I have an unfortunate tendency to let people walk all over me. Sometimes because it is not worth my time [read: energy expenditure] to argue, sometimes because I am -- despite my best efforts -- afraid of appearing the "bitchy woman".
I am not a fan of when people try to one-up me constantly, especially when I have worlds more knowledge of the subject at hand than they do. This is not easy to avoid in any profession where men feel that they must appear the wisest and most knowledgeable. I test the waters on occasion when the opportunity arises. For instance, in lab the other day the topic vaccination came up and I mentioned the fascinating tidbit that Edward Jenner had created the first smallpox vaccination in 1796, which I knew because I had recently read the book Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich. My labmate responded, "oh yeah, absolutely" as if this was a very obvious fact of which he was obviously aware (which was not even remotely the case).
I am particularly not a fan of the general response to my willingness to ask people about their perspective or experience being interpreted as weakness or stupidity. For instance, when I observe that a colleague uses a different technique than I practice, I inquire as to the reasoning behind it. I am typically met with a verbose pontification explaining what is trying to be achieved and why their method is best. Thereafter, I typically share the method that I use and express interest in both methods working equally well (although, not to toot my own horn, but often it turns out that the way I do things is more appropriate).
An occasion arose this past week on Friday when I attended a lecture on the Jewish perspective on stem cell research. The talk was fascinating and I went home that evening and did some research on as many religious perspectives on stem cell research policy that I could find (note: there are surprisingly few books on this subject out there!). During the talk, the lecturer mentioned that in the 19th century doctors only received 1-2 years of schooling. A renowned professor in the audience then quipped, "of course: one year for blood-letting, and one for leeches." Needless to say, having read several books on the evolution of medicine in the 19th century, I cringed. I wanted so badly to raise my hand an mention that this was actually because at the time, the surgeons and dentists did many years of both apprenticing and schooling, and performed 90% of all medical procedures as the doctors themselves disliked physical involvement, believing that it separated them from God and made them "dirty". Of course, as meagerly as I would have phrased such a correction, I said nothing as I did not want to appear the "bitchy know-it-all woman".
Clearly, there are some things I need to work on. Clearly, if the men around me have no filters for sharing whatever is on their minds -- be it correct or not -- I should not feel shame in doing so either -- particularly when I am correct. Clearly, I need to remove the sign from my forehead that says, "please, walk all over me and try to one-up everything I say." Clearly, I need to accept that I probably do not come off as bitchy or know-it-all in the slightest, and be more assertive and exert my presence and my contributions to the environment around me. Clearly, I need to start being more bitchy.