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Posts tagged social consciousness



This comment, submitted to shychemist, perfectly sums up something called the stereotype effect.  It often happens to anyone who is a minority in their field.  Combined with imposter syndrome, it is a real impediment.  Since I’ve been dealing with this for over 30 years as a woman engineering student and engineer, I decided to write up some background and hints that I’ve discovered that may help.  

The stereotype effect applies when you feel pressured because of something about you (gender, race, nationality) and the area you are working in. ravens-domain describes it perfectly - you feel that you can’t do it, but that you have to uphold your entire gender.  The XKCD comic describes it as well - you aren’t allowed to be your own person.

If you would like to know more about the stereotype effect, a great book is Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele.  It describes it well and talks about what institutions can do to reduce the effects, but it doesn’t give much advice to the person that’s dealing with it.

Another book that my daughter highly recommends is Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. (I have started it but haven’t finished it yet.)

The related imposter syndrome is the feeling that once you have achieved, that you don’t really deserve it and sooner or later they’ll figure it out and kick you out.  Many successful women have this issue.  I don’t know much about whether this applies to other minorities.  Slate had a good article on this.

So, how can you cope with this? I’m not a psychologist, but I have dealt with this for a long time. Here are some things that have worked for me.  If they seem like they would work for you, try it.  If you have other ideas, please add them.

tl;dr:  You do well because you earned it - you fail sometimes because you are human.  

1.  Know that stereotype effect and imposter syndrome are things and driving some of the thoughts you have.  Just knowing it’s not just me is a huge relief.

2.  Look up the people like you who have done this before.  There actually are more of them than you think.  For example, in computer science, read up on Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.  Realize that women invented a lot of computer science.  It was actually considered a women’s field until there started to be money in it.  The contributions of minorities are often left out of the standard histories, but now with the internet, you can find out a lot about them.

3.  Find ways to trick your mind out of the spiral.  One study I read (but don’t have handy) actually found that if women wrote the name of a women mathematician or scientist on the top of their test before they started, they got better scores.  In scary situations, I often don’t go as myself. I go as an actress playing the part of the confident engineer who happens to have the same name I do.  Even studying up on body language and using some of the confidence tricks like putting your finger tips together like a super villain actually works sometimes.

4.  Find a buddy.  Even one other person in the same situation can help so much.  In my university, we’ve started having dinners once a month for women in STEM.  It’s been a huge encouragement for all of us.  My daughter says, “If you have one other person with you, you can stand against the entire world.”  It may not be possible to find someone in your area, but with the internet now, it’s easier to connect than ever.

5. Talk to people in the majority as well. Often, we self-isolate ourselves. Then, we think that we are the only one struggling.  In grad school, we had a really difficult class on modeling contaminant transport in surface water.  I worked so hard on that class and got an A-.  I was sure that I was a failure and probably shouldn’t be in n the program.  The next semester, I was talking to one of the men in the program.  He had talked to everyone and it turned out, I had the highest grade in the class.  But I thought I had to do everything on my own and I had no idea.

6. Find a mentor.  Be careful about this one.  There are the “I suffered so everyone should” types that you should avoid.  But if you can find someone who has been through it, they can really help you figure out what you should worry about and what you should let go.

7.  Stay focused on YOUR goals. Part of the downside of stereotype effect is that you feel that if you don’t finish you are “letting everyone down.”  That’s bullshit.  Stereotype threat is a feeling - but you shouldn’t let it run your life.  If you love engineering, or chemistry, or whatever, don’t let the naysayers stop you.  On the other hand, if you start it and realize this is not for you, people will say “but if you quit, you’ll be letting the rest of us down.”  Don’t buy into that.  You don’t owe us a life in a profession that doesn’t fit you.  It’s a careful balancing act - everyone has bad days and you don’t want to quit because of a bad day or a flunked test.  So be sure to spend time figuring out what you want and need.

8.  Most important:  You do well because you earned it - you fail sometimes because you are human.  That’s it.  The stereotype effect is a real feeling but it doesn’t reflect reality.  You are an individual.  The rest is bullshit that your culture and your brain are conspiring together to feed you. Don’t buy it.  (I know, easier said than done, but keep trying.)

This turned out really long, but I hope it’s helpful.  My ask box is open.  There are some really cool things on Tumblr like scientific-women and shychemist's blog that can be really supportive.

So, go for it! You can totally do it!

Tumblr’s Science Mom has our backs!





If you think all Black people’s blogs are “social justice” blogs, you’re racist.

