The other day, I read an article in some popular magazine (I don’t remember which) about how women science students should prepare themselves for college life. While I think women should be aware of how to survive some unfortunate aspects of being a women in science (less of us, sexism, etc.), I think there is a lot of accountability on the professors and that should be addressed just as much, if not more, than how women should just put with certain behaviors, like sexism, and not take it personally.

As the school year is beginning or has begun, I’ve been thinking about my education experience in science. I realize that while students have some autonomy on how things affect them, professors have even more choice in how they affect students. Speaking from experience, a bad situation can really be detrimental to a student’s confidence in science. I’ve been holding back on writing about this, and I’m sure more will come out with time, but right now, if anyone in the sciences is reading, I’m hoping to encourage professors and teachers to treat women and minorities right.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to treat people like people. I don’t want to be treated as less of a science student than my male classmate. Tangential to this is don’t assume things. The article I read seemed assumptive about women in science. I don’t really fit that mold. Up until recently, I’ve had very good experiences in physics. I’m one of the few people I know who had a phenomenal high school physics teacher. My undergraduate physics department is amazing. I’m not afraid to ask questions, speak up, etc.

Building on the theme of treating people like people, don’t use “mansplaination.”  The short version of what a mansplaination is when a male condescendingly explains something to a female. He assumes the woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Often, opinions are stated as fact. Today I realized that in one research situation, I had been subjected to “mansplaination.” In this situation, I would tell the professor what I was going to do, prior to doing it. I figured, in case I was wrong, I should confirm what I was doing and not waste time. He would then say, “No, here is what you should do” and then tell me exactly what I said. It had happened several times. Because I had several people in the lab at the time and I remembered what I said, I knew I was right. Because the lab was small, I cannot confirm that the behavior was directly a result of me being female, but I never saw such behavior towards the males in the lab. Mansplaination is really obnoxious, to say the least. Even though I didn’t doubt myself, that kind of behavior created a poor work environment. Who wants to work around someone who feels the need to behave so condescendingly?

In short, treat others with kindness, respect, and dignity, regardless of other attributes.

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My SO is working at an overnight summer camp right now for middle and high schoolers. They have very strict rules that I believe are a result of the law; the counselors cannot reveal that much about themselves, should not correspond with their students via email, befriend them on social networking sites, etc. Violation of any of these rules can result in the counselor’s firing.

One of the students Googled both my SO and another counselor, found my SO’s website, and found both counselors’ Facebook pages. This is just another reason why one should be careful about their web presence. Neither of them has anything salacious, but things would’ve gotten sticky had they had questionable content. If anything, teenagers being teenagers, I’m sure the job would’ve been more difficult if the student had found something more interesting than he had. As always, it’s smart to lock your Facebook profile, be aware of what’s on the intern about you (I Googled myself again after hearing about this), and if you do things online that you don’t want an employer to find out about, I would suggest using a pseudonym.

One of the nicest things about being here this time is I feel like I’m finally settling down here. By that, I mean I’m talking to people, hanging out with them in some context, etc. Due to the hustle and bustle of grad school in Chicago, I did not really get to do that until the end, which was a shame. I was starting to meet really neat people in the dance community and/or get to know some people better. When I last lived in Boston, I tended to hang out with college friends. Since that time, however, they’ve moved away or we’ve grown apart.

I feel lucky to have dance in my life. One of the funny things about life is that it becomes harder to make friends. College was rather simple to make friends; a bunch of people who are mostly new to the area, living in dorms allows for making friends with some ease. Being part of the “grown up” world seems to limit options for making friends. I’m not much of a fan of mixers or the bar scene myself, so for me, I had either my  job or grad school to really meet people. Navigating work friends is difficult, since mixing professional and private life is not always advisable. In grad school, it seemed like people had well-established lives outside of the school. I’m in the age where people are starting to settle down even more; people I know are getting married, having babies, etc. I imagine making new friends is far on the list when you’ve stayed up late with your baby.

Dance has made it easier to make new friends wherever I go. Unlike mixers, where who knows who will show up, dance has given me at least base for talking to people; they share at least one important interest I have. I’m deeply biased, but I think there are a lot of interesting people in the dance community. They love dance, of course, but they also have other passions in the world and offer unique perspective. People still have their own lives going on, but it still is helping me make friends and regain somewhat of a social life. With time, I feel like I can become a part of the community here more.

On the Belly Dance New England website, an editorial was written on bullying in the New England community. Unfortunately, this is not unique to New England. While I think Middle Eastern dance is an amazing activity and encourage others to be involve, like any group, people behave as bullies. Being on the fringes of any dance community, I’ve kept myself out of the drama. However, my friends/teachers haven’t always been so lucky.

