I got told what to call this poem by my male colleague

This poem is for all the men
Who have sacrificed their time
To explain my research to me.
In train stations and hallways
At 1am drunk at a party
And over bad coffee after a presentation.
Often knowing no more about my research
Than a title
You have sacrificed your chance to learn
In order to enlighten me to the depth of your knowledge.
 
Thank you for telling me “it’s all just greed”
When I told you I was researching moral beliefs in finance
Thank you for telling me about the gold standard
And for explaining the plot of The Wolf of Wall Street to me
And that financial crises would not hit people so hard
If they only diversified their portfolios
And thank you for telling me to read Chomsky
And Žižek and Graeber
And all the other Great Men.
And no, I did not know that Paul Krugman had a blog.
Thank you for reminding me to cite your book.
 
Thank you for the first-year PhD student
Who gave me advice on how to prepare for my viva
Within the first three minutes of our conversation
(Yes, I timed you)
 
A special thank you to my dissertation advisor
Who, when I told him what I wanted to write about,
Told me about his son’s last holiday abroad
And how his son had told him something interesting
Vaguely related
To my interests
And wouldn’t that be a more interesting topic to write about?
I’m sorry I never went to another meeting with you
And stuck to my topic.
Thank you for giving me a B minus.
I’m sure you weren’t punishing me
Even if the thesis got a straight A from the second marker
And won a distinction when I defended it at a conference.
 
Thank you to the professor who in the Q/A after my presentation
Informed me that I should not have included
Discussions of the Stanford Prison Experiment
Or the work of Stanley Milgram
In my work on war crimes
I did not know psychology wasn’t a real science
And that it can’t possibly tell us anything
That isn’t completely obvious
To you.
 
Thank you also to the lecturer from a different university
Who shouted in my ear
In the pub after my presentation
That I had to read the Walking Dead comics
If I really wanted to understand the genre
Because the 12 films in my sample
Were not sufficient
And yes, you were standing very close
But you were a star
And everyone said you were hot
And I was flattered
So I guess it wouldn’t be fair to call you creepy retrospectively.
 
Thank you also to the professor
Who, at a meeting about what principles should guide universities,
Took care to make it clear that his point,
About a commitment to truth,
Was more important
Than my point
About working conditions.
Because I might have thought that my voice mattered as much as yours
Had you not thought to include the words
“This is the most important thing”
And
“If we don’t have an absolute commitment to truth
(Or was it a commitment to absolute truth?)
All the other details, like working conditions, don’t matter”
I am still not sure what you meant.
But maybe that is just my own financial insecurity
Clouding my judgement and distorting my priorities
And if I were just a white male professor
I could better be objective
And less worried about working conditions
And more committed to absolute truth.
 
And thank you dear self-described libertarian on twitter
For informing me
That I wouldn’t have such a victim mentality
If I hadn’t decided to do a PhD in unemployment
And yes, extreme virtue-signalling bitter feminazi bitch is a good description of my character
How insightful of you.
 
Thank you to the young man
Who dropped out of organising a workshop
Based on principles of anti-oppressive pedagogy
Because he disagreed with our decision not to invite a charismatic male speaker
Who he liked
Who would have had so much more appeal
Than me.
Thank you also for the lengthy email explaining
You weren’t interested in taking part in something so niche
That would only appeal to a postmodern crowd
Whereas you were more interested
In getting students excited
About revolution.
Thank you for your feedback.
It was surely helpful in making our event the success it was.
I’m sorry I missed your event with broader appeal
I seemed to have missed the invite for that.
I hope it went well.
 
Thank you also, of course,
To the numerous men
Who have informed me about the importance of putting class politics in front of identity politics
And that talking about racism or sexism is a distraction
From the real issues
And that wanting to talk about how oppression affects different people differently
Divides the left.
It is a little strange that I never see any of you at the union meetings
Or on the picket line
And I am not sure what class politics are
Beyond shouting at people
But I am sure you are doing good work elsewhere
With your undivided left.
 
I owe you all a debt of gratitude
And an apology, I suppose.
I am sorry that when we met
All I was good for
Was your assertion of dominance
A canvas for your insecurity
Which is frankly an underutilisation of my skills and my intellect
I am sorry for your stunted growth
For your arrested development
Which made a real engagement between us impossible
And that is more your loss than mine.
 
