Today I was having lunch with a friend, and I ended up telling her about the harrassing phone call incident. She was horrified. And it was then that the clouds lifted and I had a sudden realization: I think I'm becoming too complacent. I think I'm way too accepting of these ugly things that happen from time to time.
Later in the day, while working out (where I tend to do my best thinking), I had another realization: The only people who have expressed anything close to horror that this incident happened have been people outside my department. There is true outrage when people outside my department find out about this. From my own department, I get sympathy, sure. But outrage? Not so much.
It's true that in this field, in order to get this far, you have to develop a thick skin. Let's face it, you have to put up with a fair amount of subtle and not-so-subtle harrassment. The way you survive is you work hard, you keep a low profile, and you just hope and pray to make it through unscathed, or at least with a minimum of come-ons from professors, TAs, and fellow students. You hope that someone recognizes that you are smart, not just a token or a sex object, but you don't hold out hope. In short, you put up with a lot, because who is gonna stand up for you? The women professors? Nonexistent. The women in authority? Ditto. Your female classmates? They're as powerless as you are, and you don't have critical mass.
I'll be honest. I get outraged every time something like this happens to me, or to any other woman. But then my next instinct is to tone it down, to take care of it quietly, to "not bother the men with my little piddly complaints". I guess because I've learned that the best response is to keep a low profile, to pretend that everything's fine, to not rock the boat. And I do consciously think about whether some battles are worth fighting, how many times I can "go to the well", so to speak.
You know what? I'm tired of keeping a low profile. Where is the outrage from my colleagues? Why can't I demand culture change? Where is it written that it is unacceptable for me to advertise that these things are happening and that they are wrong, wrong, wrong and, most importantly, *won't be tolerated*? Why is that message not getting out? Why are my colleagues not helping me fight this battle? Things are never going to get better if the response to outright sexism is to quietly sweep it under the rug.
I'm angry. Really angry. Now, the question is: how can I use this anger to my advantage, to seed the change I want to see? And most importantly, how can I do this when I am truly an "army of one"?