Monday, August 27, 2007

Jane, unleashed

It seems like I spend a lot of my professional life trying to be a "good girl". Picking my battles. Biting my tongue (way more often than I'd like). Smiling when I really want to drop-kick a colleague or student out the nearest window. Being "collegial". The idea, of course, is that not rocking the boat and playing nice will some day get me to where I want to be. You know....what we were all raised to believe.

But sometimes in my career, I've gone against this tendency and let what some might call my Inner Bitch out. It doesn't happen often, and a few times it's backfired (spectacularly), but sometimes, letting the Inner Bitch out has led to better-than-expected results.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about those times lately---hey, you need something to keep your mind busy during all those late-night feedings! And I've realized that the Inner Bitch has actually helped me out quite a bit during my career. So, in honor of this month's Scientiae carnival, I've compiled a list of some of the things I have done when I've let my Inner Bitch out:

* Told off a member of my dissertation committee who was holding up my graduation for what I thought (rightly) were trivial reasons. (The entire time I was doing this, I was thinking to myself that I was surely committing career suicide, but oddly, this tirade convinced him that I was in fact ready to finish. Apparently I had earned his respect by standing up to him. Who knew?)

* Stood up to a sexual harrasser.

* Finagled an interview for a position for which I was not "on-paper" qualified.

* Informed a dean that his "solution" for dealing with my harassing phone calls issue was completely unacceptable, and spelled out exactly how I wanted the issue resolved. (Result: I pretty much got what I wanted, with a minor exception.)

* "Enlightened" my department about how some of the things they were off-handedly saying to and about our female majors were, shall we say, less than helpful. (The jury's still out as to whether anything sunk in, but I sure got their attention.)

* Told a dean during an interview, when asked what I wanted to be doing in 15 years, that I wanted his job. (It just kind of slipped out. But he chuckled, and we actually had a good conversation about the administration side of academia, and I think I've found a good resource there.)

* Convinced a corporation to fund part of my research---several times.

I'm thinking that I should print out this list and keep it in my office, as a reminder to be a little more fearless in my career life and that sometimes it does pay to be a little bit bitchy.


Saoirse said...

Go Jane!

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, sometimes one might let out one's Inner Cuteness and get even better results:

The fellow who created that site is making lots of money. So, in the end, perhaps photos of cute cats on your office wall will get you more results when dealing with problems. Who knows? Experiment with the notion.

Anonymous said...

It's not being a bitch!

When a man does these sorts of things it's called "being a man" or "stepping up to the plate" or something else positive and male-centric. But I really wish that we could change the image of a woman "being a bitch" to "being a woman". I think we need to start with ourselves. If we call it releasing the inner bitch, does that help?

Jane said...

anon #1, I *have* unleashed my Inner Cuteness to good effect before....but that's a whole 'nother post. But perhaps I will try the Cute Cats approach. Although with my luck, I'll find out that I'm in a department of cat-haters, so this could backfire, too. :)

anon #2, you raise a very good point, and I do wish that we could be "strong women" and not "bitches". That said, the phrase "Inner Bitch" was an easy way to convey, quickly, the idea of fervently standing up for myself and specifically *not* being a nice girl in order to get what I want out of a situation. So that's why I used it here.

Chaser said...

Good for you, Jane, especially the conversation with the Dean.

I figured out some time ago (I'm old) that you can be a bitch or a doormat: systems don't leave you much other choice. I favor bitch, for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the motivation, Jane! Just the inspiration I needed ...

More in the "going for it" department than actually unleashing the Inner Bitch, but they're related, at least in my mind.

(posting anonymously ... giving in to the Inner Chicken)

Veo Claramente said...

Oh yeah!
Now I need to do some of that...
Great post.