Institutional Sexism in Academia.

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Before you think you know what this is about, No. I am not moaning that women are under-represented in STEM- please read on.

I wanted to find a definition of ‘sexism’ to check these examples fit the bill, but it turns out the definitions of sexism are sexist themselves, i.e. (google definition)

“prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. “sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women”

Nonetheless, to my understanding sexism refers to the discrimination of a person based on their biological sex.

Right, now onto two examples I have recently come across (both sent directly to my uni email);

  1. A PhD offered exclusively to women. The University of Dundee is offering a PhD studentship exclusively to women. They simply state, “because of the nature of this research, only female candidates can be considered”. The research is on exiting commercial sexual exploitation. Yes it is a sensitive subject, but you are suggesting that only women can research this?! What is the basis of that? Are you suggesting only women can speak to other women about sensitive issues? That all women would prefer this? Is it based on some kind of evidence you didn’t feel the need to include in the advert? I have never in my life seen a PhD aimed exclusively at males and I know for a fact that all the femi-nazis would have that down in a second. Yet this is completely acceptable? PhD places are very limited, studentships are even rarer. A quick search on jobs.ac.uk finds 44 psychology PhD studentships in the UK, that is not enough to start delegating some to only one gender.
  2. A career development program offered exclusively to women. “Sprint is the groundbreaking new development programme designed for undergraduate women of all ages, from all backgrounds and stages in their lives and study. ” well its obviously not that fucking open to all backgrounds and stages of lives if you’re excluded for having a penis. “Sprint is designed to develop female students to their fullest potential and address study and career issues.” Oh ok, what’s the group called to help develop male students then? Oh there isn’t one. Ok. So women get this advantage over men because… sexism?

 

Its disgusting. You can’t create equality by creating unequal opportunities. How are men supposed to respect women when institutions are favoring women to this degree? When I get a position I want it to be because I am the best, not because females are under-represented in the field and they want to boost the numbers. That’s how we end up with fucking idiots in positions they really shouldn’t be in.

With academic institutions supporting programs like Sprint how can I trust that my achievements are my own?

Whilst I’m on the subject of inequality, I worked very hard throughout my undergraduate to achieve a 1st for one simple reason. If you got a 1st and then did your Master’s at the University of Exeter, you got a £5,000 scholarship. So I hit that threshold, was ecstatic to qualify for this so I could pay my fees. Enrollment comes around and I find they have changed the excellence scholarship to apply to international students. So I am £5,000 down just because I was born in England? Fucking discrimination.

Feel free to share any other examples you’ve come across of institutionalized sexism or racism, especially if it targets the normally ‘non-marginalised’ groups.

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Aside

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”

-Dhammapada, Chapter One, Twin Verses.

When I debate with myself on what to do with my day, I must always remember this; If I want to achieve something great, it begins and ends with my own cognitions.

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Super Organised & Productive.

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So I have done what I hoped to do, which is turn my anxieties into productive energies, and I am on fire if I may say so myself.

Have re-connected with the to-do app Wunderlist. Bloody life-saver. I forgot that the best way to make me do something is to put it on a To-Do list. There’s something about ticking it off that’s reward enough to motivate me to do it. I can literally list all the steps required to be my ‘ideal self’ and that simple act increases the likelihood that I will do these acts by at least 200%.

I strongly recommend organizing your to-do lists into core values so you can check that you are not focusing all energy in one area whilst ignoring other important ones. Its really easy to loose perspective and even forget what is important to you.

Thanks to my lists, I handed in three university assignments yesterday and blitzed the house (including doing the things I usually put off like changing the bedsheets and taking out the rubbish). Today I have created a website to showcase my art . This in itself spurred three further future projects; online print store, online drawing courses & online lifestyle courses.

I love it. It is like a snowball effect; the more I do the more I want to do.

^Above image is one of my first ventures into digital art last year. More should follow.

 

New Beginnings.

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There are some transitions in life that no matter how much you prepare for them, they still manage to hit you like a freight train.

I’m hoping that by starting this blog, I can relieve my anxieties in a healthy and productive way- avoiding having them fester in my mind until I’m unable to see through them.

So, a bit of context for any of you who have stumbled upon this. I’ve finished by Bsc in Psychology and am well on the way to completing an MSc in Psychological Research Methods & Advanced Statistics. I want to be an academic researcher, and now I am at the point where I both need to find a PhD I want to specialize in, but also have the people responsible for that PhD select me over many other candidates.

So far the path has been clear. Go to school, get good GSCEs, A-levels… check. Get accepted into uni, complete 1st class degree… check. Get into Masters… check. But now?

I’ve spent five years in Exeter and my anxiety about not being able to get a PhD at Exeter to start 2017 has led me to agree to somewhat irreversible plans to move home to Surrey. This is a good decision because I will be at a commutable distance from London and all of its opportunities and will be able to live at a very low-cost back with my family where I can get all the support I need to find my feet in my career.

So it’s all good.

But at the same time, I like to know what I’m going to be doing and where. Not knowing makes me very uncomfortable. Whilst I think, “You have a world of opportunities, you could do anything, just pick what you want to do and work on it” my body feels terrified. I turned down a PhD interview in Exeter because of the moving plans, now I’m so scared that if I am unsuccessful, I will forever see that as a missed opportunity. But then I need to remember all the reasons I turned it down, I am a creative academic and there is no place for that at Exeter. Bristol maybe, but not Exeter.

What do I want to do?

I want to make an app based on psychological research aimed to improve the physical and mental health of its users. I figure that, more and more, people spend all their time on technology anyway, many already using self-help apps that are not evidence-based. I just want to make sure that there’s something as helpful as possible available.

One screen could have icons for various behaviors you may want to target; exercise, eating, alcohol intake, smoking, rumination, worry, etc. Selecting one of these, you are (sometimes) asked if you want to increase or decrease this behavior. A series of validated questionnaires evaluates the individual’s profile to identify key idiosyncratic processes behind that behavior and the best way to treat those. The app then suggests a series of short game-like training exercises to improve that behavior. For example, a smoker who associates cigarettes with a positive, approach response may benefit from inhibition training sessions on a Go/No-Go task where the No-Go stimulus is associated with smoking images such that the brain learns new negative and avoidance associations with cigarettes. This example forms the basis of my Master’s
thesis research (you can actually participate here; http://nm3118.wixsite.com/stopsmokingstudy).

I actually found a PhD studentship at King’s College London which is very close to this and I am super-excited (and, of course, terrified) to hear back about that. The interview would be the 20th April.

I think the best advice I can give myself is this; remember, whatever you end up doing you will learn to do it well- so whatever it is, you will be useful, you will do good.

p.s. that is the most unimaginative title imaginable Natasha, you should probably change that if you ever can be bothered.