I read some newspaper article recently that pretty much summed up Tumblr and the responses to it this way—privileged people who come here are shocked to see marginalized people talking about their experiences, so they think everyone’s just obsessed with social justice, rather than talking about their own lives.


Also, for many white people activism (and interacting with or professing care for people outside of their race in general) is tied with immaturity.  For them it’s often just a pit stop on the way to embracing the system and adopting the same ideals as their parents.  

It’s something they “do” in their teens and early twenties to be different, to be noticed, to feel superior, to feel significant, to show that they’re an independent thinker and their own person.  Knowing the ins and outs of an issue isn’t really as important as “finding their voice” and the point is to be as loud and annoying to “the establishment” (Their parents) as possible to show they’ve grown up.  In this effort they often change causes more often than underwear without accomplishing much.

Deep down they know they’re full of shit and so do their parents, which is why they put up with it up to a point. (The quote  ”If you’re not Liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not Conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain.” really comes into play here. This is the standard progression for white people who have no “skin in the game”.)  

Young white liberals become white conservatives (or “moderates” as they now prefer to call themselves) either when they get a job or have kids and they no longer need something artificial and foreign to them to give them a sense of purpose and importance OR when their repeated half-assed attempts at playing white savior are met with genuine criticism by the people they’re talking over and not helping.  At that point they decide that “I’ve done all this for ‘these people’ and it’s not enough — I guess the stereotypes were right.”

SO…  I think when white people see people of color and other oppressed groups advocating for themselves on Tumblr, Twitter and elsewhere online, they project their experiences onto others.  For them “tumblr activism” is like their activism phase… something you can throw off and on at a whim and which doesn’t really affect you.  They may have patience at hearing about oppression at first but after a while they get bored with it and want you to move on… to grow up… and grow out of it… like they did.

When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’

It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?
Sandi Toksvig (via lozange, learninglog) (via mironss) (via fairylighted) (via fezzingly) (via allonsyforever) (via koule18) (via kiinggray) (via icathianprophet) (via gallifreyglo) (via blackfemalescientist)

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name


I love this article. Reminds me of the dreadful comments I’ve gotten from people just because I said that if I get married, I’d like to keep my last name.

good read, but possibly a bigger issue in the middle class than elsewhere.

  1. they were abusing and raping sexually free women and sex workers
  2. we distanced ourselves from the victims, hoping to shield ourselves from becoming victims. patriarchy wouldn’t allow us to distance ourselves from the criminals.
  3. in the process of the above, in our refusal to make them pay for how they were victimizing these people, we collectively came to an implicit agreement that those victims and anyone like them deserve to be abused, deserve to be raped.
  4. now when they rape and otherwise abuse, they just call that person a whore and expect you to leave it alone.
  • Kobe Bryant’s rape victim’s case was lambasted once it was revealed that she’d possibly had sex with someone else in the same time frame. ask yourself what the fuck that has to do with anything.
  • Chris Brown beat the everlasting shit out of Rihanna… and immediately rumors swirled that she’d given him Herpes. Again… what does that have to do with anything? How does that make it ok or even justifiable? WHAT EVIDENCE DID THEY HAVE THAT THIS EVEN OCCURRED? answer: there is none. the entire point was “she’s a ho and, thus, deserved it”.
  • The Steubenville rape victim was painted as sexually promiscuous… as if that had anything to do with her being assaulted while she was passed out.
  • 16 year old girl was drugged and raped at a party in Houston. Teens in Houston are angry that people are standing with her because “she’s a ho”.
  • Ben Roethlisberger’s victims were portrayed as “gold-digging” “groupie hos”.

the list just goes on and on…


you ever notice how in women’s razor commercials the models’ legs are already completely hairless before they “shave” them

like we can’t even handle showing body hair in a commercial about how to get rid of body hair

Bias Persists Against Women of Science, a Study Says

from 2012, here’s the actual article

All participants received the same materials, which were randomly assigned either the name of a male (n = 63) or a female (n = 64) student; student gender was thus the only variable that differed between conditions.”

assessed: (i) perceived student competence; (ii) salary offers, which reflect the extent to which a student is valued for these competitive positions; and (iii) the extent to which the student was viewed as deserving of faculty mentoring…In each case, the effect of student gender was significant (all P < 0.01), whereas the effect of faculty participant gender and their interaction was not (all P > 0.19).

plain english: female students are discriminated against in science simply for being women… by male AND female faculty.. in every measure assessed.

could you talk more about the male disney villains being queer coded with stereotypes?

Asked by sharkprivilege








Pink hair bows. 