And I am sorry
That I will not try harder
To win your respect
I will not seek you out
I will walk away mid-sentence
I will mute you on twitter
And let you shout into the void
Because I care nothing for your approval.
I am done leaning in.
 
Because there are more than enough
People who will build a community with me,
Which is not built on dominance.
And I am sorry
That you will not have a place in that community
Until you learn that one half of the population
Does not just exist
To listen to you
Explaining their research to them.
 
 By Grace Krause

Follow me on Twitter for more extreme virtue signalling bitter feminazi victim mentality @TheGraceK

With thanks (real ones this time) to Will Mason-Wilkes for naming this poem and to Ellie Johnson for providing me with the most amazing picture of her cat Brenda.
And an apology (also real) to David Graeber, Noam Chomsky and Paul Krugman, whose work I greatly respect.
 
 

109 thoughts on “I got told what to call this poem by my male colleague

    1. richard norton

      For twenty years I was known as “Mike the bus driver” many people spoke to the bus driver as we waited at stops on and off campus, there was no risk in that. It was most often a woman that really spoke to me and in turn listened. They didn’t demand awe or respect but earned it and the reward of believing in magic. Thanks to them I have a life of adventure and a promise never made but always kept.

      Reply
    2. Janet

      Thanks for sticking with your own ideas/ideals despite everything. Equality is progressing but oh, so slowly. Mothers arise to teach your sons!

      Reply
      1. Ariel C Laman

        Recently I have been thinking about why & how the attitude you, Grace, describe in your poem occurred. As a mother, now 76, who raised a son to be equal to women,
        I have learned that this is where changing the attitudes of men toward women has to come, although he fought me every inch of the way – I was competing with his peers.

        A few years ago the Dalai Lama said that Western women would be the ones to change the world. Thank you, Grace, for being part a focal point of that change.

        Reply
      2. Nell Tallos

        Yes, let’s ask women to do one more thing for men. How about fathers? Other men? Arise to teach young boys and men how to be good, how to be better men. I don’t think asking women to take this on as well is fair or getting things very far.

        Reply
  1. Jonathan Frost

    Thank you – My daughter has just completed a, PhD on gender and its consequent dynamics, and I will forward this politely understated dissection of a familiar mythology of dominance and entitlement to her. ( I trust that you won’t object to this ? )

    Reply
    1. Kal

      This epic poem is a shiny beacon of hope for those men willing to open their minds without opening their mouths. Leave off the snark in parentheses and you might have been complimentary instead of proving her point by trying to force her to acknowledge you, which is a clear and obvious attempt at a power move. Self edit and you might actually learn something. Your daughter might appreciate you more if you stop expecting to get a head pat for washing one fork, that you used, in the sink and actually believe and live it.

      Reply
  2. Joy Morgenstern

    Thank you for this. I studied physics and engineering and I was always the only woman in my classes, and I think I don’t even have to finish this sentence for you to know how much I relate to your words.

    Reply
    1. Grace Krause Post author

      Let me guess, you are very unused to finishing your sentences because you rarely get the chance to?

      Reply
  3. Adam

    This is so fantastic I nearly forgot about the amazing ragdoll kitty at the top by the time I finished. I’ve worked (in the administrative/tech side of things) in academia for twenty-five years, and have witnessed and heard so many awful stories like this.

    Reply
  4. Paula Eisenstein

    Wow! Ironically, i didn’t want this to end! And yes definitely to be printed and posted everywhere!

    Reply
  5. Womandrogyne

    I’m not in academia, but as a trans person, I knew I was no longer “passing as a man” (an onerous burden of failed effort that I joyfully gave up a decade ago) when men started doing this to me too (the defining moment was when some bloke offered to show me how to replace my car’s windscreen wipers). The struggle is real, and it’s so healthy to realise we can sometimes just step aside and let them sail into the void xx

    Reply
  6. Dana

    I’m a 43 year old mom with 5 kids, ages 21 to 6. I played volleyball professionally, and have been playing since 1986. Now I’m a high school teacher and just recently took over our girls volleyball team as head coach. And believe me when I tell you that almost every other coach for every other sport on campus (all of whom are male) has began telling me how to run my practices… unsolicited, of course. Thanks, guys.

    Reply
  7. Shil

    This is so, so brilliant! May I share this with my classes? (I’m teaching Intro to Gender Studies and Women’s Studies, as well as some FYW courses focused around Gender and Sexuality.)

