The face of misogyny

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Australia and dictionaries: two things that don’t often make world headlines. But the prime minister, Julia Gillard, launched herself into the limelight recently with an impassioned tirade against the opposition leader, Tony Abbott: “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man”, she raged in parliament. Abbott is on record with such quotes as “If it’s true that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?” and “What if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” While the video of Gillard’s speech went viral internationally, at home the commentary focused on her supposed misuse of the word misogyny, which in its literal sense means pathological hatred of women. Being sexist is not the same as actually hating women, her critics claimed. In response, Australia’s main dictionary, Macquarie, is updating its definition, saying that in recent decades the word has taken on the wider meaning of entrenched prejudice against women. Perhaps they should add a photo of Abbot, too – just to be on the safe side.


Excelling at failure

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Two and a half years. That’s how long a PhD would take, I think, if only it didn’t involve so much other stuff. Writing papers, giving presentations, marking essays, general schmoozing; all seeds you need to sow if you want to get an actual job later (for which your PhD – which at the time seems like Your Whole Life – is just a prerequisite bit of paper). So the idea that the PhD itself takes a huge amount of time is wrong. As is the idea that you need to be especially smart to do one. “For students that excelled as undergraduates, the sudden and constant barrage of rejection and failure is jarring. If you have an ego problem, PhD school will fix it. With a vengeance”, says the US computer science professor Matthew Might. Though as he points out: “Some egos seem to recover afterward.”

Best re*ards

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

You know that moment when you write an important email to a bunch of important professors, and instead of ‘Regards’ you end it with ‘Retards’? And then, not realising it, you press send? And then, precisely because of the fact that you are an über pedant, you look in the sent box to make sure it sent right, and on a whim you open the message to re-read what you wrote, only then to discover what you’ve done? And so you madly hit ‘Recall’, but the recall fails, and you’re left with the cold, sinking realisation that you’ve just called 18 professors retards? No? Lucky you.