Many male Disney villains are what we would call “camp.” Effeminate, vain, “wimpy” and portrayed as laughable and unlikable. Calling upon common negative stereotypes about gay men, these villains are characterized as villainous by embodying these tropes and traits. 






Think about it: Often Thin/un-muscled figure, heavily inked and shadowed eyes (giving the impression of eyeliner and eye shadow?), stereotypically “sassy” and/or manipulative, often ends up being cowardly once on the defensive, many have comedic male sidekicks (such as Wiggins, Smee, Iago, the…snake that isn’t Kaa) 

Other examples:





since i was talking about one of the disney man villains who doesn’t fit this stereotype yesterday…


my bf was listening to that song about him yesterday

and i mentioned that he is literally the most terrifying disney villain


because his type of evil is banal and commonplace

there are white men walking around who are exactly like him

men who think that women are prizes they deserve

men who will not listen or pay attention to a rejection

men who will go out of their way, if rejected, to ruin a woman’s life

ppl often seem to miss this when discussion beauty and the beast since the stockholm syndrom ‘romance’ is also a giant icky thing

the terrifying thing about gaston is that he is supposed to be (as all disney villains) a hyperbolic cartoon

but he is the absolutely truest and most real villain

because he exists in the real world

we all know men like him

Also, if we’re talking about queer coded characters the MOST important of all the characters is Ursula who was bad off of a drag Queen (Divine) and has a whole host of negative stereotypes.

She’s also my favorite.

This post is sorely missing some seriously important historical context. The term for this as film history goes is the sissy, and as a stock character the sissy is probably one of the oldest archetypes in Hollywood, going back to the silent film era. Some of the most enduring stereotypes of male queerness—the limp wrist, swishing, etc—can actually be traced to the exaggerated movements of cinematic sissies in silent films. And it’s important to note sissies were portrayed in a range of ways, though they were generally used to comedic effect; queerness was considered a joke, and the modern notion of the “sassy gay friend” in films can probably be traced back to this bullshit too. It wasn’t until the Hays Code was adopted in the ’30s that sissies almost uniformly started being portrayed as villains. Homosexuality was specifically targeted under the euphemism of “sexual perversion”, and the only way it could fly under the radar in films under the strict censorship of the code was by coding villains that way in contrast to the morally upright hetero heroes. Peter Lorre’s character in The Maltese Falcon is one off the top of my head, but there are a slew of them from the ’30s onward, and this trope didn’t go away after the Code ended either. More modern examples in live action films are Prince Edward in Braveheart, Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, and Xerxes in 300.

So Disney just provides some of the most egregious modern examples of the sissy villain, but this is a really old and really gross trope that goes back years and years in Western film. There’s a fantastic book and accompanying documentary about the history of homosexuality in film by Vito Russo called The Celluloid Closet that gets into a lot of this.

It’s incredibly refreshing to see a response to a post like this that starts with “This post is sorely missing some seriously important historical context.” and then goes on to provide important historical context that adds information to the point being made. I was seriously wincing and bracing myself for “You guys, you don’t understand. It was different back then.”

(Of course, I wouldn’t have been worried if the name of the last poster hadn’t scrolled off the top of my screen by the time I got to it.)

I’ve talked about this before, but here they provide more depth.

Serious question: Do you think it's okay for a white writer to have POC as main characters in their stories? I've gotten feedback from teachers and others ranging from "there's no reason to have X be Y race" to "it's disrespectful to write as another race you're not".

Asked by ofmanynames






Read This

May I just jump in on one point, here? When teachers say, “there’s no reason to have X be Y race” what they really mean is “There’s no reason to have X be a race other than white.” 

Which is bullshit.

There’s no reason to have X be white either.

That whole mindset of only having a character of colour if it “means” something or serves some “purpose” in the story is reinforcing the paradigm of white as the default norm and dominent culture. It’s a really easy trap for white writers to fall into to take a character’s race or ethnicity and make it into a story conflict. A “reason” to be Y race.

While a person’s background will affect how a person handles conflict, your teachers are wrong to insist that people who are Y race need a “reason” to be allowed into a story.

^ Reblog for anyone who that might need that pointed out ;)

In my fiction workshop this past spring semester, I wrote a story in which all the main characters were chicano.

Why were they chicano?  Because I set the story in Texas. Because my family is largely chicanos from Texas. The actual story was about two brothers, now teenagers, dealing with their mother’s suicide, which had happened a number of years earlier when they were both young. The characters didn’t need to be chicano for me to tell that story.  

