Posted By Pamela Gay on Oct 11, 2015 | 14 comments

Despite being a mistake.

Despite being defective. Despite the moving. Despite the bullies. Despite the dyslexia. Despite being a latch-key kid. Despite being a girl. Despite the teachers who belittled. Despite health problems. Despite being a Tom Boy. Despite that attempted rape. Despite the abuse. Despite the guidance councilor who said no one cares what happens to a white, middle-class honors student girl. Despite going to public schools. Despite the lack of scholarships. Despite working in college. Despite that summer with no where to live. Despite health problems. Despite being a girl. Despite the TA who kept getting too close. Despite the professor who was always too close. Despite the biased tests. Despite having to choose between working for the serial harasser or the known misogynist. Despite the bullies. Despite the harassment. Despite not being one of the boys. Despite spending too much time trying to help the ailing friend instead of focusing on her research. Despite the unhealthy environment. Despite health problems. Despite leaving the field for a year. Despite starting over. Despite the lack of mentoring. Despite being told her female intern will be fired unless that complaint about how the student was harassed is dropped. Despite the broken promises of a bright fresh start. Despite that attempted sexual assault at a con. Despite being told there is no tenure for tits. Despite starting over again. Despite being grabbed and touched at professional conferences. Despite crying in the lab. Despite losing insurance and benefits. Despite still being grabbed and touched at professional conferences. Despite the trolls. Despite being a woman. Despite the hate mail. Despite continuing to be grabbed and touched at professional conferences. Despite trying to lodge a complaint and being told that it happened just outside of where rules apply. Despite crying in the lab. Despite feeling the need to keep that breast tumor secret after that one male collaborator she told cut her out of a collaboration. Despite starting over again. Despite seeing others told she won’t have tenure because boobs don’t get tenure. Despite speaking up. Despite the grievance that cost her so much money and opportunity. Despite the lack of mentoring. Despite the bullies. Despite again spending time trying to help the ailing friend instead of focusing on her research. Despite being a woman. Despite taking time to speak up more. Despite taking time to learn about privilege and leadership. Despite having to find mentors outside academia. Despite taking time to fight for other women. Despite taking time to become a mentor. Despite the trolls. Despite the threats.Despite taking time to say, “This is wrong.” Despite spending time in leadership positions trying to enact change so “despite” isn’t a word we need.

Despite all these things, she is still trying to stay in science.


  1. Hang in there. It gets better. In science is where you belong. Really.

    You have made in difference is so many lives in your outreach, in your speaking up, in your giving voice for the people who have no voice.

    Hang in there.

  2. I am sorry you are going through such a terrible time. I wish the world was a better place.

  3. I read this and I cried. This is me. This how my education and life have evolved save for a few minor differences. My very first engineering professor said boldly in class our second session “women can’t be accomplished poets and engineers so, you know…” I raised my hand and politely said “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. I am a published poet AND an engineer. Can you explain that?” I was met with silence and an automatic change of subject. I was later sent to the Dean on a copying/cheating scandal/witch hunt I was not involved in and went from second highest grade in the class to a B. I wasn’t expelled solely because I admitted ‘fault’ and accepted a B. I later got removed from my academic program due to health issues and a B+ average. I persevered and got my BS and later MS degrees.

  4. I really appreciate what you do. Science is hard enough work without everything else you’re having to cope with.

    Today I’ve been following Twitter – and reading Terry Pratchett’s “The Light Fantastic”. It was published in 1986, but this quote, sadly, is still relevant today. However, having read too many dismissive comments on newspaper articles, it was a relief to come across someone who described what is happening so concisely (the last few words).

    “Bethan snorted and strode across to the little man, who tried to back away. He was too late. She picked him up by his apron straps and glared at him eye to eye. Torn though her dress was, disarrayed though her hair was, she became for a moment the symbol of every woman who has caught a man with his thumb on the scales of life.”

  5. You can’t give up. I hold you up as an example to my students, espeically the female ones, telling them you are one of the good ones – one to watch – one to listen to – one to admire. You make a difference.

  6. Despite all of this you are still one of my personal hero.

  7. Echo this! Well said!

  8. Stay strong!

  9. Don’t give up. You have made the world of difference!

  10. Damn, you’re tough! Hang in there and keep up the good work.

  11. Another “Fight on!” (USC sports slogan) story, via Dr Marni Sheppeard (PhD Physics U Canterbury, post-doc Oxford):

    The New Landscape

    I am 45 years old. Most of my life, since I was a schoolgirl, I have spent in Physics departments, in one way or another. I contributed to the environment and my skills were appreciated. I gave seminars, and people came to them. Academia was my only real home, and the thing I loved more than anything was attending conferences.

    I did not believe it was possible to be banned from attending conferences until it happened. They banned me from giving seminars too. They stripped me of all the resources required to do research. On the wall of my local health centre there is a poster. It reads simply:

    The most common cause of mental illness is discrimination. What role are you playing?

    Ten years ago, my mind was functioning quite well. I was called a crackpot then for thinking that categories and qubits had something to do with black holes, and for saying that twistor combinatorics was important. Now I am a crackpot by definition. The same people now attend conferences with talks on qubits and black holes, and they casually ponder the tragedy of letting crazy women do theoretical physics. They gave me the worthless piece of paper, but no one ever said there would be no job for me. So I spent years applying for one. You are supposed to give up, and disappear off the face of the earth. You know that was their plan from the beginning by the unfeigned annoyance whenever they hear your name again. They force you into perpetual severe poverty, and then mock you for not being able to publish. Your so called allies stand around and watch, just like they did when you were bullied at school.

    Discrimination kills people. Nobody says anything, though, because you are to blame for everything that happens to you. So there I was, dutifully wasting my time posting off job applications, when one day my government decided to take matters into their own hands. They found a nice low paid job for me, and threatened me with starvation if I did not take it. As it happens, they had left me to starve anyway, so I was at a loss to understand the threat. To cut a rather long story short, sometimes the misogynists lose. There was a doctor who relieved me of the obligation to work.

    From now on I do exactly what I like. I choose to do research. It will be a long hard road to find the means to do so, but I have a few plans. And that is that.

    She ended up home-less (!!??), now on psychiatric disability.

    She has support from fellow male colleagues:

    It’s the CORRUPT power-infrastructure that allows discrimination/bullying to fester, that is the cause of her (& your) problems.

  12. You’re an awesome person and I’m grateful for what you do. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but we’re winning, slowly, piece by piece, inch by inch.

    Thanks for being you.

  13. Reading this was like reading my life. I am reminded of a “children’s” poem that I read as a child while riding in the foot well of the passenger front seat of my grandma’s car. It struck a cord then, and I have carried it with me since.
    Listen To The Mustn’ts by Shel Silverstein
    Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.
    Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.
    Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
    Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.


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