Bullying comes in many forms beyond events. Anything from wanting to split off and teach on one’s own to even taking classes or workshops from another teacher- it happens.

The editorial has great tips on how to deal with bullying. Beyond the fact it’s always good to be respectful and treat people with kindness, intimidating people and starting unnecessary drama is really unprofessional and reflects poorly on people.

I’ve always been at a weird spot with dance. I don’t lie about it being a part of my life, but I also don’t share it. The reasons are simply people are judgmental and often will say offensive/ignorant things that indicate that they aren’t willing to learn about the styles I dance.

Because everyone is on Facebook nowadays and it’s slowly becoming the best way to be in the know, my personal Facebook profile is containing more and more information on my dance life. I don’t know how in depth people read Facebook profiles on my list, but the whole thing has me thinking on a grander scale. Rather than be vague about how I spend my non-work time, I decided that I will share what I do. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Classical Indian dance and Middle Eastern dance are 100% family friendly. The Middle Eastern dance community often talks about how we have nothing to be ashamed of and how it makes no sense that people perceive the dance as family-unfriendly. I feel like by not letting friends and close acquaintances know about a huge part of my life, I am behaving like I have something to hide when I do not.

In terms of jobs and my non-dance/personal life, I’ll still handle things in a more discreet way. I tend not to share most of my life at work anyway, so I don’t feel that my behavior is contradictory there.

I’ve seen that question bringing people to my blog. Well, it really depends on how you do it.

If you enter the conversation condescending and belligerent, it honestly annoys me. I don’t care for arrogance in general or people who are hostile. While I maintain professionalism, they aren’t pleasant conversations for either side. I think generally that it’s incredibly disrespectful to tell someone who has more experience/knowledge in the subject how things should be graded. I really recommend entering a grade dispute conversation calmly and respectfully.

If you enter the conversation with respect, I hope you also enter with a valid point. People who are petty really do bother me, because the issue appears to be based not on merit. Merit goes a long way with me, because it means you actually thought about why you’re arguing what you’re arguing and that it’s beyond wanting a better grade.

Timeliness also plays a huge role for how I feel about grade discussions. The responsibility is on the student to know his/her grade (if the professor isn’t returning work regularly, that’s a different issue). You should have a relative idea of how you’re doing in a class by that work. If you’re failing everything, you shouldn’t expect or demand to pass.  If you start talking about the unfairness of your overall grade at the end of the semester, I generally find that desperate and without merit. I hand out a syllabus, which is my contract/grading policy for students. Every last point is calculated and a general discussion of how the class is formatted is included. An argument about the overall grade being unfair seems even more invalid to me when people in the class do receive good grades.

So there you have it. There are obviously exceptions, but pretty much all grade disputes that I’ve had to deal with have been people who really do not have a leg to stand on. Again, as a final piece of advice, I really emphasize the idea of being respectful. Even if you have perfectly valid reasons for not respecting someone, you still have to demonstrate some kind of respect; you’re more likely to at least be heard and maintain a positive standing in that person’s eyes.

My professional and dance life have been quite hectic lately. My professional life- well, soon I’ll reveal some news that has been good (it changes my plans for next semester), but it has been a little stressful. The waiting game. I have also been busy with getting things squared away from midterms. The midterm grades are due next week, right before spring break.

This weekend is shot, because I’m going away to the Ranya workshop in RI and performing at the Hafli for Haiti. I’ve been practicing my dancing. I forgot how  much fun it is just to dance. Technique has been easy to practice. It requires a very black and white (at least to me) set of thinking. Your hands, posture, etc. need to be positioned in a certain way. In my opinion, it is more rigid than dancing. Listening to the music, feeling the music, choosing what moves best work is harder. There are so many possibilities! While Middle Eastern music does dictate what you do, at the same time, you have choices. There’s a vibration in the music. Some may shimmy the hips, some may shimmy the shoulders. What part of the music do you wish to highlight? Do you dance to the rhythm or the melody? When do you switch it?

I feel like I’m not a great dancer yet, but at the same time, I’m noticing signs of progress. For starters, my hands and arms aren’t as busy. I’m happy to use them as framing right now. I feel like I’m taking advantage of space more, using all directions. Maybe it isn’t perfect, but I’m still making an effort to use diagonals, sides, etc. I’m also thinking about facial expression and where my eyes and head are. Again, not perfect, but at least it’s becoming a part of my dance. Hopefully all this comes through in my dance on Sunday.