Once upon a time, I was a wee master student in Cognitive Neuroscience. I took all my courses very seriously; and one course discussed a different paper every other week and required us to write what they called, without little other instruction, a “critical note”.
So this very particular week and for this one paper published in a very prestigious (and somewhat flashy) journal, I did my homework, as usual. My note was, as I thought was its purpose, critical. That is pretty easy with glamour papers, since they are so short that a lot of crucial information has to be left out. So with a bit of poking, holes in the story appear quite often. Having proudly written up my critical assessment, I handed in my note. It so happened that this week’s assigned paper was written with the involvement of someone who happened to be working in the same city in a very (!) senior position. A week later, all critical notes came back to us with a response from this senior researcher. The response to my note was… interesting. The picture below shows a part of the printed out reply I received. It’s anonymized to some degree, even though I don’t think such responses are confidential, quite the opposite, since they are part of a student’s evaluation. Well, you can just read it and let me know if you want more information (my note for example also still is backed up, thanks to surprisingly neat data management on my side).
I showed this note to my peers, because I had no idea why I felt so bad about it. Did I even have a right to be shocked and offended? Only later did I realize that the blatant sexism was what had bothered me so much. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a supportive group, who shared my indignation and let me know that this indeed was not appropriate. We ended up treating the incident with humor, making this remark a battle cry instead of a way of diminishing me. So beware, because This is science woman!