29 July 2009

On why this is my favorite travel pic

and this is not.

The difference in these two pics is the presence of my breasts. I think I look like a normal, healthy person in the first pic, but a grotesque caricature in the latter. Bug loving mama, a very dear female scientist who happens to be pregnant as I write this, wrote an insightful post on what it means to be a woman and a professional in this day and age. Her post has caused me to reflect on my own ideas about being a professional woman. I decided to post my response to her post. Yes, it can be read alone, but is better read in the context of the original post.

Daktari said...

I find this post very interesting. First, I tend to agree with you (i.e., professional equal masculine [attire]). And when I begin to examine why I agree with that, like you, what I find is very telling and more than a bit disturbing about ME.

We are quite the same, pregnant you and non-pregnant I. Where you have a pregnant belly, I have extraordinarily large breasts. And where you want to be taken seriously as a scientist who happens to be pregnant, I wish to be taken seriously as a scientist who happens to have large breasts. Unfortunately, we both know that a pregnant belly and big boobs trigger negative biases and stereotypes in both men and women on both a professional and a personal level. You are pregnant, therefore you aren't serious about your work. I have big boobs. Obviously, I've gotten where I am by capitalizing on my tits. Or worse, I must be a bubble-headed bimbo. Like you, my physical condition announces itself before I have an opportunity to demonstrate my competence, my seriousness, or my professionalism. So in virtually any interaction with a new acquaintance, I believe myself to be operating from a position of weakness (having to identify and diffuse each new person's biases and stereotypes). I do so predominantly by downplaying (to the best of my ability) my physical attributes (hiding them, if you will), seldom dressing in feminine attire, and by ignoring any reference to them (and trust me, you'd be surprised how many people are willing to say "Wow, those are some tits!"), and finally, by overwhelming people from the get-go with my intelligence, competence, and professionalism.

It's a lot to ask of every single interaction I have with every single person I meet. And it is one reason that people who only know me via the internet think that I am something of an intellectual snob. Because they haven't met me, they don't understand my need to diffuse a potentially embarrassing situation before it happens by overwhelming them with my competence.

It is sad but it is my life. Be thankful that pregnancy is only temporary. Unless and until I have money for a breast reduction, this is my life permanently.
Perhaps what is most sad is that I don't feel like a normal person. I haven't felt like a normal person since puberty. I wish more than anything that I could change that. Because that women in that top photo looks pretty and fun and interesting to me. And that woman in the second photo looks like boobs with legs.

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