    Reply
  8. sadie

    I found this relatable and witty, but have just had a half hour argument with my partner about it. He is a great person and says he’s a feminist. He read this as ‘unwilling to hear others’ views’, and felt it was ‘passive aggressive’. I explained how these experiences are gendered etc, but it wasn’t working, so I gave up and resorted to repeating over and over what are my favourite two lines:
    “You have sacrificed your chance to learn
    In order to enlighten me to the depth of your knowledge”

    We have such a long way to go.

    Reply
    1. ccc

      I should have done that with my partner just now who has gone into a fifteen minutes rant about how he’s never done that…instead I just wrote an email apologizing for passive aggressiveness….what is wrong with me??????

      Reply
  9. Netta

    Oh Grace, you are wonderful and your poem is wonderful. I also wrote poems during my SSRM year about the patriarchal academy. They are a bit too scream-of-pain for me to want them on the internet but here is an extract for you about one of my patriarchal lecturers as my thank you for your poem! <3

    He thinks that reining in
    his calm, intellectual attack
    would be a proof
    that he does not think of me
    as a colleague, an equal –
    which would make
    marginally more sense
    if I was his colleague

    Reply
  10. Elisabeth Hanscombe

    Inspirational. A life time of kowtowing to the interests of men, or mankind as some some folks like to call humanity, leaves me stunned at the excesses of those men in your academic life who strive to dominate. I recognise so many of them, from my life, which is why I’ve tended to stick with women as colleagues. If only this need to know it all that is inculcated into masculinity from birth could be vaporised, so we could all explore new ideas together without all the toxic certainty about who’s right or wrong.

    Reply
  11. Marianna

    This is why I got labeled ‘strident ‘ in my performance review at a maledominated technology company. Being talked over and interrupted or just not heard made me sad, angry and frustrated.

    Thanks for converting your experiences into a poem. Distills it for us all.

    Don’t lose hope!

    Best regards
    Marianna

    Reply
  12. Alecto

    I f*cking love this poem.
    Wish I could send it to the man who unfriended me, after many years of friendship, when I asked him not to explain to me the application of legislation I had drafted, in a field in whivh he had never practised.

    Reply
    1. Andrea

      And I wish I could send this poem 20 years ago to the male VP of marketing at the company where I was hired on staff to build their first branding website, who invited an outside male designer to pitch designs for the site after he, the VP, failed to understand what I was doing. I had to explain why the other designs wouldn’t work — they were nonscalable. I had to explain what nonscalable meant. Then I had to read and ignore email from the other designer explaining to me why it was inappropriate that I had tried to keep my job. Which I succeeded in doing.

      Reply
  13. Clive Mackillop

    Grace,

    Wonderful poem! I’m an instant convert. I’m an anti-mansplaining crusader in secondary teaching. Kudos to you.

    Clive

    Reply
  14. Catastrophe Jones

    When I say this reminds me of William Carlos Williams, and my own attempts at poetry, I hope that it is taken with all the love and admiration I mean. It feels (more than a little silly), to say ‘this is awesome, and reminds me of some dude’s work’ — given the subject. But… I love his poems, and I love to try to write poems like them, and I love this one, even though it makes me want to bite faces, and spit freckles, because when I find myself acknowledging all of those shitty guys, I feel both helpless and furious. So, I love this, and thank you for writing it, and I’m sorry you had to go through any of it.

    Reply
  15. Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya

    I am a male finance professor. If your dissertation was really about “moral beliefs in finance”, then I would be interested in reading it. Would you care to send a PDF copy at nalinaksha@gmail.com?
    Thanking you.

    Reply
    1. Womantis

      Your use of “really” here could be interpreted several ways, not all of which are particularly good but which might reinforce the purpose of this poem.

      Reply
      1. Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya

        Apply Occum’s Razor and take the simplest interpretation of the term “really”. With your approach, you can raise a typhoon in any tea cup!

        Reply
    2. Grace Krause Post author

      Hi Nalinakasha,

      I’d love to send you something but unfortunately I don’t have anything ready for people to read right now.

      Just writing up my PhD and will hopefully have some stuff ready for publishing this year!

      Thanks though !

      Reply
      1. Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya

        Good luck with your PhD. Do send me a copy of your dissertation when you are done. I am professionally interested in it.

