Recently, I was talking with a colleague recently about a class he was teaching. He said, "and the book was written by [prominent physicist]. She's a woman physicist, you know," (emphasis mine) and he gave me a Look. It was the kind of Look that said, "hey, see? I just praised a women scientist, proving I'm not biased. Give me a cookie!"
I'm never quite sure how to respond to this kind of thing. Because, on the one hand, it's great that they recognize women's accomplishments. But on the other hand, if I give them a cookie this time, they'll continue to expect cookies every other time they make some small gesture. Not to mention it makes me feel singled out. Why do I need to be the one to give approval?
What's wrong with cookies? Well, it can be tiring handing them out, especially since people seem to turn only to me for them, me being the only woman on the faculty in my department. Also, they should be working toward equality of opportunity because it's intrinsically a good thing, not because they get cookies for it. It makes me wonder what happens when I'm not around, if they do the right thing even when I'm not there to award them cookies.
So when I get asked for cookies, I tend to give out very small ones. Just a small nod of acknowledgement and I move on with the conversation. What do you do when you get asked for cookies?