When my story got workshopped, I was asked repeatedly to ‘explore their cultural/ethnic background’ in subsequent drafts. 

One of the other stories was about a family reunion. It was written by a white writer about a white, southern family, and the experience I described was like nothing I had ever experienced with my family.  The food described was like nothing you’d find when my family gets together. The names were often distinctly white, southern US names. But the story was absolutely not about the experience of being white and southern, it was about families keeping secrets, and there was no reason for the family in the story to be white US southerners.  Still the comments that writer received were all about how relatable his story was, how that was exactly the way family reunions were, and no one asked him to spend more time exploring this family’s southern heritage in subsequent drafts.

I couldn’t help feeling that I was either being asked to justify my characters being chicano by making the story about chicano identity (which was never the story I wanted to tell), or that I was being asked to address my story to a white audience that wasn’t expected to be able to understand and identify with a chicano character the way I was expected to understand and identify with white characters.

I didn’t want to write a story where it ‘meant something’ that my characters were chicano. I wanted to write about brothers.  Did my character’s ethnic background inform how they handled trauma in their life?  Of course, in some ways. But the intense focus on the character’s ethnicity during the discussion of my work was distinctly uncomfortable. (I was asked if they were poor, despite it explicitly stating in the story that they lived in a fairly middle class neighborhood.  I was asked about their immigration status (these are fictional teenage boys in a story that was in no way about immigration!). I was asked if they lived on a reservation, presumably because all brown folk in the US southwest live on a reservation? I wasn’t sure what to make of that one.)

It was a weird, frustrating experience that made me very self-conscious about the story I’d chosen to share.  About a quarter of the students in the class were not white. Only one other student in that class wrote a story where the main character was not white.  I wouldn’t be surprised if other people felt uncomfortable having the class comment on stories about POC characters. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they’d simply been conditioned to think of white as the ‘default’ in literature and assumed that to write a character with their own racial or ethnic background, they’d have to justify it or make it a plot point.

^ A perfect and detailed example of how this functions in practice. Thanks for sharing your experience.




calling out racism takes a backseat to calling out homophobia in a lot of cases tbh like nash grier has made explicitly racist vines where he acts out as a “ghetto” black woman with stereotypical mannerisms and no one bats an eye and then he says fag and yall wanna jump? what kind of pick and choose activism?


Cuz people think racism is over and that behavior is ok cuz its “satire”, we’re supposed to move past racism now. The “real” problem is now homophobia.

Homophobia hurts white gay people. Racism hurts hardly any white people. 


if you’re racist, but not a homophobe, then you don’t care about racism but do care about homophobia (as the above described). it’s rather simple. activists aren’t champions for all causes and fighters against all oppression.

tis why it’s so easy to completely disregard many of us.

On shows that aren’t largely exclusive to queer characters, how often are QWOC paired with other QWOC? Can you think of some? All I have right now is Emily and Maya on Pretty Little Liars and they killed Maya off….since then all of Emily’s partners, however brief, have been white. But at least she had a girlfriend who wasn’t white at some point. I can’t say that for Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy or Santana Lopez on Glee. Callie only likes blonde, white women and Santana might diversify hair color, but not race.

Queer women of color always being shown as pining over white women, specifically, is damaging because it re-enforces white women as the standard for feminine beauty/ desirability. This is not to even mention the power dynamics often displayed via these pairings…in which the white woman, regardless of how terrible her actions, will always be forgiven repeatedly by the woman of color or the WOC risks being demonized…or the WOC is demonized from the beginning and never able to be redeemed.

One instance I predict will be used as a counter example would be Poussey Washington and Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on Orange Is The New Black, but that’s invalid since Taystee isn’t queer. It was great from the desirability standpoint though. Yet, the one girlfriend we did see Poussey with…a white woman.

EDIT: Way back when Living Single was airing, Max had a lesbian best friend who showed up for one episode to get married and her fiancé was a Black woman. She revealed she used to be in love with Max, too. Dude…Living Single was everything.

So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.






This is my favorite post of all time. Once you see this there’s no going back. Our government isn’t a government. Its a corporation. Our congressmen aren’t elected officials they are CEOs who buy their way into office.

Remember that time a conservative columnist said it was un-American to let the poors vote because it was like giving house keys to a burglar? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHHA laugh to keep from crying

I reblog this once a year

Painter painting in our land pictures of only white angels
Painter painting in our time in shadows of yesterday

Painter, if you paint with love, paint me some black angels now
For all good blacks in heaven, painter show us that you care

Eartha Kitt - Angelitos Negros (1970 performance)