        Reply
    3. disco

      To the male finance professor who asked that she send you her entire body of work, just because you asked- she does not owe you her work.

      Reply
      1. Grace Krause Post author

        Umm, no I don’t. But, like probably any other academic in the world, the thing I want most is for people to read my work.

        I don’t know where the misunderstanding here is, but “can you send me your work I want to read it” is both a very normal and very nice thing for one academic to say to another. 🙂

        Reply
      2. Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya

        I think the post author has already responded to it adequately. You are just whipping up a non-existent issue out of a completely normal commonplace academic request. Asking an academic to send his/her paper/dissertation is a straightforward request and does not mean anything else.

        Reply
    1. Willsmom

      As a teacher of literature, I am very tired of people telling me something “isn’t a poem.” That is not for you to say. Only the poet.

      Reply
      1. Grace Krause Post author

        “This is not a poem” does seem like the most pointless form of gate-keeping ever.

        I mean what exactly are the stakes here? And what do any of the criteria mean?

        Reply
        1. Jac

          I think you just summed up why I never completed my Fine Art (painting) degree; how can qualitative assessment metrics be consistently applied, by different assessors, to material intended to elicit subjective responses? Why would anyone presume to try? Why would someone wander in here, into *this* particular post, and pick that fight?

          I did complete a degree in Information Technology. That was before the word “mansplaining” had entered my sphere, but I can report that the main compensation for being talked down to, excluded, and treated as the tea-lady of my cohort was that there was never a queue for the faculty “Ladies” toilets. Conferences were worse. Such a weird feeling of being alone in a crowd; when there are 16 stalls and 16 hand basins, and I’m the only one there. Peaceful, though. About the only way to avoid being told “well actually”. lol

          Reply
    2. TK

      Wow….. It pops. It moves with rhythm. It flows with passion. It is definitely Poetry. Do you only read Dr. Seuss?

      Reply
  16. passerby

    This is a brilliant poem and you are brilliant for writing it. Thanks for giving voice to sentiments that many of us feel yet cannot put into words as artfully as you have done here. I could hear the rhythm of your words as I read and the images you constructed splendidly illustrate important problematic dynamics in the left-academy. Thanks for writing and sharing!

    Reply
  17. April

    Your poem had me reflecting on my interactions with collegues, students, and everyone else during my PhD program. I was on all sides and in between these conversations constantly trying to understand how I fit in. It was exausting and I ultimately left the academy. Thank you for articulating what it feels like to be a woman in this world. April

    Reply
  18. Kim

    Wow. As a fellow former PhD so much of this resonated with me. Particularly the supervisor. Wow, so many of us out there & I know more than a few brilliant women that didn’t make it through to the other side. Brilliant piece. On another point, I’m quite interested in reading your research.

    Reply
  19. Alice

    Thanks for this!

    I can particularly relate to the white male marxist figure who is always reminding us that class is more important than everything whilst using language and a dominating approach that alienates everyone around them, particularly working class people (if there were actually any around because they tend to just be ranting in academic circles).

    Reply
  20. Butch Dalrymple Smith

    Lovely poem but too true for me to appreciate it as much as those who shared their similar experiences. Thank you for holding up a mirror. I don’t think I am as bad as some of those you describe, but I recognise enough from my own past behaviour to make me cringe.

    Reply
  21. Katy

    Solidarity! I work on paternity. So…you can imagine the rest. While I can say I have wonderful male colleagues and had a fantastic dissertation chair, conferences and social settings bring out a lot of thoughts about paternity that I surely haven’t considered. Here’s hoping your poem is read far and wide and brings about the appropriate amount of discomfort to those who need to feel it.

    Reply
  22. Martin Stevens

    As a white male not in academia, thank you for this.

    Comments about the aesthetic quality of your poem are wide of the mark and irrelevant. It works well as a poem (I studied English literature).

    As for its content and message, it is superb and clearly strikes a chord with many who have seen it. I have tried (and continue to try) to avoid such stupidities and I am sorry for those occasions when I failed.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I shall print off a copy to share with our sons, three, eight and ten. They might not yet “get it,” but they will in time. I would like to hope, as any mom would, that they will be allies to the women around them. They will still need reminders.

