wine, cheese, and crackers, and it didn't matter if I was a geeky engineering student or not. When things wound down a bit, one of them would ask me to play guitar and sing a few songs, We were tighter than ticks.
 
  • #7
Ivan Seeking
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Yeah, well, try this one:
What did you study?
Physics
Ugh, oh, wow, okay, hmmmm, what do you like to do for fun?
Read UFO stuff
 
  • #8
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Rhetorical question: Why is there so much discrimination against scientists? In especially physicists?
I'm assuming you're in the US. In the US in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a history of religious fundamentalism and general mistrust of science. Before World War 2 all the centers of learning in the world were in Europe, this only changed because so many of scientists and engineers came to the US (or were killed in the war). In fact, the guy who led the US rocket design teams after WW2 was a former Nazi.

A great many of our researchers and scientists, at least IMO, are not actually from the US, they were imported from other countries. When not as many of them came, then we went elsewhere. Currently most of them are from China and India, but sooner or later not enough would be willing to come as opportunities in these countries continue to grow, and I don't see Africa getting its act together enough when it comes to science to replace either of these two places as sources of fresh scientists and engineers.
 
  • #9
G01
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I ENJOY wearing suspenders and beanies! I'm sorry if I'm giving the rest of you physicists a bad reputation. It's all my fault! :biggrin:


Seriously though, I get the same thing. "What your major?" "Physics." "UUUGGGHHHH!! / Physics?! / Do you hate yourself or something? / My high school physics teacher was SOO weird!"

I love the "UUUGGGHHH!" response. Why does my major and biggest interest makes other people sick enough to verbalize their disgust? If I did that to someone in another major, many would be offended:

ME: "What's your major?

"Fine arts."

ME: "Ugh! How could you possibly stand majoring in that! Are you crazy?! My art teacher in high school was so weird! I hated that class."
 
  • #10
russ_watters
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A buddy of mine is trying to set me up with one of the lawyers at the law firm where he works. A lawyer? Unimpressed. But then he told me she majored in Astronomy at Harvard. Can't wait to meet her now!
 
  • #11
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No one's going to report you, Topher. There are weirdos in every school, maybe you just got an above-average concentration of them.

And yeah, I don't know why people think that comments like that are . "I'm majoring in physics." "Oh GOD! Poor you!" What am I supposed to say? 'Yeah, man. I know, what a sucky subject' ;)
 
  • #12
russ_watters
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And yeah, I don't know why people think that comments like that are . "I'm majoring in physics." "Oh GOD! Poor you!" What am I supposed to say? 'Yeah, man. I know, what a sucky subject' ;)
Maybe it is you who are originating the perception? What if people who say "Oh God, poor you!" are talking about the workload? People said that kind of thing to me all the time when I was in college. The response is obvious: "No, I'll have a job that pays double what yours will (if you even find one) when I graduate: poor you!"
 
  • #13
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No one's going to report you, Topher.
How do you know? I've been reported for less.


"No, I'll have a job that pays double what yours will (if you even find one) when I graduate: poor you!"
This isn't really true anymore. Have you seen what people with a masters in HR make when they get out of school? Its flipping ridiculous. Its certainly a lot more than what I could ever make out of school with a MS in engineering. And they WILL get recruited too.
 
  • #14
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No one's going to report you, Topher. There are weirdos in every school, maybe you just got an above-average concentration of them.

And yeah, I don't know why people think that comments like that are . "I'm majoring in physics." "Oh GOD! Poor you!" What am I supposed to say? 'Yeah, man. I know, what a sucky subject' ;)
You do go to a school with a huge engineering department and when people cross into the engineering campus on Green, it's like entering a different world. Even Altgeld people steer clear :) All joking aside though, stereotypes I usually experienced were due to a few people in a major being "out there" and therefore those were the ones people noticed and decided that everyone from that major was like that. When I went there, physics and pretty much most engineering majors hung out at Murphy's and were mostly anti social but I still knew quite a few. My major had nothing to do with engineering or physics and barely had anything to do with math. The school has a huge Greek system as you know and a lot of bars so people tend to hang out with people outside of their majors. At least when you told people what your major was, they knew what it was :)
 
  • #15


My friend's roomie in the grad housing at UCI was a physics major. He was weird as all get out. He was a total geek but at the same time he was a free love hippy. Parties in their place usually ended in a bunch of drunk/stoned/rolling people wandering about the place half clothed or naked and having sex with whom ever wanted to between discussions of physics, politics, philosophy, and consciousness.

I tend to have a hard time getting along with most "normal people". Not because they think I'm weird, people tend to like me and want to talk to me. My main issue is that most people just are not interested in anything I am interested in. And I am not at all interested in cars or sports or how [so and so] is doing on American Idol.
 
