When I was in high school, there was a nice young gentleman who used to talk to me about physics. We discussed at length why it was so fascinating. At this time in my life, I was destined to do something in the linguistics field and math was a beautiful and mesmerizing diversion that I thought was much too fun to warrant the laborious connotations of academic credit. Physics, naturally, was a brilliant extension of the loveliness of mathematics with all of the equations and derived units. So, I put down the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and indulged in the conversation that was intended to captivate me. As it turned out, the young mister believed that chemistry was much more appealing, but back then, I was none the wiser. In retrospect, I think it was an adorable gesture. Though this gentleman was anticipating cultivating a relationship of a dual nature, he gets innumerable brownie points for appealing to my intellect first.
Presently, I am the instructional support/creative outlet for a math department and I have been happily married for 13 years. I expect to interact with men on a daily basis. I expect that I serve an academic purpose. I expect to play a role that is full of intellect and camaraderie. I would anticipate that my long-lasting monogamy, my small litter of children, and extensive familiarity with all things algebra would deter, if not completely prevent, any men from ever acknowledging my femininity.
Now, let me dispel the myth that men comprise the more logical gender. My intellect is available for public use. My femininity is not. My womanliness is obviously inaccessible, and yet, I have been blindsided three times in the last three weeks by men who find my inaccessible femininity so distracting that they can’t make adequate use of my intellect. It’s certainly not a pragmatic approach. So much for the gender who is touted for the ability to compartmentalize.
Granted, the social ineptitude that accompanies my nerdiness and the residual poor body image from days of yore contribute to the shock factor. I don’t see it coming. I never see it coming. I find the thought of me being lauded as some sort of tartlet to be humorous. I’ve been known to say, “Ha! You must not know that I’m a geek. Allow me to enlighten you.” It seems as though many are given to exaggeration; I own a mirror and can attest to the antithesis of the accusation/exaggeration.
A couple of different male friends have observed this behavior have asked, “Aren’t you FLATTERED?” No, and let me explain why not. I have been referred to as a “that” instead of a “who” by three twenty-something students. My brain has been characterized as an adorable accessory instead of the primary feature. My message of scholarship is lost. I imagine that the men have an inner dialogue of, “Oh, you like physics? Don’t care. You’re a girl.” No, I’m not flattered. I’m disregarded for the qualities where I place my identity. I am reminded that I have no value for anything that I find to be valuable.
Then again, the flip side of that coin where I make a point to blend into the backdrop of academic things, I’m presumed to be frigid and incompetent (apparently, those two are assumed to work in tandem) and my brain never even makes it to the assessment round.
I’ve been repeatedly disappointed by mankind. I do believe that there are some wonderful exceptions. To quote Winifred Banks of Mary Poppins, “while we adore men individually…” Feel free to sing the next line. But it is certainly a man’s world and will continue to be a man’s world as long as men are bound by the persuasion that biology is the most important subject at school. Mankind will continue to be disappointing as long as they believe that monogamy is merely a suggestion. A wife’s femininity is only pragmatic to her husband and outside of that, she is unattainable.
So, gentlemen, please stop suggesting that my very existence is an accusation against me. Skirts are comfortable, not alluring. My glasses don’t make me a “naughty librarian” or a “naughty teacher;” they make me able to see. I am aware that parts of me are disproportionate, but I would rather discuss the eight different ways to write the equation of a proportion. When I discuss curve fitting, assume that I’m talking about regression. Now, if any of you would like to discuss the finer points of translating logarithmic functions, I’m available.