Thursday, June 16, 2011

One Up, One Down

Communicating in a Male Dominated Field -
Several weeks ago I asked a tenured male colleague to review a paper I was writing, the subject of which he knew well. I proposed some basic physics that applied to a specific subset of exoplanets with ~100% certainty, physics not previously considered by anyone. The response I got was a diatribe. Although no argument was on the basic physics introduced, some of the interpretation of the results was the sink to the harangue. The shock of such a response to the entire paper inevitably caused me to stop work. Why would a colleague be so mean to me regarding a result that most definitely affects his (and his post doc's) work?

Upon further review, I realize I have been in this situation before with similar reactionary results: Men, being typical recipients of my communications, return communication unkindly and I react by stopping work. After all, why should I to share what I know when men are so insulting. I have no problem taking what I know to the grave.

I have recently learned that males communicate via One Up, One Down. In this mind game, one tries to make another feel inferior thereby gaining one-up in status. Women, in general, do not communicate this way. Since I am in a male dominated field, I am told I have to ignore the insults. I would think a better outcome is to have men provide constructive criticism. After all, men should have to learn to communicate even if the field is male dominated as women sometimes are the recipients of their communications.