Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Who is the fairest of us all? Now that is a loaded question... Have you seen how many definitions of "fair" there are in the dictionary? Moreover, even if what we see in the mirror is fair, our judgment may not be. We seem to constantly compare ourselves to some ideal or another, and lo and behold we do not quite measure up. Once in a while I try to discuss this with Ihctap, but all she does is roll her eyes at me. Hence, I took my wondering to the blog wide world and I got a Scientiae Carnival out of it...

Indeed, there are women out there that face the mirror with confidence. Field Notes has been seeing many physical changes in her mirror, but these changes do not seem to affect her true identity. Pat at Fairer Science hopes she still is who she thinks she is. Academic at Journeys of an Academic knows she is following the right dream by the sparkling eyes she sees in the mirror. Kate at Academic Ecology hopes that leaving her twenties behind will not impair her self image or her ideals. Despite here stress, EcoGeoFemme at The Happy Scientist sees determination when she looks in the mirror and gears up to defend her dissertation. JaneB has a thorough description on how she sees herself up at her place. She seems to have a clear idea of who she is, for better or worse. The Ethical Paleontologist also has a very detailed portrait of the woman who looks back at her, even though she points out how strained their relationship is:
We are worse than best friends with our criticism of each other. Sometimes when I catch her gaze she looks absolutely repulsed by my body. In turn, I spot every lump and bump (although I also notice that the bitch always looks pretty damn good in the bedroom - if only she would look as good in the shop windows as I walk past).
As it happens, taking a fair look at oneself is harder than just looking in the mirror. Leigh at The Path Forward says that she purposefully hides her true self behind a protective image. Maria at Speech and Science sees her reflection in two opposing mirrors and ponders which one is telling the truth. Professor in Training has a difficult time reconciling the differences between what she perceives to what others around her see. Indie PhD pointed out that she tried to face herself at least three times before she decided "to stick to a list for now" due to too much baggage. Alas, even the Goddess seems to be having trouble...

Perfection seems to be a holy grail, sought but not found. Volcanista points out that one can eventually outgrow their teenage issues with the mirror:
If we’re talking body image, I’m past most or all of the issues I had as a girl and teen, the issues that most or all teenage girls have with thinking their bodies have problems because they don’t fit the beauty ideal. So physically, I generally like what I see, though everyone has their bad days when they notice all the little imperfections, and I’m no exception to that.
But that does not mean we are not trying to see how we measure up to other ideals. Career, family, society in general... Fia over at Academia and Me wrote that she has been trying to figure out who she is. A scientist? A mother? Adventurous? Zen? However, she never seems to measure up to her own standards. Karina at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist is proud of who she has become, but she still believes she is not quite there. ScienceWoman tries to be realistic as she assesses her progress towards tenure, but she seems to look more at what is lacking than at what she has. DamnGoodTechnician feels inadequate because she sets the bar too high, even though she knows she is being unfair to herself:
Am I being fair to myself in doing this? Of course not. But does anyone see themselves fairly? I can't imagine that they do. My problem here is that I never measure myself against my peers, and instead I find someone who's better at whatever-it-is, and set them as the bar for competency. My comparisons are always against the postdocs or lab heads, and never against another tech. Essentially, I've come up with an invisible ruler to measure myself against. I can't see this ruler, and neither can anyone else, but this doesn't stop me from authoritatively saying, "Nope, I fell short again. See? Can't you see this line here? I totally missed it."
Are we just striving for personal growth, wanting to be better day after day? Or are we truly setting ourselves up for guilt and failure by unreasonable criticism? Are we being fair to ourselves? Melissa over at Confused at a Higher Level thinks it is "the lack of well-worn paths and the variety of personal perspectives upon looking in the mirror that makes the larger picture so difficult to discern." I think Jenny from A Natural Scientist would agree... She says she does not recognize the woman she sees in the mirror, as her life choices have taken her in such an unexpected direction. There is no right or wrong path to take, and how to proceed is not taught in a class or written in a book. I think Kylie from PodBlack Cat has an important point (I am purposely quoting out of her context of religious skepticism):
To assume that ‘teach X will automatically lead Y’ in this case, to me, leaves out other factors. The quality of teaching, the environment of the school, the home environment, the socio-economic status of the student, the pressure from peers and culture, even role-models… I’m just not confident that it’s as easy as ‘here’s a website’ or ‘here’s a book’.
Maybe we need more role models - Pat from Fairer Science points out that some subfields of science (and drag racing) are still lacking women. Maybe we need less guilt - Alice from Sciencewomen would probably second that, while she tells you how hard it is to be your own subject matter. Or maybe this is what blogging is all about - Kim over at All of My Faults Are Stress Related pointed out that bloggers might be looking for an outlet more than an audience. Mirror, mirror, on the web... As you look at yourself and interpret the image, I hope you interpret yours fairly!


  1. Thanks for all your hard work putting this together

  2. Thanks for putting this together, but my post got left out :)

  3. Academic... you're in! Keep on dreaming!

  4. Thanks for putting everything together so awesomely :)

  5. Thank you - this is brilliant. :-)

  6. Thanks for hosting Patchi! Ping....

  7. That's a lotta fucking work! Nice job!