  • #16
WarPhalange


that people immediately thought all physics majors were suspender-wearing dorks
Lady, did you just insult firemen, ahem fire*persons*, and Larry King?



It's not even just the girls. A lot of guys in my department are sweet and normal, if a little shy and they're constantly depreciating themselves as lifeless nerds. On these forums as well, there's people asking if physics majors ever get married? Craziness. Chemists and biologists are conceivably normal but us physicists, with our blackboards, and big formulas, and numbers are apparently a different species.
Look on the bright side. At least we're not math majors. :D
 
  • #17
Hurkyl
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:cry:
 
  • #18
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Russ: I think your message came off as a little unintentionally aggressive. Yes, they could mean the workload if half of these people weren't also in engineering (hardly a light course load itself). You can tell in a face-to-face conversation what people mean and I guarantee most of them do not mean homework. It's slightly offensive, but it happens a lot. You get used to it.

Yeaaah, north of Green is a different world, but in a nice way :) I like it better than the rest of campus. I don't know where all the eng and physics majors hang out... yet.
 
  • #19
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Like I said from what I remember it was Murphy's and Legend's. On Wed when Murphy's had their mug night and we'd go there, we'd feel pretty alienated. But then I can see why Kam's and Cly's wouldn't appeal to a lot of people so I can't judge them for not going there. U of I is a great place, lots of diversity, no one should feel out of place. If you feel like you are being identified by your major, join a sorority or make friends in your electives classes and try to connect with them on something other than "what's your major?" I know that is really hard at that school but it's possible. Trust me, you will make friends outside of your major.
 
  • #20
WarPhalange


Yeah, women still have it real hard in physics, math, engineering, and I'd be willing to be computer science as well (haven't taken a class in forever, so don't quote me on that).

When I tell someone I am doing physics? Either there is an awkward silence or they say "Wow, you must be smart." Now, if I answer "You bet!" I look like an ***, and if I answer "Nah..." I look like a jerk because I just said I'm not smart, so what does that make the guy who made the comment that I was?

Girls still have it hard. :(
 
  • #21
Borek
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Girls still have it hard. :(
According to the mail I am getting every day, that's the way they like it.
 
  • #22
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"So, what did you study?"
Aeronautical Engineering
"aero...aeronumintical... wha?"
Ummm, aircraft design
"Oh, that's umm cool, so you want to be a pilot or work in an airport?"
Ummm, no, I want to design aircraft
"The nautical part, you do ships too, right?"
Well, I probably could, but that's not really what it is, you see...
(cuts in) "So do you play any sports?"
This is where I get tired of it and say: yes, I play national chess oh and volleyball and sometimes tennis or squash.
"So what do you do for fun?"
Listen to heavy metal and read physics forums and play computer games and build model aeroplanes.

Even the most diehard stopped after aeronautical engineering. The only ones that get to the model aeroplane bit turn out to be pretty weird and/or cool and become friends.

Just accept who you are and find other people who accept who you are and get back to your whiteboard and keep writing those damn equations so that us engineers will have to some physics to butcher for our evil engineering approximation needs :devil:
 
  • #23


According to the mail I am getting every day, that's the way they like it.
:!!):tongue2::biggrin:

I dont tell anyone I meet outside college Im doing engineering :D.
 
  • #24
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According to the mail I am getting every day, that's the way they like it.
HaaaHH!

.....that's what she said.
 
  • #25
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Yeah, women still have it real hard in physics, math, engineering, and I'd be willing to be computer science as well (haven't taken a class in forever, so don't quote me on that).

When I tell someone I am doing physics? Either there is an awkward silence or they say "Wow, you must be smart." Now, if I answer "You bet!" I look like an ***, and if I answer "Nah..." I look like a jerk because I just said I'm not smart, so what does that make the guy who made the comment that I was?

Girls still have it hard. :(

Haha. I don't like to tell anyone what I'm studying until we've talked for at least 5 or 10 minutes. By then they know I'm fun to be around, and when I tell them I'm doing physics, their response is "Oh wow, that's awesome", as opposed to when I tell someone right away Im a physics major and they say "Oh wow, you must be smart" and maybe walk away. Being a physics major is usually a turn-on if you've already broken the stereotypes.

Same goes for girls. If a girl immediately tells me she's a physics/engineering student, I think back to all of the physics girls I know. The girls in the UA physics department (for the most part) are completely crazy. I honestly can't even talk to them. However, if I talk to a girl for a while and then she mentions she's in science, then that is always a good thing. Think about it, if a girl is fun/exciting, socially aware, and then turns out to be most likely smart, win win win.
 

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