Mr. Medic and I met in the back of an ambulance at 2am. Six years later he added a diamond ring to the mix. Seventeen months later, and we have yet to set a date. This lack of momentum has nothing to do with our relationship and everything to do with the only date that matters.
May 20, 2017.
If my schedule cooperates and my committee has its way, I will defend my dissertation this spring and walk across Tulane’s graduation stage in May.
But that’s not the walk anyone ever asks about. They want to know when I’m going to walk down the aisle. I’m a woman with a diamond ring on my hand, what else could I possibly be thinking about?
I’m thinking about being the first person in my family to get their doctorate.
I’m thinking about being “hooded” at graduation at the ripe old age of 28.
I’m thinking about being one of the only researchers in EMS with “PhD” behind their name. And a woman at that.
Given current polling it’s likely that the United States will elect their first female president in a little more than two weeks. She will have shattered her own glass ceiling, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do.
Until the first date my acquaintances, friends, and even family ask about is my dissertation and not my walk down the aisle, I know that women still have progress to make, bridges to cross, and ceilings to shatter.
Given the success of the #thatsbias hashtag an update to this post seems necessary.
People are correct in pointing out that weddings are a traditionally more joyous and relatable occasion. Not everyone gets an advanced degree, but most have attended, planned, or taken part in a wedding.
Without fail there are three topics that people discuss with doctoral students: their research, their job prospects, and their personal lives. My frustration comes from the order in which these topics are introduced, since it is usually dependent on the gender of the person being asked.
Male doctoral students of a similar relationship status as myself are almost always asked about their research, then their job prospects, and finally their personal lives. I, and my fellow female doctoral students, are typically asked about our personal lives (aka the status of our wedding plans) before the conversation moves to more substantive topics.
Hilariously, even Mr. Medic gets asked about the status of my dissertation before he’s asked about our engagement.
That is my frustration.
I have no hard data on this topic, which as a researcher is a position I would normally refuse to put myself in. But in this case, I’m confident that this bias exists because I’ve lived it for so long. I’m not arguing that people do it intentionally or out of malice. I’m saying that it happens, and is likely a side effect of an inherently biased system.