      Reply
  23. Becky

    Thank you for this. I wish I didn’t relate to it as much as I do, but my dissertation is on the social ethics of soccer. “Yes, random dude in the sports bar, please tell me more about this game and how it is played,” said the woman at a pub at 7am on a Saturday morning, wearing a jersey, drinking beer, and yelling at a TV when she’s not writing in a notebook covered in soccer stickers.

    Reply
  24. Claire Turner

    This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for so perfectly articulating such a horribly familiar experience.

    Reply
  25. Bonnie

    I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work and studied homelessness from the inside for 4 years – while traveling across the country 7 times. I can not tell you (and obviously don’t need to) how many times men have explained my research to me. The thing is – it didn’t really occur to me to question them doing it. It didn’t occur to me that the reason I didn’t pursue my PhD after getting a BA in Philosophy was because no one took me seriously. I proved one of their theories wrong, and they still didn’t take me seriously.

    I always felt like the game was that I had to work 10x harder to be seen as worthy in their eyes. And the games in the old paradigm were like that. It didn’t occur to me until recently not to care and to go about doing my own thing – and pieces like this gave me the idea. Thanks for being a good role model and leader in the new paradigm. <3

    Reply
  26. Dania Sheldon

    Ms Krause, thank you for writing and publishing this poem. I wish it had existed when I was in academia at Oxford 20+ years ago. My 20-something-year-old self would have benefited greatly from reading it. My 40-something-year-old self will benefit from it now.

    I very much hope you continue to write and to publish.

    With respect and best wishes… Dania Sheldon (DPhil)

    Reply
  27. David

    I’m usually against this kind of gender blaming because I’ve had so many experiences of women explaining things to me when it’s not appropriate – and consistently thinking they know better – and without blaming a gender, I just think it’s the way people are.. however, when it’s your own research and some unqualified hick is pushing his unqualified drivel, that’s another level annoying.

    Reply
  28. A Very Clever Man

    You know, your poem doesn’t rhyme. You should do something about that.

    Your sincerely,

    A Very Clever Man.

    Reply
  29. Sarah M

    About to head to a job interview with 4 male surgeons who will doubt my sincerity, commitment and ability as their equal.
    This is exactly the solidarity I needed to feel right now.

    Reply
    1. Mick McKigney

      Sister, go slaughter the sods.
      (PS: first daughter is training to be a surgeon and I hope she similarly triumphs over any male a* hole.)

      Reply
  30. Mick McKigney

    Love this. It is so true. I know this – I am a man. But I want to do better, be part of a better world. Otherwise what would my daughters and partner think of me when I am done.

    Reply
    1. Christian Schmidt

      I think too often that’s me too.

      I am lucky that I have some friends at work that give me friendly reminders when I talk too much, or interrupt too much. But: if it is by a male colleague, everyone else just chuckles. If it is by a female colleague, more likely few chuckle, and she may get some stares or tuts – if she isn’t interrupted anyway…

      Reply
  31. Shelby Canterford

    Can I read your thesis please? It sounds fascinating! Strength, love and persistence sister, I’ve had two careers end now because I couldn’t continue to persist.

    Reply
  32. Libby Robinson

    As a former NIH-funded researcher (now retired), I too have experienced this. I eventually quit, in part because I was tired. Tired of pushing against being isolated, dismissed, and demeaned in my department, at conferences, etc. So, to all those who are still pushing, keep it up! Your contributions should be heard.

    Reply
  33. Laura Grace Weldon

    This is exactly my experience way over in the not-so-soft cushion of the literary world. For a while I chose to title my books with an “ing” in them just as a slap back to the powerful man who ripped apart everything I wrote and told me no poem should contain a word ending in “ing.”

    Appreciate the slap in every line of your poem. Sharing on the tubes, reading aloud at the next workshopping event.

    Reply
  34. MonZop

    Can you get in touch with me? I have translated your poem, and would like to post it on the website of our association Donne e Scienza (women and science, in italy http://www.donnescienza.it ). However, I need your formal permission. Thanks, Monica

    Reply
  35. Ken Hill

    Thank you. I am so happy to be introduced to you this way. I would not be nearly so eloquent, nor deliver such wit.

    I will continue to do my bit as an ally, and I am delighted to dig in to your extraordinary life’s work.

    Thank you for arming me with your eloquence, when all I would have said would be something in the vein of “piss off, douchebag”.

    If you would be so kind, would you recommend a good place to begin in study of your work? A few personal favorites?

    Reply

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